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September 19, 2009

'Who Would Be On Your Board?' - A grounding and inspiring exercise led by Ann Mehl

This week at In Good Company's book club, participant and session facilitator, Ann Mehl, got us all talking about who would be on our imaginary personal board of directors. It led to a really interesting conversation and dialog about each of us, our companies, who we admired, and who we use as good guide posts.

While Ann uses this activity with all sorts of clients, it struck me as a particularly good activity for entrepreneurs, independents, and solo workers. We make a lot (sometimes too many) decisions on our own and have to weigh a lot of data and information when doing so. Some of these particularly tough decisions are great times to mentally consult with the board!

So I asked Ann if she wouldn't mind sharing the activity with the larger community through the blog!

Looking forward to seeing who you think "has got it going on" (as Ann says)...Ill share mine in the comments!

- Adelaide

From Ann:
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?

Let‘s inspire each other and have some fun with this! Who is on your board? (Fill in the comment box below.)

Ann Mehl, Certified Life & Career Coach


Adelaide Lancaster said...

Adelaide Lancaster's Board!

Jon Stewart: My hero. Amazingly smart and humorous. Terrific at recognizing other’s talents and making space on his platform to include their contributions. He reminds me to have fun at work.

Anna Quindlan: (She’s on Ann’s board too! – busy lady). I am wowed by her ability to respectfully and elegantly write about very complicated and sticky subjects. She expertly balances reasons and (com)passion and is able to shine her warm intelligence on a wide variety of subjects.

Terry Gross: An amazing interviewer and journalist who has the ability to talk to everyone as a respected peer and to construct dialog that has meaning and integrity. Her conversation style is both smart and casual. She represents sincerity and curiosity.

Sarah Hrdy: A pioneer in the field of evolutionary psychology. Her smart and well-researched work has changed the landscape of what we know to be true about our species. She represents commitment to an intellectual cause and an ability to thoughtfully and purposefully question the status quo.

David Sedaris, Amy Poehler, & Tina Fey: all are critical components of my humor therapy but also demonstrate the importance of humility, being able to laugh at yourself, and being comfortable in your own skin.

Unknown said...

I was in the session with Ann and Adelaide last week and it was refreshing to learn that other coaches like Ann use the virtual board as a tool with their clients. I've been using a similar tool for years with my coaching clients and my list is always evolving. Here are some of mine:

Mark Rittenberg: Passion. My graduate school professor who helped me bridge my passion for theatre with the work I do as a trainer and coach.

Lucille Ball: Her sense of humor and her ability to laugh at herself always attracted me.

Eric Morris: acting coach of mine from NY and LA who taught me the discipline of having a craft. It has helped me stay focused in the many careers I've had in my life.

My paternal grandmother: she taught me how to have compassion and understanding for all people.

Barbra Streisand: (I know.) She inspired me to have tenacity.

My Mother: Patience. She is a saint.

jwise said...

Great blog and exercise! My entire biz and life focuses on the virtual board concept - so I know you are spot on here! Here are some of my picks:

Richard Branson - do I need to elaborate?

Marcus Buckingham - even in my corporate T&D role, I leverage his work on playing to one's strengths

Ali Brown - solo-entrepreneur and MM facilitator - recently named to Inc 500 list.

Jessica Simpson's dad - as a manager, brilliant work at creating a brand for his daughter (I need a bit of a father figure for the accountability piece)

Tyra Banks - absolutely admire the empire she's built and it's the one "reality" show I like to watch.

Deepak Chopra - want to balance the spirtuality and holistic approach to business!

This exercise was a lot of fun. Thank you!!

Janet Wise
Founder: The Collaborative Factor

Unknown said...

Amy Abrams said...

Diane Von Furstenberg [www.dvf.com] - she innovated the fashion world through the creation of the wrap dress (a universally flattering style that clearly celebrates women's bodies) over 30 years ago. Today she has a fashion empire but she is unwavering in her belief that the most attractive quality in a woman is confidence. My kind of gal.

Sarah Silverman [www.sarahsilvermanonline.com] - she is unbelievably funny. She is smart. She is fearless and totally unapologetic. She is awesome. Love, love her.

Tina Fey [www.tina-fey.org] - she is brilliant. She is an incredibly talented writer, she is funny, she has created the best show on TV - 30 Rock [http://www.nbc.com/30_Rock/]and in the process brought Alec Baldwin back to life.

The two of them together have proved that smart and funny are always a winning combination.

The founders of eBay [www.ebay.com] (Pierre Omidyar http://www.omidyar.com/) - they took one of the oldest business concepts in the world - the marketplace - and utilized technology to make it relevant today. True innovation. And in the process the paved the way for thousands of people to start small business selling online. The ripples of their business are amazing.

The founders of Gilt Groupe [www.gilt.com] - they married an old business model (think loehmans) - helping designers liquidate excess inventory using the web but were incredibly innovative in making their sales model built on a sense urgency.

Andrew Zimmern - host of Bizarre Foods [http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Bizarre_Foods] on the Travel Channel [www.travelchannel.com]. Now here's a guy I would love to hang out with because he has an incredible sense of adventure, he is totally respectful of other cultures and he is so much fun! He created a show based on his love of food and exploring but spreads his wanderlust to armchair travelers.

Dr. Oliver Sacks [www.oliversacks.com] - is a neurologist who has been studying and writing about the brain for over 40 years. His books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat [http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Mistook-His-Wife/dp/0684853949 ]are fascinating. He loves his work, he loves his patients and it shows. He is totally inspiring.

Gloria Steinem [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Steinem]- she is the bedrock of the women's movement. She is sharp, she is relevant and thoughtful. She continues to make history but helping to shape and improve women's right to equality. She is a true visionary.

Mickey Drexler [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Drexler]: CEO of J Crew [www.jcrew.com]. He rebranded a national retail chain by hiring incredibly smart and talented people (Jenna Lyons - their creative director is on my short list as she is the creative force behind their repositioning).

Roz Chast - she is a cartoonist and writer for the New Yorker. Her talent for creating cartoons that make you laugh out loud and which you can identify with is remarkable. She also wrote a children's book [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15612235] that is hilarious with Steve Martin (who I also love). Birds of a feather, flock together.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, Annie Lamott and David Sedaris. Because they write about the human experience in such insightful ways.