Chairman Of The Board

That’s what you are, all of us. We are the chairman of the board. The chairman of our own personal board of directors. This board of directors is appointed by you and is charged with dispensing advice, direction, comfort, a kick in the butt, wisdom, good-natured harassment, fun and whatever else you may need to master life.

So why am I writing this now? Because I have realized that there is absolutely no difference between the people I have and have had on the board of directors for my life and a corporate board of directors. Unfortunately, in big corporations, board members do not meet the criteria you would have if you considered appointing them to your personal board. Although, corporate boards are something I will touch on later and then only briefly.

Why have a board and how to compose it? First of all, a board for your self is a very personal affair. The people that you have on your board may not even know you have assembled a board (as in my case, although they know now) – whether formally or in your head – and they don’t necessarily need to know. Let me first start to explain how to assemble a board and then the answer why to have a board becomes more apparent.

You assemble a board with people first and foremost who you trust and respect. Trust, because you may ask them for their thoughts, opinions, advice. The difference between a circle of friends and a board is that a larger group of your friends have similar interests. For example you may have bicycling friends, hiking friends, photographer friends. Juxtapose that with a board and the one thing all board members have in common is that they have connection to you based on trust and respect.

Again, trust because you may exchange thoughts and ideas you via confidentiality as implied. Respect, because you place value and trust in what you receive from your board members. These are people who give you information and perspective, who share their own experiences, successes, failures an faults. That’s why it is important that you have a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

So who’s on a board. I don’t who is or will be on your’s but here are my members.

Long Time Members:

  • My parents: they have taught me the all the basics – thing you do, things you don’t. And they have always believed in me. They have been the last supporters I have had and never left my corner – you absolutely need to have at least one last an standing in your lcorner.
  • My wife: She, too is a last man standing in my corner, but unlike parents, she can set me straight much harsher, when she senses the need.
  • Specialists: My friends Ralph (aka Chocolate Ralph), Peter.
  • Questioners: my cousin Stefan – his life and mine are in many respect vastly different, but that enables him to ask great questions that put things in perspective for me. You need to have at least one person with an outside opinion and no pre-conceived notion of what you are doing.
  • Professional Model: My father in law. He is an engineer’s engineer. If I turn out to be 25% as good as he is in his capacity as an engineer, I will be satisfied.
  • Plotter: My excellent friend Joe. You want a person like this on your board, because this person enables you to be better than you ever thought you could be. This person helps you grow. If you want to grow in multiple areas, you may need to find people for each area. My friend Markus, a physicist, fits nicely into the Pro Model and the Plotter category.

Part Time Members

  • My uncle Gerhard (deceased): When he dispensed good advice, it was invaluable.
  • Specialists: My uncle Werner – a visionary, master planner and executer. For a few years my uncle became a part-time manager for a Blues musician, whose career took off, when my uncle took over. Due to his talents and the resulting career he has a very broad and deep business background. To me he has also always been larger than life. In America we say, “Knows How To Get Shit Done, Properly.”
  • Specialists: My neighbor Heinz – the man who taught me that first comes craftsmanship, then comes engineering. It is difficult, but you should have in areas that you think you really require and what to improve on, people who have walked the path you would like to walk. My neighbor Heinz is a man who can get anything done, because he tinkers and teaches himself, he puts many academic at anytime of the day to shame.
  • Fillers / the Mortar: My first manager, Cal. My former mentor, Lowell. My former colleagues, Rick, Adam, Marsha and Katie. Besides being friends they all have unique talents I do not possess or have not developed to the extend they have. They are great helpers and role models to strive for, plus they all have their own perspective. You need to be very picky selecting these people and you want them on your board, because they are close enough to know you, but not too close to be afraid to hurt your feelings. With the exception of two persons from this group, I call all of them friends and you want to be picky with the people you call friends.

I think that about captures it. Now, unlike corporations you don’t need to have formal gatherings, but you need to put in effort to keep up and cultivate the relations or friendships. The best way to do that is if you consider yourself a member of their board, whether it’s true to not, but you give at the very least as much as you would expect them to give and you will cultivate a strong board for yourself.

Almost forgot. You noticed, I didn’t have anywhere any suggestions that my board members have connections or know the right people or anything that would be an overt career advantage. Don’t fall into that trap. The people you have on your board must have an interest in you and you must have an interest in them, nit is how they can help you reach your next career step, get a promotion or a salary increase or jump to a different company. It is about you and what is right for you. Give to them as much as you can, take as much as you need (not want). When I look at corporations these days, I look at board members that have been appointed for the connections they have, the advantages they can provide with the other people they know, but not necessarily for what they themselves can bring to a company to make it better and more successful. Having a congressman on your board just because he/she is in congress is probably beneficial in the short-term, but there better be more to this appointment or it will be a disappointment in the long-term.

Having said that, I am looking forward to any comments and I leave you with my favorite Buddha I found last week.

And to my board members – this should be no surprise as I love, like and value all of you very much, I just explained this assortment of people in my life that have helped my so far to my readership and the importance of having people like you in my life.


Markus \m/