Five Tips to Get the Most from Your Advisory Board

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By Kate Purmal and Lisa Goldman

Peer advisory boards, or mastermind groups, are a great way for entrepreneurs to get support to help manage and grow their business. Typically these boards consist of four to six people who provide each other with ideas, feedback, guidance and accountability.

It’s not easy to maintain interest and momentum in your board as members get distracted by the demands of their work and lives. My colleague Lisa Goldman and I recently held a call with the board chairs from the new advisory boards  formed during a workshop we led. Here’s what we learned from them about how you can make your advisory board meetings more effective and keep your board engaged.

Communicate “wins” when they happen: Several of the advisory board members share short emails with their board when they experience a “win.” These communications benefit the group because they keep each other informed and engaged, and they motivate and inspire other members to seek their own “wins.”

Create the right meeting structure: It’s critical for the board to decide how to structure meetings to best support the intention of it’s members. One advisory board decided on this meeting structure:

At least One Day PRIOR to the call, each person shares with the group

A: 3 Accomplishments
B: 3 Items that they weren’t able to accomplish but want to be held accountable for
C: 3 Things they are struggling with or need help from the Advisory Board

Each member is responsible to review the other’s updates in advance. At the meeting, each person takes 3 minutes present the C items, and 7 minutes to receive feedback from the board.

Have each member make one specific request at each meeting: Business people accustomed to getting things done on their own don’t naturally think about making requests to others for support. Asking each board member to make one specific request per meeting creates more opportunity for board members to make an impact, and  builds within the board a spirit of collaboration and contribution.

Here are a few examples of specific requests that board members might make:

  • An introduction to a contact within a company
  • A short prep phone call before an important meeting
  • A referral to a specific resource they need for a project

Design momentum and engagement into the structure: Boards function at their best when they have momentum and engagement across members. This doesn’t happen by accident. The best boards design this in as part of their structure. At each board meeting, ask three questions:

  1. What’s working and why?
  2. What would you like to see more of?
  3. How can we maintain and build momentum?

Create a schedule and stick to it: Scheduling meetings can be a major headache for board members. It’s critical to avoid a lot of back and forth to schedule and re-schedule meetings.

To minimize disruption, we recommend you set a schedule at the start and stick to it even if one or two members can’t make it. Smaller meetings can be great to build rapport and provide extra support because they afford more time for each member to discuss their challenges and gain important feedback.

What success factors have you discovered that create value and maintain momentum in your peer advisory board?

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3 Responses to Five Tips to Get the Most from Your Advisory Board

  1. Henry Hutton says:

    Great article. I will forward to a micorskills group (http://www.microskills.ca/)

    They are a: Community MicroSkills Development Centre is a multi-cultural, non-profit, community based organization committed to assisting the unemployed, with priority to women, racial minorities, youth and immigrants

  2. Excellent tips…I look forward to using these in my current advisory board…it’s so hard to lose ‘oomph’ after a workshop or recommitment to new behaviors that nourish one’s business without the support of others and advisory boards are GREAT ways to keep the momentum. Thanks!

  3. Pamela Kim says:

    Fabulous post. So helpful! One of the things our board just did was set up a Google Group as forum for sharing wins, ideas and inspiration. It’s a great way to stay connected without adding to email traffic.

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