Building a Board of Directors to Ensure your Growth and Development by D'Lovely Gibson

Automatic Summary

Building a Board of Directors for Your Career Growth and Development

Today's corporate world is diverse and dynamic. It demands a level of agility, tact, and resilience that often extends beyond our individual capabilities. One effective strategy for navigating this challenging terrain is to build a personal board of directors. Be lovely Gibson, Senior Vice President of Product Data and Analytics at Equifax, shared her insights on this topic during a recent talk.

What is a Personal Board of Directors?

A personal board of directors is a core group of individuals who can guide you on your career path. Unlike traditional boards, a personal one comprises mentors, sponsors, colleagues and influencers who can provide essential insights from different perspectives. Gibson emphasized that it's more than having reliable friends and colleagues. This is about having a group of people that have the right mix of mentorship and sponsorship, with keen insight into what you're attempting to do to advance in your career.

Why a Personal Board of Directors?

This concept is important, according to Gibson, because even at the executive leadership level, having a robust board of directors is crucial. She said, "Often, what we experience is that we get our heads down focusing on our work and growing our career. Sometimes, insight and opportunities can be shaded by this focus, and we need people who understand where we're trying to go and what we're trying to do to bring that insight to our table."

Building Your Personal Board of Directors

Gibson shared some practical steps for building your own personal board of directors:

  1. Start with people you know well, such as those you went to university with and colleagues you work with.
  2. Engage in open dialogue about your career objectives.
  3. Build relationships with individuals who have experience in your desired industry or field.
  4. Maintain a clear distinction between the inner circle of your board and your broader professional network.
  5. Trust them with your vulnerabilities, such as imposter syndrome.

The Changing Nature of Your Personal Board of Directors

Just as your career evolves, so should your board of directors. As Gibson noted, "You can add people in. And then there are people who may organically shift out to an outer ring. You have to make sure you're bringing people that can really speak to the industries you're in."

In summary, building a personal board of directors can significantly enhance your professional development and career progress. Beyond simply networking, this requires seeking strategic relationships based on trust, mutual growth, and a commitment to your overall career success. As Gibson concluded, "I wouldn't be where I am now without the board of directors I've had over the last 10 or 15 years".

Video Transcription

And here's our next speaker. See her backstage, the lovely Gibson. She is senior Vice president, product Data and analytics at uh and products planning execution at Equi Equifax. She's a global corporate diplomat, passionate about building bridges and improving operations between business and technology to drive progress and results.

She has over 20 years of experience in strategic planning delivery and operations for global it, communication and marketing teams. She has built a career, pioneering enterprise solutions in both government and private sector roles. She will walk us through how to build a board of directors and the reasons why is it so important in her talk, building a board of directors to ensure your growth and development de la very excited to have you with us today.

Uh Well, thank you for having me. Um uh First of all, thank you to liv, I was uh enjoying her presentation and she's really good n great nuggets there. Uh And thank you, Anna for inviting me. Uh This is really exciting. So um I I chose this topic because uh frankly, in my own career right now, I've been leaning heavily on my own board of directors. Uh So I thought it would be a good topic to show that even when you get to uh executive leadership like myself, you know, having that board of directors at BOD to support you and help you navigate is really critical. And I think it, it jumps off really well from Liv's topic um about building your own career. So, uh just a little bit about my role at Equifax part of uh my responsibilities because I know my title is really long is um I, I'm responsible for our storyline to our board of directors at Equifax. So for a product DNA and technology, um my responsible is to make sure uh all of the executive reporting that we send to our board and to our CEO gets pulled together, we have a clear storyline.

Um and that my uh chief uh technology, my chief technology Officer and the CEO, when they meet with the board, they have the facts, they have the progress and they can give us the insight that we look so much to the board of directors to provide. Um based on what the noise in the street might be, what the concerns of our investors might be as well as insight on how we can actually make progress where we may need to pivot. Um And also give us encouragement to say, hey, you're on the right track. We understand this might be challenging. But, oh, wow, look what we, we've won here. Look, we've made gains here. Um So, having that responsibility has made it even more apparent on the importance and the cultivation of having your board of directors. So when I say board of directors, I'm thinking of, you know, what's that support system around your career? And this is bigger than just having maybe your friends and some colleagues. Um But this is really having that right mix of mentorship, that right mix of sponsorship as well as those who can see and bring insight to you. Because at no doubt, uh uh often what we are experiences, we get our heads down, we're focusing on work, we're focusing on growing our career and sometimes there's insight and opportunities that we need people who understand where we're trying to go.

And what we're trying to do can actually bring to us and bring to our table. So, you know, first off, you know, that that's what it is and then second, how do you build one so um easy, even if you're early in your career, it can easily start with people who, you know, well, they could be people that you maybe went to university with, they could be colleagues that you work with.

Um But it it requires an open dialogue about what you're trying to do. And I think that exercise that live um not sorry. I think the speaker just before that I think her name is, is eluding me, talked about and like deciding who you are and what you are trying to do and then what liv talked about as far as your career is concerned, having an understanding of what that is and it doesn't need to get you all the way to retirement.

I tell people, you know, if you're two or three years in your career, five years in your career, you know, you may not know what the storyline is when you're retiring, but you should at least have an idea of what your 3 to 5 year prospect is. And when you can have that conversation with people around you, they can be thinking, oh, ok. Well, here's things that I see that, you know, you would be really great at. Here's some things where maybe you want to have a little bit of uh insight and work on whether it's training emotional intelligence, um relationship building, uh industry, uh being able to make sure that you're very clear about what those things are and it may start out fuzzy at first.

And that's ok. But you also want to make sure that you're making those connections and building those relationships with people that might be in the second or third rung out from you. So maybe it's the recruitment team that you work with to get a role. I like to send emails and say, hey, how are you doing? Thanks. This is how things are going. Let's have a coffee, you know, because their ears to the ground on the industry. Uh they may have helped you get the role. Um So they kind of have an understanding of what you can do and where your strong parts, strong uh uh skills are. So they can be aware of like where things may open up that fit you. They also might be people that you meet at uh professional events, just like this, you know, people that you meet on linkedin. But understanding that back and forth dialogue is really critical for them to really be helpful at the bod level. If I didn't make sure that our reporting and documentation to the board, got to them on time and really helped them understand what we are experiencing day to day, our headwinds our pitfalls, our challenges, they wouldn't be set up for success to really give us that insight that we're looking for.

Um So making sure that you're making time to have those conversations and it's, it's more than just networking because networking, you're kind of like building people that, you know, who might have different roles is really zeroing in on those key people that can be part of your committee and your committee can be, you know, six people, eight people, 12 people.

You don't want it to be too huge because you want people who are kind of on the inner circle, people who know not just the things you're trying to do professionally, but also personally because you want people to understand the type of environments you want to be in the type of impact you want to have.

Um the type of work day, work life balance you're looking for. Um whether you want to be remote, whether you want to be around people. So you don't necessarily have all of those conversations with everyone in your network. Um And then they have to be someone close enough that you can actually talk about where you might really be challenged. Um There are people in my board of directors that I could just call up and say, you know, I need a complete Mulligan like I need to do that all over again. I failed at it. It was horrible and you may not want to do that with some people in your network where they're potentially where you're trying to work next. They may be somebody you're trying to get, you know, an opportunity or a gig or, you know, a contract with. So, you know, having that distinction about people who are in the inner circle versus people who are in your network is really critical. Um And being able to trust them with that vulnerability like, hey, I'm feeling insecure right now, I'm feeling like I'm having imposter syndrome.

You know, their board should be able to be someone that you go to and say, OK, I know I'm doing the right thing, but I'm having a little bit of a challenge and I think that's infecting how successful. I am being, it's affecting how I'm coming across and people who can gauge that, you know, hey, you're doing fine. This is in your head. Yes, your slip is showing, this is impacting how you're coming across. Um You know, one of the things that I recently had a conversation with someone on my board of directors was I'm overwhelmed. I don't have time. I can't get to XYZ. Um And he, he asked a couple of questions and he was like, you're the type of person who likes to be accessible. You're the type of person who likes for you to have one on ones and talk to everyone. You're, you strive to be the leadership. You sometimes did not have someone who is accessible, someone who can get personal with people, someone who's available, you know, no matter what role, what rank you are. Um So I have a tendency that if you're even the entry level person, you send me a note and you want to have copy. I'm like, looking at my assistant said, like, hey, make it happen.

And he was like, you're gonna have to balance that a little bit because you can't do all of that. But he understands that's part of my character, that's part of my brand. Um I was that woman coming up in my career and seeing other people in power who wouldn't speak to me who wouldn't give me the time of day. So having that board member, whether it's a friend who's seeing you all throughout your career or a colleague, a past colleague that's become in that inner circle for that board of director role. Um being able to know that and to be able to give you advice that you can actually want to take and figure out how there's some stretch for you because he knew it was gonna be a stretch for me to say no. but he was like, this is what you will have to do if you're on your way to that sea Sweet Roll. Very clear about what I'm trying. What my storyline is when I'm retiring and the sea Sweet Rolls. I'm aspiring to, I know I won't be able to take every call. I won't be able to sit with everyone, but I will be able to still do those things, but I will just have to find the balance.

Um Another thing is, you know, having people that you can spend some personal time with. Um It doesn't always have to be work. Um I have a group of people in my board of directors where we actually went away for a weekend. You know, we just went away one night, we, you know, did uh some, some wine down and wine and wine, we call it, we had some wine and wine about work. Um But there are rich and insightful conversations that happen in those moments about things that you might miss and we've built that trust where we can have inside information and we're not all at the same company, but it's like the headwinds that we're seeing in the industry, the challenges that we're seeing with the economy.

You know, those are things where you, when you finally step away from work and you let your guard down a little bit, you can start having some honest and real conversations about, hey, you know, maybe I need to pivot sooner or, you know, maybe I need to be in this role longer than I expected.

There are things you can be able to say to your board members that you might necessarily not, not say to other people in your network, in your professional network. Um Even if you have a partner or a spouse, there's sometimes you'll bounce them off of your board of directors before you necessarily come home and say, hey, uh I think we're gonna change roles. I think I'm gonna change industries. I think I'm gonna change my career. Um And they can help be that support for you to say, hey, you know what I think you're doing the right thing for your career and for your professional development. You know, we can give you some guidance based on our own experience being in those same places and spaces over time about how that's gonna impact your personal, but at least we can back you and support you and say, you know, hey, I think you're coming in a little bit on the left on this one.

Um, I think this might be fear, this might be, you know, you're frustrated or, you know. Yeah, you're doing the right thing. I support this. Let me find out more. Uh, let's have a conversation, let's dissect this even further. Um, and that's really how the board can really help you. And so, you know what I also want to talk about, kind of the last thing I want to kind of like really, really um share is your board of director should grow and change over time with you. Um You can add people in. Um And then there are people who may just organically kind of like shift out maybe to an outer ring, um Maybe they move away, maybe their industry changes. I know for a long time, but I was in a lot of government roles and my board had a lot of government folks in it, but over time when I moved to private sector, the pace, the the budgets, the teams um the focus on revenue um because I was in public health before it changed. And I needed others who were in private sector to be part of that board of directors now. And I still have connections with those colleagues. But a lot of those conversations about the day to day have shifted, like we check in, you know, we support each other. Um You know, we congratulate each other. Um But you have to make it make sense if you move from a business role and now are in a technology role. How are you making sure that you have people with technology experience in your board of directors?

It's ok to still have people who are in the business side who maybe had some government experience. Um But you gotta make sure that you're bringing people along that can really speak to the industries that you're in. Um and have some experience in the past that you have so some pointers on, on board of directors and, and making kind of like that right mix. Um You know, people may be in the hr departments that you've worked in. You know, I love to build those relationships, uh people in talent acquisition and hr because those are great insights to have on your negotiating salary and they understand um the markets out there so you can go back to them and say, where should I be looking for? Right? Market information because I'm going to be negotiating a salary. Um and people in your board of directors should be people that you should be able to talk about negotiating salary. You know, it's not always gonna be your friends or your family members, you need to be able to go to somebody who has that insight. So we can be smart because we know that's already a challenge for women, especially in technology. Um People who are in recruitment, staff, people who are old bosses, um People that you might have went to school with in similar uh studies and they went maybe to different companies. Um people who are in markets that you're interested in going to.

Um and again, using people that might be in your network to connect you with someone else. But again, you've got to build that trust and build that um understanding of who they are and it should be a good, a good and take. You should be making sure you're showing interest in what they do and they may not have you necessarily as your, as their board of directors, but that's ok. Um And you probably can have that conversation to be like, hey, you know what, if there's any insight that I can be giving you, please let me know, you know, um I always make sure that I'm checking in with myself to make sure I'm not going in and just sucking everyone else's energy when I need it.

And I'm like, hey, what can I do for you? How can I help you? How are things going, you know, I heard you were getting married or great on that promotion or I'm considering this professional organization, you know, what are some that you belong to? Um So those are just some ways that you can actually build um and make sure that it continues to grow with what the needs are that you have So I wanted to stop there and see if there's any questions. Um It's something I'm clearly passionate about, but I'll punt it over to you and see if there's any questions uh from the group.

Thank you so much, Delai. That was a really wonderful talk. Thank you for sharing your experience. And I really loved what you said you strive to be a leader. You didn't have. And I think that this is really beautiful because sometimes we, when we didn't have somebody's support, we really know what is missing and we kind of sometimes even compensate because we know how it is important. You know, when you know the managers that you have were not helping you when you needed their help. When you got your first job, you didn't know how to find a mentor, right? So, and here we have a couple of questions. Um how do you compensate these people for the board of directors? Well,

the good thing about having your own board of directors, there's no compensation monetarily, but when I talked about making sure that there's some give and take, that's the compensation. So sometimes people in my board of directors may call and ask for insight um that I can share um you know, it might be information about, you know, uh data companies. I work for Equifax, we're a data company. So maybe there's some insight that I can provide there um being in playing in execution uh project management, operations and communications. Maybe there's insight I can provide there, maybe they're looking to hire someone, they're looking for a good candidate. You know, so that's how you compensate.

That, that give with the give and take is the compensation um being a reference sometimes. So those are ways that you can make sure that it's worthwhile for those other people that are in your board of directors.

Thank you. And here you briefly shared on different events where you can find your personal board of directors. So how do you have a conversation about asking someone to be on your board of directors?

So you might have people in your board of directors now and you just haven't been using this language. Um And hopefully, you know, some of the things I've shared regarding really making sure that they can be the insight for you to help grow your career. Um You know, where are you trying to go? What companies are you looking at? You know, maybe they can tell you that's not a company you want to go to or, you know, I hear great things about women in leadership at that company or people that can help with, you know, negotiations of salary or maybe you're considering leaving a company and you could just run those ideas by that person if you have those people already, maybe it's just a formal conversation to say, hey, you know, you know, you know, you're part of my board of directors.

And I, I've said that to people just to say, like, I appreciate your feedback and I do see you as part of my board of directors and this is what I get from this relationship. It gives them a sense of pride and it also gives them accountable a little bit of more responsibility. When they do give you feedback to say she's gonna take this, she's actually going to try to implement this or she's gonna give me push back and feedback about why she does. I think she agrees with this. And so I at least know where it's coming from because I'm gonna get more insight about how she operates and how she ticks. So it's not a far stretch from people that might be in your network. It's just a smaller subset and there's a level of vulnerability and trust that goes with the board of director versus your just overall professional network.

Yeah. Thank you. And how many people should be on your board of directors? I

have about 8 to 10 people in that board of directors. Um And they all provide different things. Um And some of them I communicate with more often than others. Some, I'm in a constant text screen with others. I see every few months. Um Others we actually have check ins on my calendar. I am, I'm a big proponent of scheduling your professional development and your networking. It is in my calendar. I tell my assistant to guard it with her life and that might just be responding to an email going on linkedin and seeing my messages um and saying, hey, you know, I need to check in with so and so, you know, I wonder if they got that role that they were looking for that I provided them, you know, um and a reference for that's again, that's that compensation, make sure it's a two way.

Um But making sure that you have that conversation to say, like I do consider you on that inside. I do consider you part of my port of directors. Um And so there's a little pride and accountability that comes with that when you talk to people in your network who have that special focus, but that's about 10 people for me.

So 8 to 10 people. Yeah. Thank you. And here is a beautiful comment from one of our speakers today, Erin, she said, setting a goal for 2023 building. Why diverse board of directors love that the lovely powerful concept to be applied to us as professional. Thank you so much de lovely. Thank you for being with us today. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think this was a really powerful topic and a very important one. So we're really glad that we, you were able to join us and to share your knowledge, your experience, your insights and to take questions from our audience. I think it's important to also have, you know, this interaction, real time in life and also to be able to help others who might need our help. Well,

thank you so much, Anna, I think you've always been a cheerleader of mine, so I appreciate it. Uh I love what you're doing. Uh I'll stick around a little bit longer to hear some of the speakers coming up. Um, but, uh you know, reach out to me on linkedin. Um I, there's some articles out there about this, there's some books out this, I could, I could share as well, uh so very passionate about this because I probably, I know I wouldn't be where I am now without the board of directors, I've had over the last 10 or 15 years.

Thank you and I will share your linkedin or you will drop your linkedin in the chat where feels more comfortable to you. So, thank you so much. Be lovely and have a great day.