Why You Should Have a Personal Board of Directors

4word community, we are grateful to come to you each week with content that is helpful as you navigate the successes and challenges of life. As we continue to stay apprised of the impact of COVID-19, we want you to know that we are praying for you as you navigate each day! We are grateful during this time to be an army of intercessors praying for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our friends, our families, and for our world. If you have specific prayer requests, please send those to Irrayna as she consolidates prayer requests for our Boards and staff to pray over each week. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

When you think about a “board of directors,” you may envision a big boardroom with a long table full of people with tons of experience making vital decisions for a company or organization. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have all that mental and practical power in your court? Kristen Stockton, a business performance consultant, executive coach, and chair of 4word: Washington D.C., is here to tell you how to create your own personal board of directors and we promise, it’s as great as you’re imagining!

How would you define a “personal board of directors?” What benefit do they bring to an individual?

A personal board of directors is a metaphorical concept that enables you to be the CEO of your career. Whether you are just starting out in your career or have your eye on a significant leadership role, or maybe even see yourself as a C-level executive—we all need support and people to advise, guide, and help us think differently, expose our blind spots, and be our sounding board for decisions.  

Just like companies and non-profits have a board of directors who hold the CEO accountable as a steward of the business assets, investments, governance and decisions, you can develop a similar concept to support your career. Your personal board of directors acts in similar ways and creating the right blend of diverse experience and perspectives enables the business to grow or shrink where needed. A personal board of directors can add that same value to you. They should be able to guide you to make decisions to start, stop, or sustain to be the best ‘you’ possible.  

When I had been in my role for about five years and was struggling with ‘what’s next,’  I attended a leadership program and learned about the PBD concept. I put it to the test and literally drew a table with six chairs (download your table here!). I put people on the seats who I knew, valued, and trusted. When I was finished, I realized that they were all internal and only one of them was really someone I trusted and who always had good perspective.

So I made a list of external leaders that I knew what their skills and expertise were. That led me to realize I don’t have as diverse a network as I need, so I picked on from that group. I started with two and then as I met with them on occasion and was figuring things out, I started to identify areas of focus for ‘what’s next’ and then built out a PBD that included a few more people that I wanted to build a relationship with.

What mindset should someone be in when they decide to create their board of directors?

We all need to reframe the words ‘I already know’ into ‘What can I learn?’ You need to have a mindset that is open, accepting, and willing to be uncomfortable, because that is what it takes to grow. You need a heart that is soft and flexible, not rigid, cold, and closed. You have to be willing to do your own research and put in the work, because you are 100% accountable to the decisions you make, and you and you alone will reap what you sow.  

What steps should be taken when setting up your personal board of directors?

Here are the steps:

  1. Be clear. You have to know what you are setting the PBD up to help you with. Is it to just be your “girlfriend” club and tell you how wonderful you are? Think again, that’s not a good use of the time and expertise of a PBD.    A PBD can be a powerful tool to support your career and the people you surround yourself with on your PBD are investing their time and experience to help you—respect that and get clear on what you want.
  2. Be specific. When you are inviting someone into your life to help you with your career,  whether you are hiring them or just asking for advice, know why.  what specific advice do you want from that person.  Is it guidance on how to navigate your industry? Is it to advise you on how to approach a sensitive issue at work?  Is it to give you feedback on your resume? 
  3. Map it out. Draw a literal large table on a sheet of paper with seats and put you at the head.  Then start to identify who is already at the table helping you and do a bit of analysis.  Is this diverse, or is everyone my age and at my company?  
  4. Diversify. Once you map it out, to see what or who is missing that you believe would help you now or at least identify if everyone is internal or external or all from similar background.  The more diverse your portfolio the better, are they all the same gender, geography? What could you learn from someone different.
  5. Evaluate. After you’ve been working with this group, evaluate what you have actually done with your PBD.  Are you talking with them at reasonable touchpoints?  Are you implementing their advice?  If not, they may not be the right fit, or you might be wanting something they can’t give.  
  6. Repeat. Over time you will repeat steps 1-5 as new seasons come into your life, and you’ll have people “rotate” on and off your PBD, naturally and organically.   

Are there specific types of people that should be included in a personal board of directors? 

People don’t apply to be on your PBD, and you should never say, ‘Hi, I’m creating a Personal Board of Directors…’  Just like you don’t knock on someone’s door and ask them to be your mentor.  

You are just formulating this concept in your mind and on paper for yourself. You’re not sharing this with anyone. The only thing the people on your PBD need to know is this: you value who they are, what they have accomplished, and want to ask them for advice.  

Once you have your board of directors set up, how do you utilize them? 

This is a process. Everyone should have a few people they are leveraging in this capacity already.  Step #2 tells you how to leverage them. Don’t make this complicated. When you do activate advice given, please let them know that what they recommended to you worked and the outcome. There is nothing more amazing than to have someone call and say, ‘I just wanted to say thank you, because you recommended that I try ___ and I did and this is what was the result.’ There are people who will stick by you. People who know their time is valued by you and that you actually listen to them are the ones who will end up being your greatest advocates. Show those individuals that you care about and value them.

Kristen Stockton is a business performance consultant and executive coach who works with senior leaders and their leadership teams to address workforce and workplace challenges. The mission of JASKAP Consulting and Coaching is to guide and support business leaders in creating organizations that inspire and engage people, build customer loyalty, and enrich and improve the marketplace. She brings over 25 years of professional experience facilitating, speaking and working with non-profit, private, and public sector businesses. 

Leaders choose to work with Kristen because she knows how to listen, and support them with insight, experience, and innovation. She leads and coaches’ leaders through the strategic planning and change management process, so they better align their mission, vision and values with their products and services to increase value to their key stakeholders.  She brings tools and techniques that support all areas of business, including leadership development, strategic planning, succession planning and personal and professional skill development, all which will tap into your organization’s brilliance and move people forward.

Kristen has coaching experience that supports leader effectiveness and organizational change efforts. She helps people lead better business and better lives. She also serves on the faculty of SHAMBAUGH Leadership and Progression Partners as a Senior Business Partner and Executive Coach and The Forum for Workplace Inclusion and Diversity Woman as an external coach. 

In addition, she has master facilitation skills and led numerous experiences that transform individual contributors into leaders. An accomplished speaker and presenter, she’s spoken on business topics through notable professional organizations: World at Work, Conference Board, Working Mother, 4word, Museum of the Bible, Points of Light Foundation, Corporate Voices, Disability IN, Diversity Women, and Disability Matters.  

As a human capital leader, she specializes in culture change and inclusion, and is an expert in helping organizations and leaders address “blind spots.  She participated and is published in the 2017 Center for Talent Innovation study examining the issues facing both professionals with a disability in the workforce, as well as their caregivers.  Kristen is also an advocate for self-care creating tools and resources to support “selfcare” strategies that help you make time for what matters most. 

Kristen’s training includes a master’s from American University in Arts Management. Certificate in Community Relations from Boston College Carrol School of Management, Bachelor’s degree in Education from West Chester University, Center for Executive Coaching/WBECS’s Coach Master’s Certification, Mastermind Facilitator, and is earning ACC certification through International Coaching Federation.  

Kristen resides in Northern Virginia with her spouse. She holds memberships with NOVA and Prince William Country Chambers of Commerce, Human Resources Leadership Forum, SHRM, and the International Coaching Federation. She volunteers as Chair of the Washington, DC metro area’s local 4word group, a global non-profit organization market ministry, and has been a speaker, facilitator and coach for 4word’s national leaders. She also is the Co-Chair for the Women’s Business Collaborative DC Advisory Board. She and her husband give back to support local community leadership through their 501C3 non-profit ministry JAS Ministries.