Why You Should Create a Personal Board of Advisors?

Aaron McHugh

Board of Advisors
Board of Advisors

Our own lives are often the most difficult to interpret. 

Good companies, companies that last, have a Board of Directors and sometimes a Board of Advisors.

Directors give you mandated direction.

Advisors aid you in charting a course.

Last year, I formed a Personal Board of Advisors to aid me in the key decisions and directions of my life: personally, professionally and spiritually.

Hand picked

This Board of Advisors was constructed by personal invitation.  These men are exceptional in their respective trades.  They work in various different industries: Law, Publishing, High Tech, Ministry, Real Estate and Finance.

Mercenary and Missionary

Most of them have a unique perspective on the intersection of life and business.  I like to term this convergence being a Mercenary with a Missionary heart.

I trust them personally.

They are selected because we have invested in each other’s lives personally and professionally.  In order to yield to their insights, I want to know I can trust their motive for me.

I receive raw unfiltered scrutiny.

As a result we are able to skip past many layers of niceties or suspicion and get straight to the core issues.  I trust their intentions and therefore their advice.

Group conference call

On a practical note, we have a group conference call one to two times a year.  In addition, I reach out to them individually as things come up.  The purpose of the group call is to huddle up on a particular topic or pending decision.

I prepare for this call just like I would a board or executive meeting.  I provide a summary, some back-story and then the options or paths that I am considering.

Honestly it makes me nervous at times. 

These guys have played in the big leagues for a long time.  At times I feel like I’ve been playing for the farm team.  I have to push past that nervous nudge and move forward trusting that the gain is greater than the pain.

Here is some of what I have to get past:

  • You’re wasting their time.
  • They have better things to be doing.
  • They’re tired of me asking for help.

Sometimes I even tell them this is what I am struggling with.

As you’d expect they graciously say “that is non-sense”.

I thought I was the only beneficiary. 

It turns out that they are grateful to be helping me.  I accidentally modeled something for them that they wished they had in their own lives.  As a result we all win.  As they connect with other men who were strangers to them but all centered around the common goal of “help Aaron”, something good happens.

Humility is a pre-requisite.

You have to assume that you do not have all of the answers.  If that is your posture, then go for it.  If you are looking for a circle of people to just praise you without challenging you, don’t waste your time and theirs.

NY Times article.

I came across this article in the NY Times.  It offers another perspective on this idea.  See NY Times article about the purpose and approach behind a Board of Advisors-For Your Life.

Notice the distinction this draws between Advisers and Directors.  This was an important definition for me as well.

Feel free to ask me more questions about this.

Good luck.

  • Aaron,

    This is a great idea. The times article was really helpful too. Can you share some examples of the types of issues you’ve taken to your board?

    • aarondmchugh

      Jon- I have brought key career decisions and fork road decisions to them. I would create a summary overview, provide it to them a few days in advance and then all get on a conf call together. I would then present the summary to them, allow lots of time for questions and discussion. And in the end I’d have a 360 view of my life versus a tunnel vision approach that I could so easily have on my own.
      Truly it has been invaluable. I can give you more direct example outside of the forum.

  • Beth

    I wonder how many people have inadvertently created this forum in a less formal structure? It’s a no-brainier for me, sometimes my circle see the reality of something for me that I just cannot see. They’re usually proved right!!

    • I totally agree that less formal is common. And even as helpful and important as my example. The catalyst for me to make it a formal was I had a couple of key decisions like changing careers that felt weighty enough that I wanted structured advise . Good stuff Beth thanks for your thoughts.