Put Together Your Own Board of Directors

Here’s a tip as you put together a leadership development plan – find a few people to sit on your own personal Board of Directors. What is this group going to do? They’re going to help you plan, execute, and assess your development as a leader. You’re going to brief them on your plans, and ask for their advice and suggestions. You’re going to ask them to track your progress, give you feedback on how you’re doing, and evaluate your results. In other words, you’re going to set up a structure that assures you absolutely, positively can’t miss in terms of hitting your development objectives.

Start by choosing a PBD from among your peers, direct reports, extended team members, and matrix managers. Pick people who are familiar with your work, see you regularly throughout the year, and who will give you a diverse set of opinions and suggestions. Don’t choose your current boss (you get enough advice and feedback from her). The ideal composition is probably two peers, two direct reports, and one matrix manager. Since you want to meet with them in person, choose all of your Board members from within your current organization (while it’s tempting to “hire” your best friends or former colleagues for this assignment – don’t do it. This is a job for people who see you every day). Obviously, once you’ve thought about who should serve on your PBD, you need to ask them if they’d be interested, and gain their commitment.

Tell your Board members that you’d like to meet with them as a group three times a year (each meeting should last about 30-45 minutes). Schedule the first meeting right after your performance appraisal (if your company doesn’t do performance appraisals, schedule the meeting when you’re about to set your annual development objectives). The second meeting should be six months after that – to check in on your progress. The third and final meeting should be just prior to the next performance appraisal cycle, to collect final feedback on how you accomplished your learning goals this year. Start the first meeting by thanking them for helping you focus on your development goals, and express your appreciation for signing on as your personal set of advisors.

Share your development plan, and ask for their feedback and recommendations. Ask them to observe your behavior throughout the year in these areas, and invite them to provide constructive criticism and suggestions as they notice results or a lack of progress. Solicit recommendations in the very first meeting – find out what they think will work or not work as you pursue your goals. The second meeting is all about their feedback – what are they noticing? What are you doing well? What could you be doing even better? Finally, in the third meeting, gather even more input, and ask for suggestions on what you should tackle next in terms of personal improvement.

Use your Personal Board of Directors to evaluate your development as a leader. Try it – you’ll find that there’s nothing more motivating than publicly declaring your intentions to improve as a leader.