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As Latinos, we may not have a lot of “power players” in our networks (or we may believe we don’t).
We’re often taught that we need to work hard and take care of ourselves so it may be difficult to reach out for help.
However, building your personal ‘Board of Directors’ can be one of the most important actions you take during your career.
The people who will comprise your board are the individuals who will advise you, guide you, support you, listen to you, and be your biggest cheerleaders, as well as your toughest critics.
If you don’t deliberately pull together this group, you will default to those around you, who may not be the folks from whom you want to be taking advice!
On the other hand, if you have a number of heavy hitters within your inner circle, the amount by which you can leverage your own effort increases exponentially.
And, when you’re going off track, you want the critical feedback to come from the mouths of your trusted, successful friends, rather than the general public – or from your negative tío who criticizes everything!
Start by identifying the types of folks you’d like on your Board, and then identify who you know that fits the bill. You want the people who have been successful in the areas you want to be, as well as those who have more general broad based success.
If you want to build your own business, look for someone who has a profitable business, is respected in the community, and has the kind of life you want to have. For example, if someone is wealthy but never has time for their spouse or children, is this what you want?
Take your time, and choose your Board carefully. And remember: these folks do NOT have to be Latino!
Below are some suggestions for the types of roles you want on your Board:
The toughest person to find may be the person with whom you will eventually have the most interaction. Eventually, you want someone on your Board who will hold your hand through the toughest decisions, and give you a pep talk right before you’re about to tackle that tough project.
This is a much easier role to fill. This Board member comes in and out, is asked for advice on specific projects, and the time commitment is minimal. They have to understand your goals well enough to give relevant advice, but they’re not necessarily part of your daily life.
You definitely want someone on your team who will ask the tough questions, poke holes in your ideas and theories and force you to address “worst-case scenarios.” This should not simply be someone who is negative, however. This person should simply have been through some tough times, and wants to help you avoid a similar experience.
On the other hand, you also need someone who will pump you up, believe in your dreams and vision, and continually encourage you by telling you that you CAN do it.
(Trusted) Social Butterfly
The person who knows everyone? This is a great person for your Board because they can make important introductions for you. Note: this person must be well respected and trusted in your field, not just ‘know everyone.’ You want an introduction from someone that others hold in high esteem, not from someone that others think is flaky.
And don’t forget someone who is walking the same (or a similar) road as you. You want to be able to share ups and downs and encourage each other through your challenges, as well as celebrate your wins.
With the exception of the last position, you want all these people to occupy the highest levels of the field or industry in which you are so that they can give you relevant advice, and they can guide you along your path to where you want to go.
Pick folks who will allow you to grow, and not just see you how you were in the past.
Finally, when asking someone to be part of your team, be SPECIFIC about what you want. Are you asking for a half hour monthly phone call or cup of coffee? Or do you want someone you can check in with once a week? What is it you need and want from your Board at this stage?
As a last note, know that your Board will change over time as your needs and position change. This is a good thing, and also be ready when someone else asks you to be on their Board!
Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.