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Published: 1 November 2023

Board of Directors

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Anyone heard the old adage ‘you are the company you keep’ (thanks Nan) or, ‘Look at the 5 people who you spend the most time with. You will become like these people, choose wisely.’


It’s on this adage that Executive Central bases our coaching advice on to many coachees to develop a ‘Board of Directors’. Don’t take our word for it, both Forbes and HBR also talk about a Board or Mastermind Group.
So what is a Board of Directors and why do we need to choose people who offer diverse perspectives, challenge our thinking and say our name in a room we aren’t in?

Much like the Board of a company, your personal board is there to govern and support you, as though you were a company. And, similar to a company, the best Board will be carefully constructed and diverse in their skills.

There are 4 key ‘roles’ that are essential, at a minimum, for a (personal) Board of Directors that will really work for you and relationships that are worth nurturing for mutual advantage:


These people are wise sounding boards, trusted confidants who offer great advice and loving truth. Often in reviewing the Boards of my coachees, the Sages may be long-time family friends, family members or past exceptional bosses. My Mum is definitely one of my Sages and as long as I’ve managed people, she’s been a go-to for handling tricky or sticky people situations.


These people advocate for us and represent us, even when we’re not around. They are invested in our success and active in helping us achieve our goals (which means they need to know our true goals and direction). Often sponsors are current or past bosses or influential and driven current colleagues, usually in a similar space of work. These days, my Sponsors often refer me consulting or coaching work or make me aware of opportunities I should consider. 


These people cheer us on and help us believe in ourselves, as well as collecting evidence for us against imposter syndrome or just generally feeding our confidence. They are enthusiastic, positive and possibly even unrealistic. Supporters can come from anywhere, close friends, siblings or other family members, our kids or even direct reports. I’m lucky to have too many cheerleaders to even list here!

Sparring Partners 

These people challenge our thinking and push us to be better versions of ourselves, even if it’s uncomfortable. They won’t back down, just because they might make you upset or confronted. I can think of a fabulous sparring partner on my Board where we’ve held different views on gender quotas or targets and whether they are effective in addressing executive level gender imbalance; we’ve had some great (and necessary for my growth!) debates.

Now coming back to those 5 people we spend the most time around in life. Can you identify a Sage, a Sponsor, a Supporter and a Sparring Partner at minimum?

The last thing that will make an effective Board of Directors is thinking about your goals or career vision and whether your Board can help you get there ie: if you’re a woman wanting to advance your career in a male-dominated industry, do you have someone who has successfully navigated progression in a similar environment with similar challenges that you face? Or, if you’re someone soon to become a parent and intend on navigating a balance between your career and new bub, do you have someone on your Board who can give you practical advice and watch-outs on the path they’ve already trod before you?

Once you’ve identified the people you want on your board, then it’s about connecting and nurturing those relationships. It may happen naturally or maybe you already have the relationship. If not, you’re always welcome to use this post and just out and out tell someone that you’re recruiting for your Board and you have a clear role you’ve earmarked them for and would like to spend time together on that basis.

We shared this activity at our most recent Sunshine Coast Women Lean In dinner, so here’s a template we’ve used before and are happy to share.

If you need help developing your Board or kickstarting those relationships, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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