All organizations have a Board to govern them. They check in on what the org is doing and they have a unique perspective to see the whole rather than having to worry about the everyday. Board of Educations guide policy for school districts and Board of Directors guide companies and non-profits. In many cases, Boards are looked down upon as meddling in the affairs of an institution or issuing directives that are absurd or counterproductive. Often decisions that must be “run by the Board” are ones that we agonize over. The Board has the power to kill our projects of passion or redirect our efforts with their ability to fund or unfund at will.
However, this is not the kind of Board that I am trying to invoke. What I am talking about here is a form of mentorship that you can’t get without actually stating who your mentors are. You can have friends and family and you can get advice from them, but if they don’t know that they hold a pivotal role in helping you to envision a direction and a future, there is a lot of unfocused pushes toward nothing.
As I have embarked on answering questions and figure out the next steps for my career and my life, I have enlisted my Board of Directors because they are the people who I want to share my future with.
Here is how I chose my Board:
I looked for the people who have a passion for getting things right, those who are not satisfied with a first attempt. I chose those who will not let me be an expert for too long. I chose people who have something to teach me, or who will let me learn with them.
My Board is all older than me. While this isn’t essential, I mention it because I think that people who have the experience to put things into context for me are essential. I looked for those who take pictures. I watched for people who could express themselves, and express frustration well.
(An aside: Frustration has to be the hardest emotion to express well. We mostly give off noises to show it. The people that can really do this well, however, are capable of getting genuinely mad in the face, describing their frustration and letting it flow through them as they work out their next action. They never put their hands up in the air and then never write someone off. They see opportunities for frustration and pursue them in order to alleviate other’s frustrations. They express frustration with steady pressure and focused fanaticism for the way things should be.)
The people that I wanted to elect to my Board do not have everything figured out. They are failures sometimes. They are disinterested at others. They are honest about both.
What I wanted were wrecking balls for my thoughts.
I wanted writers. I wanted people who go out for coffee. I wanted people who use pens and paper.
And that is what I found. I found mentors who I talk to on a regular basis and whose conversations I cherish, save and come back to quite often. My mentors change my perspective on a regular basis. They make me better at asking questions and finding answers. And, they are the reason why I learn.
Finding people to push you to learn is the best thing you can ever do, no matter the workflow, tool or job at hand. It is the people that will prevail, no matter what.
(And perhaps, that is why so many organizations struggle. Their Boards don’t push them to learn, just to work harder.)