Anyone who knows even a little about me knows how much I absolutely love Ted Talks. In a weird yet inspiring way I am practically obsessed. If you are not familiar with what Ted Talks are they are often hosted by many inspiring everyday people, celebrities, thought leaders or just people who have unique passions that they want to desperately share with others.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing a Ted Talk by Gary Cohen who discussed the importance of being the CEO of your own life. This thought provoking Ted Talk reminded us all that we are essentially the CEOs of our own lives. He went on to discuss that as the CEOS of our own lives we are tasked with the responsibility to set the visions and strategies for the lives and careers we wish to obtain. As a mid career woman contemplating her next career and life steps this idea is not foreign to me. I thoroughly enjoy the work I do as a professional, but I’m not fully convinced that this is what I want out of life. I enjoy the work, but there’s no burning passion in the work I do on a daily basis. In Cohen’s powerful talk, he cautions us that without a strategy and vision for your life, you will never achieve your life’s potential.
As I began to take a moment and contemplate Mr. Cohen’s talk I decided to embrace his perspective as CEO of your life. However, for me to fully embrace and operationalize this concept, I recognize that I need HELP! Guidance, direction, and a sounding boarding in making key decisions for my next level.
It’s no surprise, most CEO’s rely heavily on the support, intellect, and guidance of a Board of Directors. A board of directors is intended to insure the success of an organization
through its influence and direction over the company’s decisions and operations. Who are the essential members for your personal board of directors? After talking to a few colleagues and mentors that I trust, here’s what we came up with.
- A Sponsor – A sponsor is a person of influence that can openly advocate for you. This person is usually a senior executive and is at the table when key decisions are made. Sponsors have the ability to use their influence to help high performers obtain opportunities that will give them greater visibility, access to more career progressing roles, and necessary network building and soft skills development. As women in the workplace, it is vital to cultivate relationships with potential sponsors because we are often less likely than our male counterparts to organically get access to the individuals necessary to grow our careers. Having a sponsor in your corner could not only help you secure new opportunities but it could give you a logical voice when faced with making difficult decisions.
- A Coach – If you have ever watched any sporting event you realize the importance of having a coach. A coach does not get in the game to play for you; however, a coach does give you and teach you all the things necessary to be able to win whenever game time occurs. This is no different in the business world. As women we often know exactly what we need to do in order to be successful but sometimes we simply struggle with how to execute the things we need to do. A coach will do just that for you. They will prepare you for big meetings, big decisions, big opportunities to insure that when opportunity knocks you are able to willingly open the door with no hesitation.
- Connector – How many times have you talked to that friend that seems to know everyone? I have a friend just like this, if you need an app developer, a loan officer, or a connect in the local mayor’s office you know to call her. As women striking out on their own and start their own businesses, having someone like this in your corner is priceless. In addition to being a connector, this person is likely to have some knowledge about up and coming business deals or opportunities because of their strong network. If you’re working for a large corporation or organization, a connector can help you grow your network within the organization and help you navigate some of the landmines that you may run into. A connector also has the capability to help you train and polish your skills as you prepare to embark on your next networking event.
- The Truth Teller (your tough love advocate) – The truth will set you free, is a quote I have heard time and time again. While the truth can sometimes be painful, it is in truth that we obtain liberation to become better as women and as leaders in the workplace. As many people try to climb the ladder of success, there will be many who are afraid to tell you the truth in fear that it will ruin your business relationship. Having a Truth Teller in your corner is by far one of the best investments you can make in yourself. It will help you on days your ideas are too far fetched and will keep you humble on days you feel as if you are becoming untouchable.
- A Cheerleader – Everyone needs a cheerleader in there corner, everybody. A cheerleader is that one person in our corner that believes that we can do anything, we can win, and we can achieve any of our goals. The cheerleader is someone that can encourage you on your best day or your worst day. The cheerleader’s energy is infectious, and besides being genuinely interested in seeing you succeed, they are also just plain fun. Whether you need to connect on a career issue or not, you can realistically just be 100% real with this person. In most cases, I’d recommend a cheerleader that is not part of your day-to-day work environment. However, if you do enlist a colleague as a cheerleader be careful about any office politics and sharing sensitive information. You want to be candid and open with your cheerleader/friend but you don’t want to compromise any confidences.
A few things you may want to consider when pulling together your personal board of directors(especially as a woman) is to make sure that all of the members of your personal board directors are not women. The world is not comprised of only women and having all women on your team may give you a skewed outlook. Of important note, your relationships with these directors should be mutually beneficial. Relationships should never be one sided and any relationship, business included, that is will never be successful. Remember, your cheerleader, sponsor, truth teller, connector and coach should all benefit just as much from you as you benefit them.
Finally got your board of directors together? Good. Go pay it forward and play a role on someone else’s board and watch everyone around you flourish like never before.
Who is on your board of directors? What have you learned from your board??