Last year, I was preparing to launch my new book, Discipled Leader, and build my leadership development platform. While it was an exciting time and a dream coming true, I felt overwhelmed and lacked direction. I was in unfamiliar territory. It was my first rodeo. I’d never published a book before, let alone start a business. It seemed to be a daunting task.
Poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” Meaning I couldn’t accomplish something extraordinary on my own. Success would require the help of others. I knew that I’d only reach my potential with wise counsel and support. And if I reached my potential, others could reach theirs as well.
“No man is an island”John Donne
That’s when I got the idea to develop a Personal Advisory Board (PAB). I discovered the concept in the Wall Street Journal about how successful business executives surround themselves with trusted advisors to help the business executive develop and accomplish their goals.
The Latin phrase is correct, vident oculi quam oculus – many eyes see more than one. I set out to create an inner circle that would assist in navigating unchartered waters and help me reach my potential. But I wasn’t looking for “yes” people, those only patting me on the back and telling me what I wanted to hear. I sought guidance, not validation. I wanted to surround myself with people who would push me, ask probing questions, give feedback even if it’s hard to hear, provide creative input, offer a business perspective, and signal watchouts. I needed folks who could help me solve challenging problems and make complex decisions. Lastly, I desired individuals that had experience with my chosen path; they’d gone before me. I wanted them to share their successes, failures, and learnings. Ultimately, tap into their wisdom.
There’s one other reason I wanted to develop a PAB. I crave positive affirmation. But when I receive it, I can easily get big-headed and begin to think I’m all that. Pride creeps in, I get puffed up, and I tend to take credit for things that go well or blame others when they don’t. I know my weakness, and I can become arrogant without an external party pointing it out to me. My egotistical and self-absorption bent made personal and professional accountability a must. I had to stay grounded and remain humble.
So, I began recruiting PAB members. In the initial communication, I shared with them why I was starting a PAB, what I was trying to accomplish, and then invited them to participate in something bigger than themselves. If they’d joined me on the journey, they’d be able to shape the outcome.
I recruited six original members that agreed to serve for 12 months, two women and four men, including a former NFL player and corporate executive, a head pastor, an internationally renowned composer, a healthcare consultant and seminary student, and two best-selling authors that own speaking/training small businesses.
I began monthly, ten-minute, one-on-one meetings with the PAB members. Our initial meetings were clunky, but we slowly got the hang of it. Before the sessions, I sent an executive summary, including activity updates and areas where I needed feedback.
They’ve helped me make many sound decisions, provided creative input, offered penetrating feedback, and encouraged me when I was down. I couldn’t have done it without them. Ultimately, my book launch was successful, and my platform continues to evolve.
The other good news is that each PAB member renewed for another 12 months. We’ve even added another member, a former beverage industry executive, and leadership coach.
So, do you want to start a PAB? Here’s what I recommend…
- Define your why. What are your business or initiative’s purpose, contribution, and impact? I recommend using the following Why Statement: To (contribution), so that (impact). For example, “To engage and inspire people, so that people are motivated to do something creative every day.” Writing a Why Statement will help you distill your thoughts and articulate them to others.
- Design your ideal board member profile. Imagine what your perfect board member would bring to the table. What complementary characteristics, skills, or experiences will an individual contribute to your journey? Do they have a thinking style different than yours (e.g., strategic, creative, analytical, critical)? Do you trust and respect the individual? Will the potential board member openly share feedback, ask hard questions, encourage you, give advice, pray with you, support your effort? Is the person influential and well-connected? Do you share similar values and faith? What will you have gained from and given to the participant a year from now? Answering these questions will help you think through the ideal board member.
- Identify candidates and recruit. Based on your ideal board member profile, begin thinking about your circle of influence and connections. Look across your friends, colleagues, mentors, and broader network for potential candidates. I identified a list of people I believed would want to partner with me for my initial PAB. Then, I sent an invitation email to the candidates with my Why Statement, what I hoped to accomplish, why I identified them as potential candidates, and how they’d make a difference. I invited them into something bigger than themselves. If the individual was interested and wanted to learn more, I’d set up a follow-up Zoom call to share more details.
- Manage time expectations. How you view time is a mindset. Are you asking the advisors to spend time with you or invest time with you? If you invest in something, you’ll experience a return, directly or indirectly. If you approach the requested time as an investment, people will be more open to supporting you. And be upfront about the time investment you’re requesting. I asked folks for a 12-month commitment. It takes time to develop an effective process and productive sessions. I found that almost everyone is willing to invest a 10-minute, one-on-one, monthly appointment to help. Lastly, I highly recommend that you honor the time commitment. Be concise and be done. Do your best to stay within the scheduled time allotment. If you are in deep conversation, ask permission to extend the appointment or schedule additional time. Time is the most precious resource we have. Respect others’ time, and they will appreciate it.
- Send a pre-meeting executive summary. Before every round of PAB meetings, I send an executive summary of what I’ve accomplished since the last meeting, plans, feedback requested, decisions I’m considering, or problems I’m trying to solve. I’ve found that the executive summaries prime the discussion pump and give the members something to respond to. I advise the PAB members that I’ll reach out individually to set up the next one-on-ones. Then, I move to text and converse with the PAB members to schedule time.
- Conducting the session. This is the fun and value-creating time. I always ask if the PAB member received the executive summary and if they have any specific questions. This is where the conversation can go in many different directions. Caution! Sometimes a PAB member doesn’t have immediate questions or feedback. If this is the case, I’m prepared to give a brief update or ask a question related to PAB members’ skills, experience, or interests. Be sure to summarize the key takeaway to the advisor and discuss potential next steps. I always recap the key takeaway during the next session and provide a progress update. Listening and acting will demonstrate to the PAB member that you value their insight. Lastly, always ask how you can help the PAB member. You want to create a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship. Not only receive value but return value.
- Rinse, refine, repeat, recruit. Like I said earlier, the process may feel a little clunky as you start out. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. Reflect on each round of one-on-ones. What worked, didn’t work, and what can you improve? Apply your learnings to refine the overall process and PAB member experience. Lastly, keep scanning your network for potential PAB members and cultivating relationships. Anticipate that people will eventually rotate off your PAB, and you’ll want to have a pipeline of people to fill open slots.
One of the best things I’ve done is create a PAB. The members shaped my mission, influenced my thinking, and molded my approach. They’ve helped me navigate unchartered territory, solve perplexing problems, and make sound decisions. Even better, they feel they’re engaged in something bigger than themselves, something extraordinary.
I agree with John Donne; we aren’t islands. We can’t do it alone. We need others on this journey we call life. How about you? Do you have a dream, vision, idea, or a burning passion, but you’re unsure where to start? Surround yourself with a PAB, meet your goals, and watch your dreams come true.
Want to learn more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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“Dammit! I don’t get this guy”, I said as I slammed the door. I wondered out loud to my wife if I’d made a wrong career decision.
I’d changed companies and took a new opportunity to get us closer to home, relocating from Hershey, PA, to Montgomery, Alabama. It was a homecoming of sorts. Carla and I met and married in Birmingham; our kids were born at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and much of our family lived in the area. We were happy to be back.
I moved out of a successful sales and marketing role with Hershey into a new company representative job. My new role required me to represent the company’s interests to the local bottling partner, develop plans, gain strategic alignment and help deliver results. I felt a little over my ski tips – a new role, new market, new industry, and new people. I knew it would take every bit of my mediocre leadership, communication, sales, and marketing skills to do well.
Why? My primary call point, Rick, had a reputation as a driven leader, very demanding, and hard to get along with. He’s a towering man with a very intimidating demeanor – like the kind of guy who could have played professional football. He’d recently been appointed as Market Unit VP and tasked with turning a deficient performing operation around sooner than later. He was under considerable pressure.
I’ll never forget my first presentation to Rick and his team. He asked me to put together a marketing plan for a local university. I thought it would be a piece of cake based on my experience. I invested two weeks pulling together detailed plans, initial creative images and felt good about what I developed.
I presented my plan during his monthly operating meeting in front of his key leaders. After I finished, I asked Rick, “What do you think?”
Rick paused and asked with frustration, “Is that all you’ve got?”
There was a long, awkward silence in the room. I felt embarrassed.
My voice cracked, “Yes.”
Rick replied sharply, “I’m expecting more. Your plan is very disappointing. Go back to the drawing board and bring back something that will help us win in the market.”
I ducked my tail, sat down, and stewed.
This wasn’t the first time I’d stumbled with Rick by not delivering on expectations. As I sat simmering, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to gain credibility in Rick’s eyes. I’m failing in my new role. I don’t know what to do.”
Fast forward a few months. I’d been working hard to gain Rick’s trust and respect without much traction. Then one day after a market execution tour, we were leaning against a grocery store check-out lane conveyor belt recapping the day.
After summarizing the sub-par execution we observed in the market, I changed the subject and said to Rick, “I know my work hasn’t lived up to your expectations. I am working hard to get better and am on a steep learning curve. I’m confident that I have what it takes and can help you turn the business around.”
Rick just looked at me.
I continued, “If you’ll take me under your wing and teach me everything you know, I will learn and do everything it takes to help you and the team win.”
Another long, awkward pause – I think he liked the interludes.
“Preston, I’ve been hard on you to see if you have what it takes—testing you. You know what? I think you do, and I know you can help me. I’ll take you up on your offer.”
From there, things took off. Rick began including me in his market visits and key leadership meetings. We collaboratively developed robust plans, focused the team on the work that mattered, and executed with excellence. The Market Unit gained positive performance momentum and began to receive national recognition. We were privileged to pilot new brands and packages before national launches based on our strong performance. We also re-negotiated key marketing asset contracts in the face of fierce competition. Lastly, we became a model team, importing and exporting talent. We won under Rick’s tremendous leadership.
I don’t necessarily think about our accomplishments when I think about Rick. I think about the friendship we developed over the years. I remember all of the windshield time we had together, driving from town to town, sales center to sales center. When you spend multiple hours every week traveling with someone, you get to know them. Under Rick’s sometimes-rough exterior, I discovered a genuine person that cared about people. During our conversations, Rick and I found that we shared several values, including our faith. I’ll never forget the countless belly laughs we had together, the confidence he placed in me, and how he took me under his wing.
Rick taught me the Coke business, invested in me personally and professionally, and played a massive role in my future success. I’ve benefited tremendously from knowing and being mentored by Rick Kehr.
Rick and I still stay in touch and talk occasionally. Recently, I heard he was retiring, and I called him a few weeks ago to check in. He said a 28-year career with Coke and seven years in the NFL were enough. “It is time,” he said.
That’s right. The towering, intimidating man I mentioned earlier played professional football during his first career and won a Super Bowl championship with the Washington Redskins – beating my beloved Denver Broncos nonetheless. Rick is a winner in whatever he does. More importantly, he’s a leader.
Rick, thank you for being you, mentoring me, and leading well. You’ve made a positive difference and left a great legacy.
Leaders – do you have a mentor in your life? Someone that will invest in you and you can trust. Someone who wants you to win and challenge you to reach your potential? If not, I recommend you find one. On the other side of the coin, are you mentoring someone? Are you investing in someone to help them grow? If not, consider mentoring someone. You’ll make a positive difference as Rick did with me if you do.
Want to discover how to become a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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I remember entering the class disheartened; the worst salesperson in the Southeast – bottom of the totem pole. Not only was I disappointed by my sales results, but I’d also become depressed – underperformance, not meeting expectations. I’d lost confidence and was fearful of losing my job. Even my outward appearance reflected my low spirits. Then, I met Jason. He was the owner of the local Dale Carnegie franchise and sales course facilitator. I came to learn he was formally the top Dale Carnegie salesperson in the world, a former PGA tour member and local radio show host. I admired him and hung on every word he said. For some reason, he took an interest in me.
The class included 20 participants wanting to learn about the selling process. Everything Jason taught was eye-opening to me: How to open a sales call (e.g., “if there were a way to increase your sales by $X, you’d want to know about it wouldn’t you?”), how to ask probing questions, listening skills, the difference between features and benefits, providing a value proposition, how to smoke out and overcome objections, and closing techniques, all with a human relations perspective.
The course’s methodology was to teach a selling principle in the classroom, apply it on the job, return the next week, and share what happened. Jason coached the participants as we practiced the principles – many times, we failed – but that’s where the learning occurred. He encouraged us to get out of our comfort zones to where growth happens. And move out of my comfort zone I did – as time passed, I applied the principles, and they worked for me. My confidence started to grow. I began fearlessly opening sales calls – gaining a store owner’s undivided attention, listening for customer needs, demonstrating how Pro Plan would benefit their business, overcoming objections, and, most of all, closing sales. Additionally, Jason called me every few weeks during the course to see how I was doing – I appreciated his interest and mentorship. I’d tell him how I was applying the new selling principles; ask a few questions, and he’d provide some coaching.
I blossomed as my selling skills improved. I began experiencing positive results, and it showed. I had more pep in my step, and my outward appearance began to reflect how I felt on the inside. I even started attending class wearing a sports coat, dress slacks, and a button-down shirt. My newfound confidence was beaming. Jason noticed and publicly commented so.
Over the 12-week course, class members participated in a “Sales Talk” competition where everyone took turns pitching their product or service and leveraged the new skills we’d learned. When it was my turn in the first round, I passionately demonstrated how I’d grown over the previous weeks and pitched Pro Plan using all the key selling principles and techniques. Surprisingly, my peers voted me into the finals. But Michael, a professional salesperson, future CEO, and community leader, was a formidable competitor. Are you kidding? Me versus Goliath? Winning was going to take all I had and then some.
To differentiate me and take home the trophy, I decided that the key to beating Michael would be showmanship – demonstrating Pro Plan’s real-life effect. No, I wasn’t going to ask everyone to taste a kibble. However, my idea did involve a dog. I was hesitant to execute the plan, but during my preparation, I remembered a quote in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It reads, “I cannot write a work commiserate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me,” meaning be yourself, be authentic. The quote inspired me with the confidence to become a first-rate Preston Poore and not a second-rate someone else. To take a chance and differentiate myself from the competition.
The big day came, and Michael went first. He gave a passionate and convincing talk about construction and business development – his new pitch for multi-million-dollar buildings – real estate development. Smooth. Impressive. Surely, he would win. But that didn’t stop me from trying, rising to the challenge. I’d practiced my presentation and was ready to go.
I rose to present in my chalk striped gray suit, tie, and polished shoes. I conveyed confidence, filled the room with presence. In command of my presentation, I had a conversation with the audience, as if I was speaking directly to a potential store owner. After walking through my opening statement, asking questions, flushing out, and overcoming objections, it was time for the close.
I told the audience that there was no better way to believe what I was telling them, the health benefits of Pro Plan than to show them a living example. To the audience’s surprise, my wife Carla appeared in the back of the room, holding our Dachshund, Sally. I introduced Carla and Sally. Sally’s tail wagged as she recognized me. Carla put Sally down, and Sally immediately ran across the room to me. The class cheered and roared with laughter, enjoying the pleasant surprise appearance. I picked Sally up and told the audience that the “proof is in the pudding.” Sally’s eaten Pro Plan for the last year. Her coat shined, her energy level was high, and she was healthier than when we fed her grocery store-brand pet food.
I addressed the audience, “Who wouldn’t want their pet to look and feel like Sally? All it takes is offering Pro Plan to your customers.” To close, I asked, “Would you like to place the large or medium-sized rack with your first 500 lb. order?” I said thank you, and the audience stood in rousing applause. I was overwhelmed.
Then, time to vote. Jason handed out ballots and instructed the class to choose who they thought best demonstrated the sales principles. He asked them to consider passion and creativity in their decision. After a few quiet moments, Jason gathered the ballots, counted them, and announced, “You’ve selected Preston as our ‘Sales Talk Champion.’ Congratulations, Preston!” I proudly received a plaque that I still have to this day.
The Dale Carnegie Sales course and my experience over those 12 weeks set my career on a new trajectory. I developed valuable skills I didn’t have before. I stepped out of my comfort zone to apply the principles I learned. Sometimes I failed, and other times I succeeded. I learned and grew through the process. So much so that I eventually became the number one Pro Plan representative in the Southeast, opening more new accounts and increasing sales more than my peers. I grew, and my company grew. All because someone believed in me, made way for me, coached me, developed me. I intentionally leaned into the process and greatly improved my results. I benefited personally and professionally.
I learned training itself wasn’t enough. The secret sauce was in what I did with the training, the new skills I developed. I didn’t set them on a shelf and forget about them. If you’re on a development journey and want to realize your potential, I recommend employing three fundamental principles:
Apply, Apply, Apply – It’s been said that knowledge is power. Not so fast. I believe that the application of knowledge is power. You need to put what you learned into practice; turn thoughts and words into action. Bring things to life. There’s limited value in gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Knowledge must inform and shape our actions. But without effort, knowledge is dead. The fuel of development is application, nothing more, nothing less. To grow, you need to employ what you’ve learned, test it, try it. Don’t let ideas, principles, or concepts move into one ear and out the other. To make a real, substantial, material change, you must do. In doing, move out of your comfort zone to the edge where learning happens, where you gain experience. PT Barnum said, “No man or woman has a right to expect to succeed in life unless they understand their business, and nobody can understand their business thoroughly unless they learn it by personal application and experience.” I stepped out of my comfort zone, employed the principles, gained experience, and succeeded. If you apply what you learn, you will too.
Self-Reflect – Once you’ve applied the acquired knowledge, it’s time to reflect – think deeply about your experience. Why? Peter Drucker said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” By looking back thoroughly at your actions. What worked well? What were your successes? How did you see your strengths come to life, and how will you build upon them? What didn’t go well? Did you fail? That’s ok. What did you learn? What problems did you encounter? What were the root causes? What adjustments do you need to make? What are limiting self-beliefs holding me back? I recommend keeping a journal to record your thoughts. Writing helps you know what you think. Ask yourself, did I succeed or fail today? Why? How did it make me feel? How can I improve? If you journal over time, you’ll be able to return to your reflections and see growth.
Be Accountable – To achieve the results you desire, it’s good to have a coach, mentor, manager, peer, or friend to ask probing questions, give advice, and encourage you. Connect with someone you trust and share your plan with them. Be vulnerable with the person by sharing your ups and downs, where you are in your development journey. Similar to the above self-reflection questions, empower your accountability partner to ask questions like:
- Wins: What’s going well? What are you most proud of? What did you learn? How will you replicate or build upon it?
- Challenges: What’s not going well? Why? What did you learn? How will you course correct?
- Goals: What do you want to accomplish moving forward? By when? How do you define success? Do you anticipate any challenges? How will you overcome them?
- Support: How can I help you?
Training isn’t enough, but it’s the start of reaching your potential. If you apply what you learn, reflect, and are transparent with someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable, you will grow. You’ll transform the capacity, raw talents, and abilities you have into power, influence, and positive effect. Your potential will become potency. Because of your growth, you’ll grow everything around you – cultures, communities, companies, churches, schools, you name it. What are you waiting for?
Want to uplevel your skills or become a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
Let me help you reach your potential.
I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.