“Jer, why are you here?”

I’ll never forget the question, or his tone of voice – it was truly one of those ‘deer in the headlights’ moments of my life.

I was five minutes into my fourth meeting with a man who had agreed to be on my ‘Personal Board of Directors.’ ‘Dan’ had previously given me several suggested action items, and invited me to make an appointment with his secretary to talk further.

He said he’d make 30 minutes for me “any time.” Five weeks later, I had some great results and a few more questions, but Dan had other things to do.

So ended Dan’s directorship…

As you can imagine, this experience had a marked chilling effect on my initiative! I was extremely confused by the disparity between the enthusiasm Dan demonstrated at our first few meetings and his subsequent lack of commitment. I replayed each interaction in my mind, looking for any mistakes or unintentional offenses. I reviewed my notes to see if I had accidentally scheduled a meeting during a time Dan had told me would be inconvenient.

In the end, I was simply left wondering.

  • I was always polite and appreciative, thankful and responsive.
  • I communicated my intentions.
  • I let Dan establish the tone of the relationship.
  • I took notes and took action.
  • I did exactly what Dan asked.

“Dan, why are you asking me that question?”

A few months went by during which I took no action to further develop my ‘Personal Board of Directors’ because I was in shock. Eventually, my desire for continued personal development got the better of me and I decided that my life and potential were worth risking additional embarrassment.

So I did.

But I learned that, despite my good intentions and best practices, things don’t always work out.

Expect this on the front end!

The people you want on your ‘Personal Board of Directors’ are busy, important, accomplished people with their own lives, careers, and families. They have many competing demands for their time, attention, and focus. There are two implications:

  • First, if you want attention from these people, you must ask for it. Even after you’ve made a connection, discussed your intentions, and gotten someone to agree to be on your ‘Personal Board of Directors,’ do not expect him to take initiative. Do not be offended if he doesn’t call you to check in once a month. You contact him. The onus remains on you, because he is doing you the favor. Notably, you will find people who are interested in taking initiative in keeping up with you, but they are the exception.
  • Second, realize that things don’t always work out, and that’s ok. Dan isn’t the only one of my personal board members who has gone AWOL. Just expect that some people will agree on the front end, and then demonstrate remarkable lack of commitment or disappear completely when you try to follow up. Conclude that these people aren’t the right fit and move on. Eventually, you’ll identify the right handful of individuals for a truly stellar ‘Personal Board of Directors.’

As an aside, I have no hard feelings toward Dan. I emailed to wish him a Merry Christmas, and he invited me to his office again a few months later. We got a chance to clear things up, though I still don’t consider him a personal board member.

If you choose to develop your own ‘Personal Board of Directors,’ you’re sure to run into dead ends too. Those experiences will probably be frustrating, but they need not be negative. If you start with the right expectations, you’ll end up with a lot of friends.

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Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh post in a series dedicated to helping you learn to develop your own ‘Personal Board of Directors.’ If you found this post helpful, be sure not to miss the others – subscribe to this blog via the link in the upper right hand corner!

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