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090 | How a Personal Board can help solve your challenges at work
Episode 9023rd June 2023 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
00:00:00 00:17:31

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If you have a challenge or obstacle at work that you just can’t seem to solve, your Personal Board may be able to swoop to your rescue.

In this episode of HR Coffee Time, career and executive coach, Fay Wallis, shares how she used Emma Maslen’s ideas for creating a Personal Board to solve a challenge with a podcast. She encourages you to try the idea for yourself, to help you solve one of your challenges at work.

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Fay Wallis:

Welcome to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching. I've made HR Coffee Time especially for you, to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR and People career without working yourself into the ground.

In today's episode, I want to talk to you about something that I think can be really helpful if you are up against an obstacle or a challenge at work and you just can't seem to find a solution for it or see a way forwards with it. That challenge or obstacle could be almost anything. Maybe you are swamped with work and have lost

all sense of a work-life balance. Maybe you've been asked to do a piece of work that you've never done before and you just don't even know where to start with it. Maybe you have a tricky situation at work that you are not confident handling. The possibilities are absolutely endless. As my dad used to always say to me,


"Life is just a series of challenges to overcome" and weirdly, I read a book recently called "4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals", by Oliver Burkeman. It was recommended by a podcast guest a little while ago, and Oliver Berkman said exactly the same thing as my dad. I'm going to have to tell my dad, I'm sure he'll be very happy to hear this, and that is that we'll never feel on top of everything because a fresh challenge is always sitting around the corner waiting for us. A lot of the time

of course, we know what to do with these fresh challenges. But the times we don't, putting a Personal Board together can be a great way of tapping into the wisdom, the experience, and the perspectives of other people, which can really help you to find a great solution. Before I dive into explaining what a Personal Board is, how it can help, and how you can get one,


I have one quick ask for you - which is to hit the 'follow' button on whichever podcasting app you listening to, HR Coffee Time on. That way you won't miss out on any future episodes because they'll automatically appear on your phone like magic as soon as they're released. Thanks so much. If you've taken the time to do it, I hope that's going to be helpful and you enjoy having the episodes appear on your phone every Friday.

Now let's move on to the main part of the show. The inspiration for today's episode has come from two different places. The first place is a book. You won't be surprised to hear that if you've been listening for a while. I'm always, uh, banging on about books on the show, but the book in particular is written by someone called Emma Maslen, and it's called "The Personal Boardroom of You, Inc."

And I've been reading it over the last couple of weeks. It's a fairly short book. It's an easy read, so it's really quick to whiz through.


I've been reading it when I go to bed at night. And when I got the book I thought, "Oh, a Personal Board. Yes, I've heard of that before." It is a concept that's been around in career coaching for a while now, and it appears in all different kinds of formats. So traditionally when I've heard about Personal Boards, the idea is just like a company has a Board to steer it, to set its' strategic direction, to keep it on track and to make sure it's succeeding.

We can have our own Personal Boards for our career, but most of the models that I've come across before are very focused on helping you to think about particular roles. So particular types of people that you ideally want to find to be in your Personal Board of advisors or your personal board of directors.

The way that this book is different is that it doesn't do that, and I think there's a lot of value in the other methods when they talk about thinking of the kinds of people who could make up your Personal Board, and in fact, it's a little bit similar, not exactly the same, but it's similar to something that I talked about on episode 21.


So I had guest Sharon Peak, she came onto the show to talk about the eight people who will set you up for career success. And you can hop back and listen to that at the end of listening to this episode if you would like to. The eight people that Sharon talked us through were number one, market or industry experts.

Number two, navigators. Number three, mentors. Number four, challengers. Number five, accountability partners. Number six, connectors. Number seven, sponsors and the eighth one is called key bearers. And that probably won't make a huge amount of sense. You'll have to listen to the episode to get the full benefit and fully understand, but hopefully by me sharing that, it illustrates what I mean about the differences in approach.


So Sharon's talking about clear types of roles, clear types of people that you want to try and have in your network. And that can be a really, really valid approach because it makes you think and it helps you identify actually who's missing. And I think it's particularly helpful if you're in a role and you want to progress, you want to make a real impact at work.

Where this new book, "The Personal Board of You, Inc." is different, is that instead of assigning role types. Instead, Emma Maslen talks about focusing on the challenge. And so what this means is that for each challenge you come across, you take a step back and you think about what is the problem. So what kinds of people, who in my network can I talk to to help me with it?

Who can I put onto my imaginary Personal Board? And I read the book and I thought, "Oh, yes, I like this idea". But of course what happens is when you read a book, I think sometimes it really sinks in and is sitting there. All the ideas are there at a subconscious level, ready for you to pull on them if you need to.


And this week I started to feel, well, in fact, last week I started to feel really overwhelmed and I felt particularly overwhelmed with the podcast. You won't be surprised to hear this because I have mentioned it a couple of times before. I release a podcast every single week, and of course I love the podcast.

It's my aim to be able to help as many HR and People professionals as possible with this free weekly show. I really love receiving messages from people saying how it's helped them. But of course, my main job is as a coach and being able to coach people, but I feel like the balance has shifted a bit.


And if you were to honestly ask me, "Fay, what's your job?" I would have to say, "Well, I'm a podcaster who has limited time to be able to actually coach people". I've had some inquiries recently and I've had to say, I'm so sorry, but I'm fully booked at the moment because I haven't got enough time really for the amount of coaching I would like to be doing because the podcast is taking up so much of my time. And it's been taking up my time for quite a long time.

But I think I've just kept thinking, "Oh, it's okay. I'll find a solution. I'll get quicker at it," or "I'll get some more help with it." But suddenly we're coming up to two years of the podcast and it hasn't happened. So I thought, I need to do something about this. I need to start talking to some other people who will understand my challenge and ask for their advice.

And I didn't realize at first exactly where this idea was coming from. It's only as I started putting into action that I thought, "Oh my goodness, I'm doing exactly what Emma Maslen suggests in her book. I'm identifying the key people I can turn to when I'm stuck myself and I don't know what to do, who can advise me.


So I decided the best people to speak to were other podcasters. Luckily, because I have been podcasting for a while, I do know quite a few people in this space. All of them, all of the people I approached have got different levels of experience. Some are quite new to podcasting, while others have been doing it for years, or used to do it a while ago.

But I knew the level of experience didn't necessarily matter. And that's something I'd really like you to hold onto, if you decide you would like to assemble a Personal Board to help you tackle one of your challenges or your problems at work or with your career. It isn't necessarily the case that you only need to have people on that board who have got loads and loads of experience doing exactly the thing you need help with.


Being able to talk to a range of people with different levels of experience can be really helpful. Because as long as they have an understanding of what the challenge is, they'll have their own take on the issue and then they'll have their own ideas about how you can solve it.

It's that fresh thinking that's so incredibly powerful. If I hadn't known enough people, then that would've still been okay. I would've just had to have reached out into my network and asked them for help. So I would've had to speak to people I already know and ask them if they could introduce me to anyone who they thought would be relevant.

Or I'd have had to try to track down some relevant people through LinkedIn and reach out to them. If you are listening to this and thinking, "Well, this is all very well for you, Fay. You've picked a challenge that's very specifically about podcasting and you know loads of podcasters. Well, in my HR or People role, I've got this very specific challenge and actually I don't know that many other people who are operating at that level", or, "I don't know that many people I could really talk to."


Well, if that's the case, then I would recommend hopping back and listening to some of my earlier episodes about networking, because I promise there are more people in your network than you necessarily realise. Whether that's old colleagues who you've lost touch with, or it's people who are connected to the people you know, or it means being brave and putting yourself out there and going out to meet some new people, maybe by going to some C I P D events where you can network and chat to people. Or it means really utilizing LinkedIn. I promise you, there are ways that you can find people who are going to be perfect for your Personal Board and who are going to be happy to help.

So I'll make sure that I put links to all of the episodes I've created before about networking. They're a little while ago now. I think the very first one was episode 15, and hopefully that will really help to build up your confidence and build up your skillset around networking so that you can feel


brilliant about putting together your Personal Board. Coming back to my example, my personal experience of assembling my Personal Board, I ended up with eight people on my Personal Board, and they were all amazing.

Every single person had a different idea to share with me to help me tackle my challenge head on. And I know I started off by saying, I just had no idea what to do about this situation. Well, I had actually had one idea. I wasn't that keen on it. But it was the only thing my overwhelmed brain seemed to be able to think of, and that was to drop down to two episodes per month instead of one episode per week.

But every single member of my Personal Board said that they didn't think that was the best approach and that I could find something else that would help. Instead, they shared. Oh my goodness. So many ideas. I don't know how they thought of them all.


It's incredible to see what you can tap into and that you don't have to just solve things on your own. So just to give you an idea of some of the ideas that they had, one was to re-release. Some of my older episodes, but put a new introduction on them. And I've seen other podcasters do this, particularly over the summer holidays when people like to take a break.

What happens in that situation is you record a new intro and say, "Over the summer, we are re-releasing some of the most popular episodes that you may not have heard of for a very long time. Or if you're new to the podcast, you might have missed. So here you go.

Here's episode one", as an example. And then it just goes straight into the prerecorded episode. Now, I did like that idea, but I feel where the episode is only two years old. I feel like I maybe don't have quite enough of a back catalog for that. I could be completely wrong about this. It would probably be fine, but I think that's something I might want to implement a little bit further into the future.


Another piece of advice was to create sure, solo episodes that are no longer than 10 minutes. Now, I have been given this advice before. You may remember, Dr. Jonathan Ashong Lamptey, who came on the show a while ago.

He is a very experienced podcaster. His show has been going for more than five years, and when I told him how long, then when I spoke to him, the podcast was taking me, his first bit of advice was to make the solo episode shorter, and he pointed out that actually it's helping you as well because I know that you don't have a huge amount of time, especially now that we are living in such a hybrid or remote world.

People haven't got commutes anymore, which is where they often used to listen to podcasts. So I did try and take his advice on board, but I clearly haven't been doing a very good job of it because I've been trying to do episodes that are about 15 minutes long and they almost always end up being 20 to 25 minutes long.


So when I was talking about this with someone on my Personal Board this week, they said, "Okay, well why is that happening, Fay? Why are they ending up being 25 minutes long?" And I said, "Well, I just want to make sure I haven't missed anything and I'm being detailed and I do a lot of research". And this is when they really gave me a light bulb moment and said, "Well, think about creating some new, shorter episodes on stuff that you don't feel you've got to do lots of research on.

You are not going down a rabbit hole, making sure that you are up to date with absolutely everything. All of your earlier episodes you are confident in. So could you not reintroduce some of those concepts or just record some of the key points from those episodes?" And that's when I had a real light bulb moment because I thought, "Oh my goodness.

In most of my episodes, I normally talk about at least three things. So it might be three books for you to read, three concepts for you to know about; three aspects of something. And that's really what ends up making the episodes quite long. If I was to actually cut it down to just one piece of information, I'm just focusing on one concept for you.


Hopefully it will make it easier to make that episode shorter and I can go back to some of the older episodes and pick out some of the concepts that I really think are going to help you, that it will be useful for you to hear again. I'll also still create completely new things and share new concepts and ideas with you. And I thought it could be good to call this the "HR Coffee Shot series". I haven't a hundred percent decided how this is going to work, but I am definitely

going to give it a try. That brings us to the end of me sharing my own personal experience of having assembled my Personal Board. One tip that Emma Maslen shares, I mean the book is filled with lots of tips. So if you like this idea, then I would encourage you to go ahead and get a copy of the book. But one tip that she shares that really


stayed with me, is to make sure you give an update to your Personal Board. So you let them know how you got on, and I thought, "Oh my goodness. I think this is something I miss doing myself sometimes." I will always make sure I say "thank you" - always. If someone has been kind enough to help me with something or help me bounce ideas around or help me solve a challenge, then I will say "thank you".

But actually what I don't necessarily do, is send an update. So after I've finished recording this episode, I am going to follow that advice and message all of the people who have been on my Personal Board and tell them.

Thank you so much. I am taking action. This is what I'm going to do.

I would love to hear what you think of this concept. It would be brilliant to hear if you've had a challenge and this episode has inspired you to start gathering a Personal Board to approach to ask for help.


That's it from me for today. I hope you have a great week. I hope you're excited at the idea of setting up your own Personal Board, and I look forward to being back again next week with the next episode. Take care in the meantime.