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Who is your Personal Board of Directors?

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

I'm sure you are wondering...what is a "Personal Board of Directors?"

I did too when Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mt. Vernon, NY spoke at our WEI fall 2020 launch of our Job Skills Training Program (JST). I thought, what a novel and interesting concept, and it piqued my interest in wanting to know more. In her talk to the JST cohort about "Leadership as a Woman," Mayor Patterson-Howard made us consider if we had a Board of Directors by defining who and what should make up the board and caused us to evaluate ways to develop our Personal Board of Directors. I was excited to learn more.

Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon, Shawyn Patterson-Howard
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard

She made many amazing points about cultivating your brand and your own Personal Board of Directors (also called a Tribe or Council). Essentially, it is having a group of people who can support and mentor you throughout your career who will help you to succeed and achieve your goals. Now you may be thinking - "I consult with some friends or I chat with a co-worker occasionally about my career and have received great advice ; so what else is needed?" Although they may be viable consultants, sometimes it's best to find someone that is outside of your inner circle who you respect and who can give you objective and honest advice without worrying about hurting your feelings. But, before you begin developing your Personal Board of Directors, there are a few things that need to be cultivated within you. You have to understand that you are the CEO of your life; you are the one who decides which way and how your personal business (or brand) will grow. So it is important to take the time to work on and build yourself before you work on building your Personal Board.

Mayor Patterson said you need to focus on developing 5 C's for yourself. This will help you to select the best possible member of your Board:

  • Competencies - Work on developing your strengths. Find the tools you need to push past your fears.

  • Credentials - Develop your credentials and licenses.

  • Character - You must have character and integrity. People can tell when a person is honest and dependable.

  • Confidence - You must have confidence, even when you feel like you don't.

  • Courage - Worry less about impressing people and more about leaving a lasting impression. You don’t need to be perfect to leave a lasting impression.

Now back to creating your Personal Board of Directors...You need to be able to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth and keep you focused. The people you choose to surround yourself with will either help you win or watch you fail. They will be the ones to help you through the challenges and obstacles you may face as you grow in your career.

According to Mayor Patterson-Howard, there are 3 key roles you need to have on your Personal Board of Directors.

  • Mentor - This is someone who helps you set your path, helps you decide where you want to go and what skills. you will need to get there. Provides advice & support.

  • Coach - This is someone who helps you fine tune your skills, such as a tutor would. You can find this with a Professional Development Coach, Writing Coach, Finance Coach or other skill set you wish to develop.

  • Sponsor - This is someone who is going to get you into the rooms that you need to get into. Someone who has connections or some sort of influence and is willing to advocate on your behalf.

There may be people in your inner circle who already fit the role of one of these Board members. Fantastic! You are off to a great start! But if not, start thinking about who you may know that may be the perfect fit. If you can't think of anyone right now, no worries, keep reading and we have some suggestions for you.

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard was so inspirational! She told our participants how she didn't set out to make history, she set out to make a difference and in making a difference, she made history. Being the first woman to be elected as Mayor of Mt. Vernon, NY was a heavy baton to carry. Not only that, she is the first woman of color in Westchester County and the second woman of color in the State of New York to hold such an office; making her leadership role all the more historic.

Some other key takeaways from the workshop with Mayor Patterson-Howard:

  • Lean into what you don't know and learn in - When you constantly push past your fear - it might seem so far away but you are developing the skills until you master and own it.

  • You don’t have to be perfect, but you should show up and do your best. Even if you fall short of your goal, you can be proud of your contributions.

  • Be prepared so you can not be so intimidated - Make sure you do your research and your homework before walking into a room. It’s ok if they underestimate you.

  • Ask Questions when you need to and don't be afraid to ask people to break things down to you.

Need to build your Board of Directors and don't know where to start?

We are forever grateful for the Mayor's participation and partnership with WEI and its Job Skills Training Program (JSTP) and for the wise career advice. Now, go Launch your Personal Board of Directors!

For more information and resources, check out our website:

To learn more about our Job Skills Training Program, click here.

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