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Form Your Personal Board of Advisors to Succeed

Librada Estrada

In 2007 I had an opportunity to meet Dr. James Johnson at UNC through the Emerging Leaders in Public Health Program. It was a 12-month program and we met three times over the year. During one of his lectures he raised the topic of a having a personal board of advisors.

He got me thinking about whom I reach out to when I have to make a decision and the individuals that I trust. As we say, dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres/tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.

Businesses and organizations have a board to guide their work, direction and policies as well as look out for organizational interests. Likewise, having a group of individuals to tap into when you need guidance or have to make an important decision is also in your best interest.

Whether you do it consciously or not, there are people in your life that you ask for guidance. These include partners/spouse, friends, current and former colleagues, a past supervisor, family, your spiritual leader, etc. How intentional are you in how you engage them?

We all have had moments when we feel overwhelmed or think that no one else is going through the same experience. You don’t have to do it alone. As you move forward on your vision for 2016, identify people that can serve as a sounding board, peer coaches or cheerleaders.

You become like those around you.  Is your board of advisors having the success, personally and/or professionally, that you want? If not, whom do you need to add? Or, maybe it’s about letting go of someone that isn’t helping you grow.  

Board Roles

In my experience, there are at least five roles that your board serves. Which they take on is dependent on your needs. The key is to have a group of people that you can reach out to for guidance and direction when making major decisions, to help you get unstuck or gain clarity.

  1. Mentor-someone that is able to share with you lessons learned from their experience and helps you grow your knowledge or skills.
  2. Champion-an individual that is willing to open doors and/or make introductions within an organization(s) or network(s).
  3. Coach-a person that will objectively ask you questions, be honest and direct and will have you consider different sides.
  4. Cheerleader-this person reminds you of your strengths, what you have been able to accomplish to date, and helps you get out of your own way, particularly when you are feeling down or overwhelmed.
  5. Subject matter expert-that person that has expertise in area(s) you don't or knows more about a field/topic and that you can learn from.

Elements to Consider

Some lessons that I have learned from engaging with my personal board of advisors are:

  • Identify individuals who don’t always agree with you. You want individuals who are willing to share opinions that differ from yours to broaden your viewpoint.  It’s not easy and they will challenge your way of thinking.
  • Consider people that have different life and professional experiences from you. Don’t just reach out to people that think and look like you. By diversifying your board, you will have an opportunity to hear different perspectives. 
  • Include individuals that you respect, and not just like. Your advisors should not just all be your friends.
  • Make time for them on your calendar. Reach out on a regular basis so that they stay on your radar and vice versa. It’s much easier for them to be a sounding board when they know what you have been up to.
  • Invest in them as well. Treat them to coffee or a meal. Share a resource that you come across that may be of interest to them. They are taking time to invest in you so return the favor.
  • Be aware when it’s time to identify new advisors. As you achieve or change your goals change, you may have to change your board.

Your turn: Who do you allow to inform your decisions?

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