Personal Board of Directors

What is a personal board of directors?

A personal board of directors is comprised of the people in your life who support your vision and to whom you turn when you want honest and trustworthy advice and/or when you are looking for help in figuring out solutions to your challenges. 

The concept comes from the business and non-profit world where an organization is legally required to have a board of directors to provide guidance and strategic input for optimal functioning of the organization.  This concept has been extended to and embraced by individuals who are looking for support and advice from experienced professional who care about them. 

The Benefits of a Personal Board of Directors

1.   Successful people reach out and get support

A lot of ambitious, achievement-oriented people think that in order to be successful, you have to do it yourself and that asking for help is a sign of weakness.   In many cases, they struggle to figure things out on their own, when reaching out and getting additional input and guidance would make their life a lot easier.

In fact, getting support is a way to work smarter, not harder. There is a lot competition for top jobs out there.  So why not get the benefit of other people who have extensive life and business experience and who are willing to share their time and their expertise with you?

2.   Have the benefit of experience

We each have our individual areas of expertise and strengths.  And then there are the things we do not know or are not especially good at.  This is one of the great advantages of having a personal board of directors. It is a way to learn from professionals whose skills and experience can complement and fill out your own.

3.   Learn from different points of view

In addition, it is extremely helpful to have people on your board whose life and professional experience is different from yours. I am a member of the personal board of directors of a young musician whose board also includes a retired business executive and a retired media executive, as well as a well-known professional musician and a younger musician.

This young musician has taken the bold step of convening meetings of her personal board.  The synergies of this group are unbelievable because we all bring our different experiences to bear when we meet to help her out.  You can read about our first meeting where we provided her with general career advice and our second meeting where her goal was to have input on her university teaching applications and we provided specific guidance from different points of view.

4.   A way to give back

Sometimes young people wonder why an older, successful, experienced person would care about helping someone at the beginning stages of her career. Again, speaking for myself, I had a few mentors along the way who helped me in my career and I remain grateful to them for the time and care that they invested in me.  I vowed that when I was in a position to help younger people, I would do so.  And I know that I am not alone!

How to Create a Personal Board of Directors

If you are interested in creating your own personal board of directors, here are some things to keep in mind:

1.  Your Inner Circle

Think about people whose opinions you value and whom you respect.  These may be adults whom you have naturally turned to while you were growing up, mentors whom you have had the good fortune of meeting through school, summer jobs or internships or close friends who really care about you.

Add in a cheerleader who will champion you.  Be sure to include someone who has known you for a long time and has a good perspective on you and your life.

Be sure to go outside your particular area of expertise so that you can take advantage of different points of view and experiences.     

2. Areas of Support 

Next, think about the areas of your life where you would like to receive outside support from a trusted group of advisors.  These could include business skills, finance, marketing, public speaking or fundraising. 

If you do not know people with these skills, be on the lookout for them as you network adn meet new mentors and colleagues.  Often, if you set an intention around finding such a person, he or she will materialize.

How to Make the Most of Your Personal Board of Directors

Once you have selected these trusted individuals, ask them to serve as a member of your personal board.  Explain what the concept is and why you chose that person.  Since you already have a close connection to these people, they are likely to be honored to be part of your inner circle!

Your directors are busy people so here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your personal board.

1.  Have a goal and communicate that goal to your board members

Have a clear goal in mind when you reach out to your board members.  You can approach a particular board member individually or you can have a group meeting. Share that goal and communicate what specifically you are looking for.  Send out an agenda in advance so that your board member(s) know(s) what will be covered.  Be sure to include attachments, materials, video or music clips or anything else that might be relevant.

2.   Remain open to suggestions

Be open to suggestions. You never know what ideas might crop up!  In addition, if you are seeking advice, think before you reject an idea.  Your advisors are there to support you and they are making suggestions that worked for them.  If something resonates, great!  If you are not sure, reflect on it.  And if something truly does not match up with your values or with who you are at your core, move on and trust your instincts.

3.   Follow up with and keep the board member(s) updated on your progress

Follow-up with your directors after your meeting, whether it is a meeting with a single board member or the entire group.  Keep your directors informed about your progress.  This will show that you are serious about the process and that the advice that you are getting matters to you.  

4.   Thank your board member for his or her contributions

Your directors are happy to help you.  Be sure to acknowledge their input and the time that they have devoted to you.  A personal note or email will go a long way to making your board member feel appreciated.

I encourage to put together this brain trust and reach out whenever you need support and extra help.  You will be amazed at the results! 



© Astrid Baumgardner 2011



I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:


Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.