Why You Need a Life Board by @GAllenTC

flickr photo shared by Ed Yourdon under a CC license
flickr photo shared by Ed Yourdon under a CC license

by Gayle Allen | Featured Contributor

Can you remember how you felt the first time someone saw something incredible in you that you didn’t see in yourself? Or how you felt after someone took the time to listen to you share a big life goal and then followed up to check on your progress? 

Alone, it can be hard to think bigger or to recognize your full potential. You need support as you set the strategy for your business and focus your resources — but you need the right kind of support.

That’s where a Life Board comes in.

What’s a Life Board? It’s a group of people who share their goals and dreams with one another, in order to give and receive feedback, share resources, and hold each other accountable for achieving them. A Life Board has elements of a Mastermind group, but it’s organized to run like a board, so that members can cycle on and off, as needed. Likewise, members agree to speak frankly and respectfully, and to share the leadership, in order to serve each other’s needs. Life Boards work best when members are professional colleagues or acquaintances rather than close friends or family members whose familiarity with one another can work against a fresh perspective.

Why do you need one? Envisioning and achieving what you want takes courage. These kinds of goals often take a long time to realize (e.g., starting, running or growing a business, writing books or articles, speaking publicly, etc.), and they can stir up some powerful emotions, like fear, self-doubt and frustration. It can also be difficult to get the support you need from family and friends. They may not be able to envision who you want to become. That’s why your Life Board offers:

  • Support: They listen, reflect back, share resources and experiences, inspire, motivate, and provide empathy.
  • Feedback: They ask clarifying questions, provide a reality check, and challenge assumptions.
  • Accountability: They expect updates and progress and push hard on outcomes.
  • Different perspectives: They offer a fresh take on an opportunity, challenge, or way of thinking or doing something.
  • Confidentiality: What happens in Life Board, stays in Life Board.
  • A Safe Space: They know they can share without judgment.

How does it work? Participants set norms for regular communication, and they make a commitment to show up and participate. A Life Board isn’t a class, and it’s not about coaching or networking. And it doesn’t require that you begin with a certain number of people. In fact, you can start with just you and one other person and then grow the group selectively over time. Along the way, expect that members will cycle off and on, depending on the types of fresh perspectives group members need to continue to grow. Life Board members should:

  • Set norms and expectations for meetings and communication; regularly revisit them
  • Establish a kick-off meeting to start and when new members come on board
  • Share updates, challenges, and successes
  • Request feedback, support, and accountability
  • Share resources (e.g., names of executive coaches, books, articles, blogs, podcasts, systems, workflows, experts in the field, etc.)
  • Inspire and motivate each other when things get hard

The communication schedule should include:

  • Norms for what, when, and how often you’ll communicate
  • Twice a month or weekly email check-ins
  • Monthly, quarterly, or twice a year video conference calls
  • Regularly scheduled text and phone sessions with individual board members
  • At least one in-person gathering or event per year

How to Get Started? Here are three simple ways:

  • Start small: Find one or more people who want to grow and challenges themselves, so that at the end of a month or a quarter or a year, they can point to progress they’ve made achieving big goals and dreams.
  • Take advantage of free tech: Use Google hangouts, Skype, Twitter, Slack, Facebook, and so on – so that you never miss an update or a meeting.
  • Meet in person: Find a location where you can meet at least once during the year. It can serve as a kickoff meeting, a celebration event, or a way to attend a workshop or conference you’re all interested in.

On a Life Board, you are role models and mentors to each other, but you never claim expertise you don’t have. You’re a board in the best sense, in that you share your networks, offer support, and expect accountability. Like most things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it – invest in yourself and each other and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.


Gayle AllenGayle Allen is an entrepreneur with a passion for connecting people to innovative ideas that improve their lives.

She is a founding member of the leadership team and Chief Learning Officer at BrightBytes, a company that’s garnered dozens of awards for improving the way the world learns. She’s also the founder and host of Curious Minds, the leading podcast on innovation that features global leaders rethinking life and work.

Gayle earned her MBA in Global Innovation from MIT and her doctorate in adult learning from Teachers College, Columbia University, where she served as an adjunct professor. She’s the author of The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, a book that offers an innovative vision for learning in the modern age. Gayle’s writing has been featured in leading publications, such as MindShift and NPR.

Connect with Gayle on her website, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

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