Often, a small business might have a formal board of directors or an advisory board whose members may or may not be paid for their expertise. The latter is a more informal arrangement where the business owner can access sound advice without giving up any control of the business.
Executives, meanwhile, can apply this approach to their careers, says David Glover, a professional director and owner of consultancy, Creative Strategies.
“Creating an advisory board to support you individually is an idea that may be worth exploring,” he explains in the book, Don’t Worry About the Robots: How to survive and thrive in the new world of work, which he co-authored with Dr Jo Cribb.
The advisory board, he states, could be three to four people who meet and talk to you about what you are trying to achieve. The members benefit by getting to network with other interesting people.
He observes a number of small business owners have found this approach very effective. “The best value from a board, either advisory or more formal, is when you get them together and they discuss ideas and offer you guidance for the business,” he states. Occasionally you may talk to one individual if they have a certain area of expertise, such as financial, and you have a specific question.
“Unlike a formal board, there is no fixed term of appointment and they can meet as regularly as required.”
Glover says during the pandemic, many business owners have found themselves severely challenged and forced to find innovative ways to work with customers and generate revenue. “In these kinds of times, external advice is often critical and can help create a lot of sustainable value.”
He says there are cases, though, where the concept of an advisory board may not be the best approach.
The first would be for a young professional who is tech-savvy and would like to futureproof his or her career. “For young professionals, I would suggest they find a more experienced professional leader who is willing to mentor them on a regular and unpaid basis, help them develop a career plan and pass on their wisdom and experience. Pick someone from a work sector that is related, though not the same.”
The other is for a mid-level manager who is keen to continue training/upskilling in order to remain relevant. “The mid-level manager needs help in putting together a personal learning plan that keeps him or her in touch,” says Glover. “I suggest finding (and paying) a coach with some experience in a relevant vocational education sector who can point him or her in the right direction and hold them accountable to execute the plan.”
Training the mind to be ‘Curious’
A piece of advice in the book that applies across professions and employment levels, is the need to “be curious”.
“If we are to understand the world around us and pick up on the trends that are happening, we need to be constantly curious,” the book stresses. Think of curiosity as “training the mind to be hungry for knowledge”.
It recommends some steps to take:
Aim to ask five ‘why’ questions a day.
Sit quietly outside during your lunch or study break and watch a group of people around you. What can you tell about them from what you are observing?
Pick up a crossword puzzle or download a ‘brain’ app and set yourself goals for completing them.
Research something you are deeply interested in. Get into the mindset of being an explorer or detective. Keep looking for layers and layers of more information. Reflect on what strategies you used, what worked well and what didn’t work well. Repeat the exercise on a different topic and refine your ability to explore knowledge.
Seek out someone who works in a different area, with different views and life experiences. Ask for their views on a topical issue (Adam Grant, author of Think Again, recommends building a 'Challenge Network' of thoughtful critics).