I may have set a new record for the shortest time from concept to
production for a podcast: 20 minutes ago, I shared on Twitter that my
best friend, Desiree Adaway, set up a personal board of directors last
year and just sent me her annual report.
Desiree is the Senior
Director of Volunteer Mobilization for Habitat for Humanity, and at the end of 2007 felt
the need to get expert advice and insight from people she trusted and
admired. So following Jim Collin’s advice, she set up her own board.
Many people were interested in hearing her story, so I
called her up and recorded a podcast on the spot. It is about 16 minutes – listen here. I hope you enjoy our
conversation in which we cover:
- What is a personal board of directors
- How to choose good members
- How to make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial
- How to get the most out of the mentoring relationship
Desiree and I learned of the concept from Jim Collins in Good to Great. Here are a few articles which expand on the topic:
Desiree was willing to share the introductory letter she sent to her perspective list of personal board members:
I am a fan of Jim Collins. About 5 years ago I read an
article he wrote for a magazine. It spoke of an idea he came up w/ at the
Stanford Business school for his students:
you have a personal board of directors? I don’t mean a traditional corporate
board, nor do I mean an informal board of business advisors. I mean a personal
board of directors composed of seven people you deeply respect and would not
want to let down. A group like a set of tribal elders that you turn to for
guidance at times of ethical dilemma, life transitions, and difficult choices,
people who embody the core values and standards you aspire to live up to.
I have been thinking of this concept more and more over the
past few years. Who are the folks that embody the core values that I aspire to
live up to? Used well, a personal board helps one find creative alternatives
to life’s challenges and is a terrific place to turn for advice on handling
crises and ethical dilemmas. The best personal boards contain a diverse
spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives. I desire potential board
members that meet my standards of thoughtfulness, insight, and experience.
Respect for my board counts more than intimacy. I am looking for
board members who, while strong in their views, are nonjudgmental and
compassionate. The best board members will dispense wisdom like Socrates—by
asking questions, drawing analogies, and making observations.
I would like humbly request that you become a member of my
board of directors. Trust that if you accept this position I will be
extremely selective in how I use your time and when and how I will call on you.
I will only contact you for critical decisions. What about “payments” to
my personal board members? The best payment I can think of is to
simply emulate you by giving time and guidance to others, especially
younger people who need mentors. Additionally, I promise to
keep you informed of my progress. In fact, in following Jim Collin’s advice I
will write a letter once a year or so to my board. My personal “annual report”
will help me take stock of my life on a yearly basis.
Please understand if you cannot take this task on, I
understand totally. If nothing else, just wanted you to know that I am a fan of
yours as well!
Thanks in advance!
Good luck to you if you decide to move forward with your own board!
If you want to reach Desiree, she is at dadaway (at) habitat (dot) org. She doesn’t have a blog yet, but we can all work on her to start one. 🙂