Global Provider of Leadership Development, Team Effectiveness and Employee Engagement Solutions
The truth is we all need advisors. We can’t be experts in everything. We need to focus on our Strengths and rely on others for help elsewhere. When it comes to success, your critical thinking and decision-making can make or break your outcome. However our ability to do so is based on our own knowledge and experience. To make the best decisions we need help and not just help from whoever is close at hand at the time, rather trusted subject matter experts with experience and who have our best interest at heart. For years I have had the opportunity to work with medical experts across the US and Europe as advisors for pharmaceutical marketing team, based on their expertise and experience with the goal of improving patient care. In recent years my focus has been with advisors for professional associations and corporate boards. The advice given is usually invaluable in creating a greater result for the person(s) in need and also has shown to provide the advisors a sense of purpose from the value they are able to give. A win-win!
A trusted advisor will:
So how does an advisory board differ from mentoring support? In general they are both providing advice, guidance and food for thought. In “Lean In” Sheryl Sandberg provides a different perspective on mentoring one of her book’s chapter is called “Don’t Ask Anyone to be Your Mentor.” Instead she advocates asking people both senior and junior to you for specific advice to solve a problem. This will engender much more productive relationships than a simplistic, general plea for mentoring. I have to agree that I have observed myself and others struggle to maintain an effective mentor/mentee relationship due to lack of need and purpose. Such a purposeful approach with an advisory board is able to provide such the input you need depending on the situation (a little like situational leadership). I suggest considering if being an advisor to others, rather than a mentor, is better use of your time, your unique Strengths and experience?
How might having your own personal advisory board help you in your business/career? Like any great solution that helps you strive for excellence, an effective advisory board takes thinking and planning. In my research with colleagues I have concluded that when people need to meet with us we observe two common approaches: 1) The well thought out individuals with a sense of clear purpose and 2) The individuals who are not as organized and it can be a waste of our time and theirs. So here is some advice:
1) Prioritize: Over the next 3 years where will you likely need advice the most? What are some of the more important decisions you need to make? e.g. How do I grow my business to that next phase? How do I create scalable business systems so that they grow with me? How do I learn to influence when I am not the boss?
2) Review Your Network: Who is already in my network that has done this successfully? Who do I trust? Who is likely to be the bigger expert? Are we in similar industries? Would they be willing to help me? Do we think alike or will they challenge my thinking further?
e.g. Jason is in my network and he has been successful with Wood Inc. I have heard him talk numerous times about how he created effective systems that grew with him. Both of our companies service the healthcare industry and so there are likely some similarities. I know he would be willing to help me. However Jason and I are very similar so I will want to compliment Jason’s advise with an advisor (Janine) who is polar opposites to me. She also works in a different industry but has been successful in creating scalable systems. The advice and perspective of both will strengthen my thinking so that I can make a better decision and investment.
3) Set Expectations: What do you need from them and why? Perspective will help them help you. Help them understand the outcome you are aiming for. How much of their time are you asking for? Have a clear conversation about the level of commitment. Respect their time.
4) Clarify Your Need: All of us value our time and so be sure to have key questions you need answered so that your advisors time with you is well spent. Consider providing them your questions in advance to give them thinking time. Link the questions you have to the outcome you are trying to create. It helps them better understand and they may even come up with questions you have not thought of.
5) Recognition: No matter how well you know someone, everyone’s time is valuable. Show your appreciation. A hand written thank you card, a copy of a great book or a Starbucks gift card are all examples of great gestures and show you are grateful. Like with all effective recognitions be specific about the value they provided you. Be timely and be genuine.
Start keeping a list of these great advisors, nurture the relationships and be sure to pay back the favor and be there for them. Share where you can be the biggest value to them. Over time you can build a board of advisors. There may be an opportunity for you to meet as a collaborative team if you have a bigger need. Provide them lunch or some other value added. Set up the meeting so everyone gains value of some kind.
If you do this well not only will improve your decisions it may also enhance how you are perceived as a leader and your willingness to grow.
If you need more help please do not hesitate to reach out at churchillleadershipgroup
Regards, Jayne Jenkins CEO Churchill Leadership Group