A Blog A Day - Day 2: You are the CEO of your own life, who’s on your Board?

by Davia McMillan PCC and Grace Thomas PCC

As a CEO or C-Level executive, you work with a Board of Directors to achieve the best outcomes for your organisation. In your personal and professional life, do you have a high-performing Board that works with you to achieve the best outcomes that matter across your life, work and world domains?

“I want people in my life who are more interested in my growth than my comfort.” Eric Johnson

Discomfort at the top leads to dynamic change

In an organisation, the relationship between a CEO or C-Level executives and the Board of Directors is often somewhat uncomfortable. This may be necessarily so for growth and success. But what does this mean for you personally?

Status quo has never been a recipe for long term success in a world changing at break-neck speed! It’s important for us, as leaders, to have the best right team around us that has us stepping to the edge where change happens. People who encourage and support AND inject tension and challenge through powerful questions - driving us to be more creative and search for higher level possibilities, to see the bigger picture and to strive for better outcomes than we can imagine. People who hold you to be the best you can be.

“A productive and harmonious relationship between the board and management is critical for good governance and organisational effectiveness” and acknowledges that “sometimes this can be difficult to achieve in reality” - The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

‘Productive’ is about the results, deliverables, value, market.

‘Harmonious’ has a ring of a friendly, agreeable environment, where it’s ‘steady as it goes’ and the boat is not rocked.

Will a harmonious relationship between a Board and CEO or C-Level executives take an organisation to the next level and maximise potential?

As CEO of your own life, you too need a Board

Let’s shine the light on you, as CEO of your own life, you make important decisions every day. Decisions that impact you and those around you today, tomorrow and long into the future. Who has your back? Who challenges your decisions? Who lights a fire beneath you? Who brings knowledge and wisdom to your table?

A Board not an Entourage!

According to the AICD, the board’s role is to “monitor and question, probe issues, seek clarification, offer insight and share knowledge and experience”.

An entourage on the other hand can be described as “a group of people attending or surrounding an important person”. Often a team whose role it is to protect you, do what you want, follow your orders, agree with you, keep you comfortable. They work hard to keep everything harmonious for you – ‘yes’ people.

Who is surrounding you?

Who would constitute a high-performing board of directors for you, the CEO of your own life? Who’s already on your board and who else needs to be on it? How do you relate with your board that enables you to achieve optimum growth and impact? How can they best challenge and support you to deliver value to your stakeholders? Who can help take you to the edge and support you at the same time?

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Three key factors for a high performing board

  1. Having the right people on your board is crucial. Diversity in your personal board is no different to that of your organisation’s board. The big difference is that you have complete control over who’s on your personal board. What mix of skills and roles do you need to bring a balance of views? Challenger, supporter, mentor, coach, consultant, confidant, connector, advisor, friend … Diversity can also be expertise – financial, spiritual, wellbeing, industry knowledge, relationships, community, network ...
  2. Trust is paramount. Trusting that your board members have your best interest at heart is essential. Your board members trusting that you have the capability and capacity to make your own decisions from the different perspectives is equally important.
  3. A learner mindset trumps everything else. You need and want your board to challenge your thinking so different perspectives emerge. For your board to do this willingly and openly, you have to give them permission – implicit and explicit permission to challenge you, hold the mirror up, have the difficult conversations, all within a supportive frame, rather than a harmonious one.

With your board’s heart for your success, you can take the heat that is needed to stand at the edge of greatness!

If you want your board members to be like-minded or to think like you do, then get an entourage!

And, another thing – whose board are you on?

When another leader wants to enrol you to be on their board of directors, what part will you play in paying it forward? Better still, why wait to be invited? Why not offer to be on someone’s board and contribute to their growth and success. It’s your choice.


Davia McMillan, PCC, is the ICF Australasia Victoria Branch President. She has a strong background as a life and leadership coach who works with clients to design lives they love.

Grace Thomas, PCC, is the Immediate Past President of ICF Australasia Victoria and Interim Head of Member Experience for ICF Australasia Chapter. Her extensive background in corporate leadership roles in Australia and Asia-Pacific enables her to work with senior leaders bringing ‘heat and heart’ to all her relationships.

ICF is the leading global organisation dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained professionals. It offers the only globally recognised, independent credentialing program for coach practitioners.