Who’s on your board?

I was recently reminded of one of my fondest memories of my dad—when he patiently taught me to drive stick.

He’d take me to a hill on McCoy Road in my hometown, and he’d park the car halfway up so I’d have to get us the rest of the way to the top. (For those unfamiliar with driving stick, hills are tricky, especially when you’re stopping and starting. It’s easy to roll backward if you don’t know what you’re doing.)

It was trial by fire, but he remained calm in the passenger’s seat, guiding and encouraging me. I was nervous, of course, but I never doubted that he’d step in (i.e. pull the emergency break) if he needed to. And most importantly, I knew I’d be really good at driving stick when it was all said and done.

When we’re trying something new, working toward a goal or experiencing a challenging life hurdle, those around us can play an important role. That’s why I often encourage my clients to develop a personal “board of directors” to help them take steps large and small.

Just like any board, yours should be made up of a handful of trusted voices with specific responsibilities. Here’s how I’d suggest breaking it down:

Truth-teller. This is the person in your life who can tell it like it is. They need to offer matter-of-fact information to keep your feet on the ground so you can make informed decisions.

Accountability partner. They will support your goals by calling you out on excuses so you’re more inclined to honor your commitments.

Mentor. Find someone who’s been there before and can offer advice based on experience. Mentors provide trusted feedback and connections to propel you forward.

Cheerleader. Need a dose of encouragement or to celebrate a win? Call your cheerleader. They will be an important voice of positivity during high and low points.

Perspective-shifter. Look for someone who thinks differently than you and can provide an alternative viewpoint. It’s likely one you haven’t thought of before—and could prove beneficial.

Sponsor. This is the person who proactively promotes your work, using their influence to help you get to your next. You often find them shouting your good news from the mountaintops. 

Don’t forget: You can and should serve on the board for others, too, so consider which role you might play.

My dad played most of the above parts in my quest to drive stick—and at many other points in life—and it served me well. I’m a confident driver, and with the help of my board today, I continue to learn and grow.

I know you will too.

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