Tapping Into Your Inner Board of Directors

Have you ever been stuck at a decision point, paralyzed by inner conflict, pulled in multiple directions by different needs, desires, and fears? Instead of trying to choose among these warring factions of yourself, perhaps it is time to get them to work together. Cast them as your internal Board of Directors, give each a seat at the table, and work out a deal so that you can move forward. Here’s one way to do it:*

Step 1: Identify the topic or decision in neutral terms. Imagine (or draw) a boardroom table with the topic in the middle.

Step 2: Identify between four and six internal voices or constituencies that are competing in the decision-making, name them (risk-taker, parent, entrepreneur,  rebel, judge, free-spirit, artist, banker, etc.), and place them around the table. Be creative and flesh them out if you like — what are they like? what do they wear? This is your internal board of directors.

Step 3: Make a list for each director: what do they want? what do they have to offer? are they afraid of?Notice if there are any natural alliances among them or if you feel more closely aligned with any of them.

Step 4: Seek consensus in the form of a decision that all board members can live with and that you (as CEO) can support. Sometimes it is enough just to give voice to a fear without letting it veto the decision. Other times you may choose to make some commitments to future actions in order to address some of the needs of other constituencies.

Step 5: Identify the actions to be taken and the commitments to be made. Create some internal accountability.

For example, if your ambition wants you to take a job in a new city but your heart is afraid of being lonely, you might choose to take the job and commit to seeking out new connections by joining a church or a hiking club within the first month. Or if your inner parent wants security and your adventurer wants to quit your job and travel the globe, they might strike a deal in which you first save up  six months’ of expenses before quitting. Or maybe instead of quitting you commit to saving up all your vacation and comp time for a long trip somewhere exotic.

*The inspiration for this exercise came from an article by Suzanne Samson.