We all need sounding boards--no matter what our age--to test our ideas and plans, to push us into uncomfortable situations, and to provide us with feedback. This is how successful people become more successful in many areas of their life. Instead of having an information group with whom you brainstorm, imagine having your own Personal Advisory Board you can go to for advice and feedback.

Of course, a Personal Advisory Board does more than help you be a better person. This group can help you start or grow a business, change careers, or move up within your company. Think of your board as a team of mentors, carefully chosen, who can provide you with mentoring and feedback across a wide variety of your professional concerns. Each advisor should be selected to fulfill specific goals in your professional (and possibly personal) life.

To get you started thinking about your Personal Advisory Board, here are six roles that I recommend for your board:

   1. The Supporter is a master listener and knows much about you as a person. He is always there to lend an encouraging ear, a hug, or a kick in the bottom.

   2. The Bridge is otherwise known as the connector. This is the matchmaker for your career. Connectors love to engender relationships among people who might not otherwise have met. They are infectious and inspire others to be more like them.

   3. The Sage is a person of profound wisdom is many areas. Everyone needs a sage--someone who they admire, has done it all, made the mistakes, learned from them, and then triumphed. This is one of the most trusted positions on the board.

   4. The Questioner is imperative for your board. It pays to surround yourself with people who will question your motives, decisions, and intentions. It’s amazing how the question “why are you doing this” will make you stop and think.

   5. The Risk Taker is an inspiration to you. These people have made mistakes and wrong decisions, but they have learned from them and will encourage you to do the same. Their mantra is “you won’t know unless you try”.

   6. The Maven is an expert in a particular field--yours. They are often ahead of the curve with their thoughts and ideas. These are the folks who help you make informed decisions.

It’s essential for you to be proactive and build your Personal Advisory Board BEFORE you think you need it. Take the time to build these relationships so that there is mutual trust and respect between you and your board members. This is important because you want your Advisory Board to give you honest feedback. If it’s truly honest feedback, it isn’t always positive and isn’t always something you want to hear. That’s why the relationship is so important.

Consider leaning on your Board when a conflict arises at with a coworker at your office. You might tempted to lash out, but The Questioner will help you see a new perspective. Or, consider a long dry spell in your business. You may need the strength of The Supporter to carry you through.

Your Board isn’t just helpful in difficult times. They can be a valuable resource when life is looking up. The Maven can help you decide between many promising opportunities. And The Bridge can get you to the right person to be a partner, employee, or vendor.

For those times between the good and the bad where the path is unclear, you have The Sage and The Risk Taker. The former will help you to see what options may exist and what pitfalls are down the road. And the latter will encourage you to take the plunge when you’re considering hiding on the shore, where it’s safe.

A Personal Advisory Board can be a valuable tool to help you grow and be successful professionally. Taking the time upfront to identify the roles needed and to choose the members wisely will pay off in the long run as you encounter challenges in your career.