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(Personal) Silent Board of Directors

  • 1.  (Personal) Silent Board of Directors

    Posted 02-17-2020 01:05 PM
    I thought I would share with the network a recent article that I posted on LinkedIN... The CFO Alliance Peer Advisory Groups, help provide the function of an accountability board.

    Corporate Boards have been undergoing a series of changes over the years leaning more toward being working Boards. A working Board is one with members that actually offer industry expertise and guidance to the Executive team rather than only a recognizable name or organization that the company can market. The working corporate Board of Directors discussion will be reserved for a different post. In this post, I would like to leverage the concept of a working corporate Board to pitch a different Board that everyone should have…A Personal Board of Directors 

    Personal Board of Directors

    Much like a working corporate Board of Directors, seats on a personal Board are filled with individuals who provide expertise and guidance. However, this Board of Directors is structured quite differently than a corporate Board. 

    Before I explain, let me first lay a foundation for why adopting a personal Board of Directors is so critical. 

    This is not an argument for or against religion, however, whether a person of faith or not, the Bible is a great resource for guidance on a number of topics including leadership. With regard to leadership there is no shortage of principles and truths about pride, humility, when to speak and when not to speak, and many more topics. In this article, I would like to focus on what it says specifically about…Advisers.

    2,000 Year Old Advice About Advisors

    Let me provide a bit of background. The Bible is made up of 66 smaller books and each book is broken down into chapters and verses. One of those books is called Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is actually a series of parables, oracles, and proverbs written by several people around the tenth century B.C, but mostly by King Solomon. In chapter 15 of the book of Proverbs, the writer (King Solomon) provides great advice about gaining and using wisdom, the power of the tongue, attitudes, patience, reproof, and much more, all great advice and guidance for leaders.

    King Solomon was not only the wealthiest person to ever live, he is also considered to be one of the wisest kings of all time. Therefore, I believe it's safe to say that he knew a thing or two about leadership. So, whether a person of faith or not, we would all be wise to heed his advice about the value of advisors. 

    In chapter 15, verse twenty-two, King Solomon speaks specifically about advisors when he says, "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed." He goes on in verse thirty-two to say, "Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence."

    From King Solomon's perspective, only a fool would be without a team of advisors. It is from that perspective I present, from my own personal experience, the concept of a personal Board of Directors. 

    A Real Life Perspective

    I have two Boards, one for my personal life and the other for my professional life. Due to much of those two worlds being intermingled, at least for me they are, several of my Board members serve on both boards. However, unlike a corporate Board, most of my Directors don't even know they are on my Board, but their lives silently influence my life, hence the title, Silent Board of Directors. 

    The members of these Boards, have had and continue to have the right to influence my decisions, goals, and priorities. How they exemplify character traits I seek to also exemplify in those areas are what has earned them the right to influence my life. For the few who have been told of their position on my Board, they have also been given a license to speak bluntly and candidly without repercussion. It is these men from whom I seek to receive the feedback I 'need' to hear which, at times, is not necessarily what I want to hear. I am deeply grateful to those on my Boards as I am a better person for their investment. 

    Several years ago I invited a CEO to lunch to get to know him better and to learn more about his company. About fifteen minutes into our lunch this individual sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and asked, "So, why did you really invite me to lunch, nobody ever just wants to get to know someone better. So, what do you really want?" My response, "Sorry to disappoint you, but I just found your background interesting and thought getting to know you better would make me a better person." That individual has become a great friend, advisor, and mentor in the business, personal, and spiritual aspects of my life. On another occasion I sought the advice of a different CEO regarding how best to seek new employment after I was let go from my job. His advice, "Do nothing job hunting related for a month and instead focus completely on writing. After a month, then you can start to seek new employment." I of course thought he was completely nuts (and, so did my wife). However, I took his advice to heart and I am on the verge of publishing my fourth book and one month after losing my job, I received a call from another good friend who offered me the opportunity to apply for a job in an industry I've wanted to enter for several years, but never had the opportunity. I am currently serving in that role.

    What lesson is there to be learned, probably not that you should do nothing but write if you lose your job. However, I would highly encourage you to follow suit and start building your Board if you don't already have one. To accomplish that let me provide you with a few guidelines to get you started.  

    Guide to Choosing Board members for Your Personal Board

    1. Determine the character traits you would like to have exemplified in your own life. Not only identify these character traits, but put thought to why those traits are worth pursuing. Include how those traits will influence your priorities and how they will impact those with whom you interact. 
    2. Identify individuals with diverse backgrounds who can provide an example of how a particular character trait is leveraged in different venues. For example, we would all agree Integrity is a valuable trait. However, showing integrity at home, at work, and in social interactions will be proved out in very different ways. Honoring your promises at home and refusing to follow through on a questionable task at work both will put your integrity on the line. However, for some one could be more difficult than the other which brings us to the third guiding point. 
    3. Empower two to five members of your Board with the right to speak bluntly when they see you moving in the wrong direction. I personally hate this part, but I wouldn't ever eliminate it from the process. If the right people are empowered in this way, their correction will be the most valuable contributions and the most impactful. Don't shy away from having your ego and pride adjusted from time to time, you will be a better person for it in the long run. 

    I trust this article provided helpful insights and encourages you to form a personal Board of Directors, some of whom silently influence your life while others will play a much more direct role. 

    About the Author:

    Robert Cossick is seasoned finance professional who has spent the better part of his career developing the art of story telling through comprehensive and in-depth financial analysis.

    Greg Wood
    Co-Founder/Member Engagement
    CFO Alliance
    Wayne PA