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Assembling your Personal Board of Advisors

Feeling stuck? Wish you had the solution to the situation that you are faced with? No amount of head scratching seems to help?

Maybe you need someone to view your issue with a perspective that seems to have escaped your view. That is where having a mentor and/or advisor comes really handy. Then again, given the complexity of our work and business environment, most times having one mentor/advisor is not good enough.

Executives and Managers, even CEOs today need an array of mentors, advisors and role models as support and to provide crucial information at decisive moments. Just as corporations configure networks to deal with the variety of problems faced by knowledge workers and also manage opportunities when it shows up; individuals too need to configure their networks based on their needs and the resource commitments involved in building such relationships.

Your personal board of advisors can include a range of individuals from friends, family, role models or simply people who come into your life for a specific purpose.

This article aims at providing you with insight and a practical tool on how to assemble your effective personal board of mentors. It has been developed by MIT Sloan School of Management, the business school of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.

To use the tool, you need to do the following exercise:

Imagine that you are the CEO of your own company and like any other company, you also would also need to appoint a Board of Directors to run the show. The next step is to think of the people you can appoint on your ‘Board’ as your trusted personal advisors and mentors who can provide the expertise that you fall short of. Of course, these ‘Directors’ that you may want to appoint must be both available and interested to serve on your Board. Next list names that come to your mind one below the other.

Let’s understand the tool and the various roles within it:

The Inner and Outer Circles:

As the name suggests, the people within your inner circle will be closer to you having more frequent interactions and providing greater levels of support. Those within the outer circle (outside of the inner circle) are the people who are less close with fewer interactions, typically providing more focused support in any particular area where help is required. Less interactive advisors those who are principally important as role models are located in the white space within the outer circle. Overlapping support circles indicate multiple kinds of support provided by the given board member.

Think of the people you can appoint on your ‘Board’ as your trusted personal advisors and mentors who can provide the expertise that you fall short of.

Personal guide: (outer circle)

This is someone with whom you had a supportive relationship in the past, but now have limited or no interaction going on, and still drawing inspiration from them.

They have guided you on a specific lesson, subject, skill or topic. For example, someone who taught you the value of work ethics.

Personal advisor: (inner circle)

Someone you frequently interact with outside of work and also frequently rely on for psychological support. They serve as an emotional backing, a sounding board, someone who is an unconditional friend who accepts your capabilities and is non-judgemental.

This person has more connection with you, can you tell you more and give clarity on how you could navigate the circumstances in your life. This is a person you look up to and they have some connect to your day to day life.

Full service mentor: (inner circle)

They would fulfil the role of a true mentor on your personal board, providing both career and psychological support.

Helps you with clear direction to establish your goal post and then ways of getting there successfully.

A full service mentor has a great rapport and closeness with you with frequent interactions and extensive support.

Career Advisor: (inner circle)

They predominantly provide career support, know your capabilities well, and help you navigate through the organisation.

This is someone who is well versed with your industry and your role within it.

Theirs is a more formal and a shorter micro role, typically covering a 3-year strategic plan formulated especially for you.

They offer advise based on specific questions and feedback and offer value through their own personal experience and practice.

Career Guide: (outer circle)

This is a macro role that involves long term commitment from the board member, with intermittent interaction.

They know you well and help you maximise your potential to become yourself ten years down the line.

These are people who have played leadership roles, and assist you to build yourself up as a leader.

Role model: (outer circle)

These are people you follow and want to be like, wanting to live a life like theirs.

You may have no interaction with them ever and yet they are people you are proud of and influenced by.

They may have gone through trials and tribulations that you yourself might be going through.

They are your ideals and role model that inspire you.

Now that you have a greater understanding of the various roles, revisit your list of names and assign them to the relevant roles they would be best suited to. The final step would be to assemble them in the above tool to create your very own ‘Personal Board of Mentors’.

Next time you feel stuck, or proactively feel the need to streamline your next career move, or are looking for some guidance on the personal front, you have your own go-to board of members who will ensure that you don’t need to scratch your head in bewilderment ever again.

SABEEH CAN BE REACHED at [email protected]

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