The (Personal) Board of Directors

As you might have gathered from a certain post last week, part of the culture where I work is to have fun.  So much so that it’s number three on the list of our Principles of Operation. I’ve worked there less than two years, but in that time I’ve seen costume competitions, Spirit Weeks, bridal showers, gangsta rap progress reports, bake-offs, company-wide April Fools pranks, and, once per year, an annual company retreat. Each retreat has a different theme – and last year’s (my first), “making your dream a reality” was nothing short of life changing. It may actually be one of the single most influential things in shaping the course of this last year, and truly inspired me to go after my biggest dream, proving that with the right combination of factors, it really can come true.

This year’s theme was teamwork – not just in the workplace, but more importantly, in life. NOT your average (excruciatingly lame) corporate teambuilding exercise in the slightest. Each and every person we choose to surround ourselves with becomes a member of our “team” – and the seminar, based around John Maxwell’s book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, was full of lessons that can apply just as much to daily life, friendships and relationships as it can to the workplace. Last year, before the retreat, our boss asked us all to complete an assignment: write out, in one page, our biggest dream. “Dream really big,” he’d said, “bigger than you think you can even achieve yourselves.”  After two days of study, reflection, exercises and sharing (on top of rock climbing, hiking, and Scene It sessions late into the night), I left feeling inspired. This year, the session was just as personal. Not uncomfortably so, but I think more so than you’d expect from a workplace.  And (on top of the geocaching activity – do I look like a hip-waders type of girl? :)), I think that’s the reason it had so much impact.

We all have “teams” in our lives.  Knowing how to build the right ones can be the difference between achieving your goals and remaining stuck, or stagnant. It made me think of something I’d been pondering recently – of the hundreds of  people on Facebook to whom we grant access to our lives, how many can actually be counted on on a deeper, more meaningful level than a poke or a status comment? Even in social circles, is every person you have on your team going to be reliable? I think sometimes we keep people in our lives, on our ‘teams’, as it were, because they’ve been there for a long time – when in reality, people grow apart, they form opinions and other people enter their lives, loyalties waiver and the closeness that may have initially been there can weaken through the years. Yet we don’t let go. We keep them around because there’s nothing to say they really shouldn’t be – but in the end, they’re not really on our team any more at all.

My boss had an interesting thought: in organizations, there’s usually a Board of Directors who meet once a month or so to ask how things were going, offer advice, solutions to problems, and generally listen to how the company was doing and ask what they could do to make it better. But what if we had a personal Board of Directors? For our life? A group of people who wanted to be in your life for the very same reason: to make you a better person.  It often takes a crisis or some life-shaking event to realise who your friends truly are. The ones who are genuinely on your team will show themselves when things get tough. It’s a very reactive process. What if, instead, we took a proactive approach – instead of “you’re dying, what can I do to help,” asking “what are your goals, and what can I do to help you get there?” I don’t think the Board would have to be very big. They just have to be people whose values align with yours, and who see who you really are, help you get to where you want to be, and generally make you a better person just by being around. My boss said his was comprised of three people: one guy who’d let him vent and get everything out of his system when things were hard; a genuine rock of support. Another, the “tell it like it is” guy. Straight-talking, no-nonsense, no-sugar-coating – someone who truly has your best interests at heart, and isn’t afraid to show you the reality to make sure you’re on the right path. And the third – the wise sage sort of team member. A bit older, wiser, more experienced – a calming force who’ll always keep you grounded.

I’ve never been one to have a big social circle. People have come into and exited my life at various stages, but, I realised at this retreat, there are a very small handful of people I’m blessed to have on my team. People who’ll let me rant and rage when I’m stressed over something and always be the cheerleader in my court. People who’ll check in to see if things are going okay, just because they care, and be at my doorstep with a bottle of wine and a Doctor Who DVD if they’re not.  People who’ll give me food for thought, engage in intellectual debate, and show me all sides to every scenario – even if they might not be the ones I’ve chosen. People who’ll give honest feedback with never an ill-intention – knowing that it’s for the best. People who know my heart and soul inside and out… and remain steadfast and loyal friends. People who’ll help me become a better person just by being who they are. They may be few in number and scattered across the world, but I think life is so much better with a handful of genuine, good-for-you friends, than ten or twenty whose loyalties are never quite 100%. And for my little team? I am truly blessed, and eternally, eternally thankful.

This Personal Board of Directors idea could really be onto something. Proactive relationships rather than reactive ones. Ask yourself today. Do you have a solid team in your life, or is it time for evaluation?

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48 comments

  1. I want to come and work in your office – ours is way to serious lol.

    The closest we’ve got to a decent prank was when we shut one of the sales guys in the back office – he was being rude about women working in an office and not at home so we closed the office door (that opens outwards into the main office rather than into the back office) and then stacked boxes of paper in front of the door lol.

    We were talking about your foil prank yesterday actually lol.

  2. We don’t have nearly as much fun as you guys seem to, but it’s not a bad work-culture. We have quite a bit of fun and have little team getaways and things, so we bond rather well.

    I like the idea of a personal board of directors; however I wonder if I can apply it to my life as it stands. Somewhat like you, my friends are scattered across the globe- my straight-up; no-nonsense persons, my best hugs guy, my “this is what you should do” guru, my “let’s eat a 1kg bar of cadbury’s and watch x factor” friend- they’re all strewn like stars across the galaxy. I know they’re there, but I don’t see them often enough. Add to that relationships where you’re doing all the giving- what if you’re somebody’s “no nonsense” person? You get nothing but heartache and an added stress factor- how do they fare in the evaluation?

    I like the idea, I even wish I could apply it to my life; but the realities of my existence (and I’m sure yours as well) makes it so much harder. 😦

    Let me know how you fare, it’s extremely interesting to contemplate!

    1. It IS that much harder when half the team is strewn across the globe, but I think the fact that they’ve withstood the tests of distance and they’re still ON the team says something pretty amazing about the strength of those relationships 🙂

  3. em, your insight never ceases to amaze me. what a great idea – a personal board of directors. it makes so much sense when you explain it like you did – your absolutly right, we always wait for something bad to happen to find out who our real friends are, instead of taking the initiative and creating our own “board” ahead of time of people that genuinely have our wellbeing at heart and make us better so the bad things may not HAVE to happen.

    great post, it def. gave me food for thought.

  4. This makes a lot of sense and is probably the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. It got me thinking who’s on my own personal board of directors, and surprised me when I answered myself, listing the names. It’s great when people are in your life and take an active interest, when they care and you know it.

  5. Seriously, I want to come work where you work! It sounds like an amazing place!

    If you had asked me 2 years ago about my team I probably would have told you that it was lacking. However, these days I feel like I have an amazing support system. And that feels pretty amazing!

  6. You sound like you work at such a cool place! I wish I had a cool place to work for. I totally love the Personal Board of Directors idea. It definitely fits with my life, since I have a smaller social circle like you. I also like the idea of Proactive Relationships, and if you have a Personal Board of Directors, then it’s your job to keep them up-to-date with the company (you) and get their opinion on things regularly. 🙂 Sounds like a great way to deepen relationships rather than keep them so surface-y.

    1. I made sure everyone on my “team” read this today so they knew how valued they really are. Who knows, maybe planting the seed of the idea of “board of directors” will spread and those people who read about it today will take it into their own lives and spread it from there, making stronger teams across the continent! 🙂

  7. With your insight and attitude, can I get you on my board of directors, please??

    I have to second what ‘r’ said… my board of directors consists of people that are scattered across the globe and I don’t see them nearly enough. I miss them terribly and I feel every day how much more relaxed my every day life would be if they were closer.

    1. Awww you’re such a sweetie!! I would be honoured to be on your board of directors 😀

      I definitely empathise – half of my team is elsewhere on the planet, too, but it takes a lot of dedication and commitment, and real honesty to maintain those relationships – perhaps even more so than if they were right here. Which just means they’re that much more awesome 🙂

  8. After far too many unsupportive and oppressive work environments, it makes me so happy to hear that there are good companies out there like yours, Emily. It makes such a difference for worker morale.

    The idea of a personal board of directors is really fantastic! I have to think more about how I could implement it in my own life, since like many others, many of my closest friends are spread out around the US and contact is sporadic. But I do think it would be worth it to cultivate proactive relationships that offer you a unique perspective.

  9. I think, whether we know it or not, we all have a “board of directors”. We choose the people with whom we surround ourselves and those we are influenced by. It’s the not knowing or understanding that fact that allows us to surround ourselves with those who may only bring us down. I do love the idea of the core group of friends being called the board of directors tho…it paints a great picture. (c;

    And, yeah…as everyone else has mentioned, I think you work for the coolest company ever. Any job openings. (c;

    1. Aw, not right not but I’ll keep you posted lol 🙂

      You’re right – I think it’s a combination of not knowing or understanding, as well as “settling” for something that’s comfortable – about six months ago my “team” was NOT a winning one, it was made up of people who’d mostly bring me down, get jealous instead of happy for me, and talked behind closed doors – not a healthy situation, but I was scared to let them go because they’d been around for so long. Then something big happened, and it was almost forced into being that they were eliminated from my life – I think it was the universe telling me to do something I didn’t have the courage to on my own. At first, being solo was scary, but we all totally have the power to shape our own teams, and now I’m in an INFINITELY better place 🙂

  10. In reading this, I realize that I am very blessed to have a great board of directors though I have never thought of it that way. I am always grateful for anything that offers me a new perspective.
    Sometimes, all you need in life is a slightly altered view-point.
    Thanks for that!

  11. This was definitely interesting to read, Emily! I never really thought about this before but I do have to say I have a great team of people that I work with at work AND I do believe I have a great team at home & with my personal life too. I’m not in college anymore where there’s drama all the time. I’m content with the friends I have locally & am grateful they don’t like drama! 🙂

    I agree with everyone else, you’re so lucky to work for a cool company!

  12. I’ve definitely tried to be more proactive in my life choices in the last year or so both in and out of work. It’s incredibly important for survival I think!

  13. I like this idea of a personal board of directors.. and I def feel like I have my own little board… It contains my parents, a couple of siblings, a couple of real world best friends, and a couple of blogging best friends. I come to them when I am wavering on something or need encouragement. I am so fortunate to have them.

    And as I have gotten older, my social circle sort of ‘ebbs and flows’. I meet new people and it expands. I realize friendships have changed and I sort of figuratively ‘let those people’ go. I have accepted that some friendships are not lifelong and that is ok!

    1. There’s something awesome about allowing it to be okay instead of fighting to hold onto something that’s ultimately not good for us. I got to this point in the spring where I had a few team members leave and I was SO upset… but after a few days I realised they were not good forces in my life, and it IS okay to have a smaller team of loyal people than a big one of people who aren’t the best forces in your life.

  14. I love this post, Emily, and I absolutely love where you work! It sounds like such a great environment.

    I feel like I have a really small personal board of directors, but I feel like they are people I’m comfortable with and can talk to easily. And they are people who I would go to with any problem, and would willingly listen to their problems.

  15. I’ve been struggling with something similiar. One of my friends that I’ve known for a long time and I haven’t spoken since July. The silence has been weird as we always talk, but we got into a bit of a dispute and instead of calling to mend it I’ve let it be. It bothers me, but not as much as our “friendship” has. I care for her as a friend, but the the absence of passive aggresive comments I’ve grown to overlook and the differences between us I realize I don’t miss at all. Sometimes it’s just time to move on…

    1. Aww, I hope you reach some peace with this soon. It’s hard when team members have to be let go but you have to look after yourself, too – and it doesn’t sound like this is a decision that needs to be made. It’s difficult when it’s someone that’s been around for a really long time – but take a leap of faith that’s better for your own wellbeing, and you may find an enormous sense of relief ❤

  16. Your office sounds so amazing! Can I come work there? I really related to what you said about friends falling off your team. I have a few that left my team months ago, and I really feel lost without them. It’s a hard realization, but it happens.

    1. It does happen – for a very good reason. And that leaves room for new ones. That happened to me in the spring and I felt completely alone and lost – but when you put that out into the universe, and acknowledge that they left for a reason, the universe really delivers better team members who are going to be a better force in your life 🙂

  17. I used to have a solid team in my life. Or at least I thought it was solid. It fell apart for some reason. 😦

    Well, I think it’s time I find a better set of friends.

    Oh! And I’m really jealous of the work environment that you have. You know my issues about work. Haha.

    1. Ha yes 🙂 I think it’s time for a better team for you, too – have you tried Meetup.com? After going to a few events I’ve found team members who are now going to be standing up there with me on my wedding day. Great teams can be found in the strangest places if you only look hard enough 🙂

  18. You have an awesome boss. I can tell this by the way you talk about him…it’s like you are describing a favorite teacher of yours.

    I realize that I already have a personal board of directors, without meaning to have one. What’s funny is most of them have been around a LONG time. And we’ve still been friends through it all…through YEARS and YEARS. They truly are lasting friendships, and it feels good to say that.

  19. I actually took a Positive Psychology class (it was a little wishy-washy, but an easy A…..), and one of our assignments was exactly this! I thought it was a great idea. I think that in many ways, we all TRY to establish a personal Board of Directors (especially in our youth), but once people progress at different rates and gain more responsibilities, it’s harder to “check in” the way we once did. It’s definitely not impossible though.

  20. It definitely sounds like a great place to work! I love the idea of having a support system and I think it’s so important for people to have others they can trust and rely on. I don’t know where I would be without my husband and my awesome parents.

    Have you ever heard of The Celestine Prophecy? It’s a fiction book, but it talks about different kinds or people and their energy and how we all interact and feed off of each other. I read it in high school and it has stuck with me ever since, it just had me really thinking about my perspective on life and how I work with other people. I think you might like it. 🙂

  21. That is such an interesting idea. Now half of my board of directors is in another city than I live (and it always has been since I started college).
    Also your place of work sounds amazing. I hope I find a job where the atmosphere is so good.

  22. First: nice new theme, btw!

    Next: Teamwork and pack mentality is definitely important in real life – but I’m about to go off on a tangent here:

    As I’m here reading this blog, and considering the “Life Board of Directors” seriously, I’m getting the feeling that blog-friendships work this way too. Just like I’m influenced by this post, I’m looking at the comment thread and with so many people from so far away able to chip in their 2 cents, all of that feedback has got to add up to something considerable. Just think about the Wedding Bells contest – all of us know and like Emily because she treats blogging like a two-way conversation, so when we all rallied for a fun little contest, we made a huge singular impact.

    That being said, I think it’s a brilliant idea to have a “life board of directors.” But what gives our generation an upper hand is that because we also have the ability to live life in public, we can rally a mob of blog readers, not unlike getting “life shareholders.” 😉

  23. I am so so so happy you wrote about this. You have no idea… I am reading a book on simplicity right now and one of the things they suggest is to have an “invisible counsel.” This is a go-to of people who would totally support your dreams.. I put together an invisible counsel the other day, Oprah, Toni Morrison, SARK, my mom, Mother Teresa all sitting with me around a long business table ha ha. It makes me laugh to think about it. Great post.

  24. my friends told me i need a tribal counsel to vote on my life choices, particularly in regard to my social life. it isn’t that i make bad choices, i just sometimes donmt make the best choice in a given situation. maximizing good opportunities…that is how they framed it. i think they just want an excuse to build a tiki hut and live on a beach, all while providing me “constructive criticism.” lol.

    ps. props to watching dr. who…great series.

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