A few months ago, I wrote about the first meeting of the personal board of directors of my friend and mentee, a brilliant, talented musician. This young music entrepreneur has assembled a personal board of directors with a wide range of experience:
• An internationally famous professional musician
• A retired business executive
• A retired media executive
• Her boyfriend/life partner, also an early-stage professional musician
• Me, a lawyer, life coach and former arts executive who knows a thing or two about creating career success in the music world
Whereas our first meeting was a general discussion of how our young musician could launch her career, this meeting has a very specific goal: to provide feedback on her applications to university teaching positions.Our go-getter musician was extremely well prepared. She first updated us on all the progress that she had made since the last meeting of the board to show the rest of us that she had paid attention to the many suggestions discussed in our first meeting. This was an impressive list of accomplishments and it made all of us feel that working with this young woman was worth our time. It also created the opportunity to do some brainstorming about her dissertation topic and some short-term career options. While this was not specifically on the agenda, it was a rich conversation that gave our young musicians some tools to meet a few of the challenges that she was experiencing.
We then turned to our main agenda item. Our musician provided us with her draft cover letter and CV. As was the case in our first meeting, the collective wisdom of the group generated a wealth of advice. The retired business executive launched the first comment about how he read cover letters: eye-popping specific accomplishments and results that would make the reader of the letter excited to review details on the CV and then call our musician in for an interview. The retired media executive and I—who have had a lot of experience hiring people—embellished on this advice. The professional musician provided the “reality check” from the standpoint of the music world. And all of us were there to reinforce our young musician’s strengths and talents, champion her in her job search and celebrate all her extraordinary accomplishments.
Our musician came away from the meeting with concrete advice on how to improve her materials and take them from good to great. In addition, she received incredible support and validation from the rest of us.
As for the board members, we also got a lot from the meeting. All of us believe strongly in the potential of this young woman and I know that for me, it felt wonderful to help launch the career of a deserving talented individual. It was also a chance to give back and pass on experience to the next generation to insure the continual flow of talent into our culture.
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!
If you are interested in creating your own personal board of directors, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Decide which areas of your life where you would like to receive outside support from a trusted group of advisors, whether it is in your career, your creative life, your personal life or your relationships.
2. Assemble a group of people with a wide range of backgrounds and experience. I cannot overemphasize the magic that occurs when a group of people assembles and each one shares from his own experience!
3. If you meet with one or more of your board members, know what you want to accomplish from the meeting. This will focus the conversation and help to achieve the results that you are looking for.
4. Remain open in the meeting. 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.
5. Follow-up with your directors after the meeting. 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.
The personal board of directors is a great example of how smart entrepreneurs can create their success. By seeking out the advice and support of others, the music entrepreneur (or indeed any entrepreneur!) can draw on the experience of other successful people and leapfrog ahead in his or her career.
© Astrid Baumgardner 2011