Your own personal board of directors

“NO man is an island, entire of itself.”

John Donne had a point, don’t you think? Sure, he lived around 400 years ago, but this wisdom is as relevant today as it was back then. And that goes for women too.

We don’t expect the Prime Minister to lead without the support of the Cabinet. We don’t expect the principal of a school to lead without the support of a board of trustees. And we certainly don’t expect the CEO of any company in which we are a shareholder to lead without the support of their board of directors.

The point is that if you find yourself in charge of something really important, common wisdom – and sense – dictates that you need a panel of sages to guide and advise you. (Although whether the Prime Minister’s Cabinet constitutes a panel of sages is a debateable point!)

Of course, you are the CEO of your own career (as we covered in the first article of this series). But no one expects you to go it alone. I suggest to you that your career - indeed, your life - is important enough to warrant having your own personal board of directors.

What does a board of directors exist to do? In essence, its role is to advise and guide the leader as well as safeguard the well being of the body that they represent. The board tends to comprise individuals with varied experience and talents who, when combined, provide a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for the leader of the organisation to draw upon when required. Occasionally, members of the board will step in to help correct the leader’s course if he or she is taking the organisation off track, away from its stated goals and objectives.

You may already have your own potential personal board of directors without realising it. Who can you think of in your life today that you can turn to to discuss your issues, challenges and goals? Who is willing to give you the time of day?

You have the luxury of selecting your own board of directors, given that you are also the sole shareholder of You Pty Ltd. When deciding whom to have on your Board, consider the following possible alternatives:

1. Someone who inspires you.

Include a person who already is where you want to be. Someone who has been down the same path you want

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to travel. These types of people can be invaluable in helping you avoid pitfalls, as well as developing useful strategies to get you where you want to go in your career. Some people call them mentors. Or role models. The key thing here is that they are another human reminder of what you want to achieve, and that it is possible.

2. Someone who can help you overcome problems and get clarity on decisions

While a mentor is there to remind you of what can be achieved and to provide inspiration, they may not necessarily be the person who can help you move forward on a more immediate basis. Many people now see the value in having someone who can act as a regular, objective sounding board, and partner them in setting and achieving specific goals. Personal and business coaches specialise in providing this type of service.

3. Someone you can confide in

We all need someone whom we can trust and open up to completely. While both a coach and a mentor can fill this role, you may know of and want someone else, perhaps a close friend or relative, who will just listen to you, not judge, not give advice, not require you to do something about your problems. You can dump on them and they will just take it. What a great person to have on your board.

4. Individuals who can give you specific professional advice in the key areas of your life, as and when you need it

You don’t have all the answers, and nor are you expected to! The people who fill these board seats are usually there in the capacity of being an expert in their field. And their field is one that has a profound impact on your success. Their titles may range from accountant, financial advisor, personal trainer, stockbroker, doctor … anyone who, by you spending time with this person, can help you get a specific answer or result faster than you could by yourself.

There’s a common element that all of the board members in the above four roles should exhibit. A keen interest in you and your success. If they are more concerned about talking about themselves when they are with you, strike them off your board. You want and need people that will uplift you. I am not suggesting that it’s a one-way street with these people – you may well come to an arrangement where you can help them as well – but in most cases you want your board members to derive their reward from seeing YOU succeed. Remember this.

Once you’ve got your board in place, how do you maximise their value to you? Simple. Keep in regular contact with each of your members, informing them of your progress and future plans. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s flattering to be thought of as a wise advisor – the more you defer to your board members, the more they will be of value to you and enjoy their position.

n Digby Scott is the Principal Consultant of The Catalyst Group, a career and executive coaching consultancy. Contact him at digby @the

Executive Moves with Julie-anne Sprague

Shake up to attract young blood

Sweeping changes to the West Australian Pork Pro-ducer’s Association (WAPPA) are under way after a review of the structure and constitution of the organisation.

Liam Flanagan has taken an interim position as WAPPA president until an extraordinary meeting on May 2, which will vote in a new executive and set in place changes to the association’s constitution.

Mr Flanagan said the revision of the amount of time a member commits to the executive would allow greater injection of ideas and stimulate members unable to join previously.

Under the new structure, the executive will be voted in every year at the AGM and will serve for a one-year period instead of many years.

“The former system meant that you were making a commitment of 12 years, and this is with no remuneration,” Mr Flanagan said.

“This should draw people out of the woodwork that waived that sort of commitment.”

Mr Flanagan believes the new one-year term will make the association more accessible to younger people and women.

He said the association had never had a woman serve on the executive and, as well, it lacked younger blood.

Mr Flanagan said the new structure to the executive and the constitution aimed to provide a more democratic process to the election of members and give smaller producers a voice.

“Previously, voting for a member on the board was on a “per head of stock” basis with 1,000 head of stock equal to one vote,” he said.

“The new system will allow everyone registered with the association to have one vote, however this change is restricted to the voting of the executive members only and the larger decisions will be left at the per head basis.”

Mr Flanagan is also the general manager of The Great Southern Pig Company.

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