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Your Personal Board of Directors

Posted on August 6, 2019


Cheese Board

Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Laura Hardwicke (Twitter/LinkedIn)

What I’m reading: Native Tongue, by one of my favorite authors, Carl Hiaasen, in preparation for my vacation next week

What I’m watching: Bachelor in Paradise (the best time of year!)

What I’m working on: Fixing broken links as we clean up our department website


This week ELGL announced two new board members, and it reminded me of all the boards I love: cheese boards made by my BFF, boogie boards, and the only one relevant to you all– my personal board of directors. A former boss introduced me to the idea as a professional development strategy instead of seeking a singular mentor. 

The idea is for you to draft colleagues, advisers, and friends to provide insight on professional and/or personal life decisions. We all probably have some informal version of this, but with an intentional board, you create a network of guidance that can help sift through all the information out there– whether it’s practical or emotional. They’re you’re lifeguard on duty. You want a board that genuinely cares about you and your success, can be honest with you, and put in the work.

Man running into ocean with lifesaver

The best part of a personal board of directors? You don’t need a quorum. In fact, your board is probably better utilized on a one on one basis, so create a slate that is diverse and has the experiences and skills you seek. If you’re a non-traditional student, find a professor or peer that’s been down that road too. If you want to build your network, make sure you’ve got someone who can introduce to others. Additionally, everyone could use a great cheerleader on their board!

Take a look at who you already turn to for insight, and ask them if they’d like to be on your personal board. While you don’t have to let folks know they’re on your board, it’s a good idea to give them a heads up. It’ll give you a chance to clarify why you think they can help you, and how often you might want to stay in touch on these issues. Best of all it’s a great chance to thank them for being there for you already! The concept of a personal board of directors isn’t a secret, and you can use it to reach out to a contact you’ve wanted to meet. 

Help Me Coffee Mug

Because they may be a bit biased, family members are not always a great candidate for your board. But it can work if they have a specific role or function. For example, my partner works outside of the public sector, and as a native Nashvillian, he’s somewhat of a unicorn. He provides a non-technocratic opinion, and a fresh perspective on local government issues. 

Recently, I took him to our neighborhood charrette as a pre-date activity. I was excited for him to meet my coworkers and see all the hard work we’ve put together. Later, on our actual date, my partner noted that there was a lot he didn’t understand (i.e. the word charrette), and wasn’t sure if his comments were useful at all. This was pretty disheartening but now I pay more attention to how my department presents information, for whom, and what the goal is.

Other roles on my board include health coach, director of reality checks, and a chief fun officer. Do you have a personal board of directors? Who is on it? Who should be on it?

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