Who Would Be On Your Board?

When my clients are at a crossroads with a decision that they need to make, I often walk through an exercise with them I call the “Virtual Board.” I do this by asking, “If you could hand select a personal board of directors, who would be on it?”

The goal of the imaginary board of directors is to provide new perspectives to aid in problem solving. In his book, Thinkertoys, Michael Michalko describes a fantasy board as “a list of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your challenges.” Imagine having at your disposal the experience, wisdom, and know-how of whomever you admire most, living or dead. These “board members” can spur you into action in some aspect of your life where you’ve been feeling stuck.

How is this useful? Well, the advice of the board might replace old voices of resistance or fear that tell you what you cannot do or why you cannot change. In a circumstance where you are not sure what to do next, you can ask, what would Mother Theresa do? Or, how would Thomas Edison solve this problem? What would Mark Twain say?

I sometimes encourage my clients to get photographs of their “board” and pin them up to remind them of the talent at their disposal. Research your heroes. Read everything about your chosen board members that you can get your hands on. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems.

Who is on my board of directors? That’s easy!

Yvon Chouinard: World-class mountaineer, diehard surfer, obsessive fly fisher and founder and owner of Patagonia. He doesn’t play by the traditional rules of corporate convention. I am inspired by his integrity and confidence.

Sheryl Crow: Her personal resilience and love for her craft are inspiring. She is the consummate artist who isn’t afraid to take risks. Sheryl has been quoted as saying that she is attracted to people who know their own brilliance. I dig that.

Anne Lamott: The acclaimed writer, teacher and public speaker (check out her brilliant book “Bird by Bird”), I admire her authenticity, humility and sense of humor. She always reminds me to remain transparent and to not take myself too seriously.

Kip Tiernan: Best known for founding Rosie’s Place, a homeless women’s shelter, she has been at the center of the fight for economic and social justice for nearly three decades. She represents the gift of service and reminds me to maintain a healthy perspective.

Anna Quindlen: An author with the gift of expression. She is clear and eloquent. She is devoted to both her career and her family. She brings warmth and heart to my imaginary board.

Grete Waitz: She helped to promote marathon and long-distance running for women. Grete reminds me to be a good “animal”. She represents power and ambition.

Interestingly, the qualities of the individuals whom you choose to be on your board, also give you important clues about the attributes that you most want to express yourself. Everything that you love about your hero is in you already- you just have to let it shine.

So who are the movers and shakers you admire most? Who is on your board?