Article, Career Advice, Careers

Building A Sounding Board

April 20, 2021

I believe it’s fair for me to say that in today’s day and current economic climate, being an organisational leader is no easy feat. The role is being redefined so often. Along with customer demands shifting and new business models being introduced in order to assuage these new demands, we’re all constantly dealing with change and learning on the fly. We have to learn to reinvent and pivot successfully.

The question of reinventing ourselves and our organizational playbooks really dawned on me when the pandemic took us all by surprise. We are now juggling remote interactions with new and existing customers, learning their challenges while also figuring out our modus operandi to meet these demands. All this while ensuring we are setting ourselves up for success, or in some cases just surviving considering the damage COVID-19 has on certain industries.

Building out a Sounding Board 

What I’ve found to be extremely valuable in navigating these unchartered territories is to build a personal sounding board. This brings access to knowledge, perspectives, networks and experiences that supplement your own. Let’s face it – you can’t get everything done on your own, and if you are, you are leading yourself to a definite burn-out.

It’s amazing to learn how surrounding yourself among a team of talented individuals could enhance performance and widen your lateral-thinking abilities. It’s not easy to identify individuals that can complement your strengths and help you close out gaps or manoeuvre your blind spots. The first step is to take a hard look at yourself and identify your strengths, and mobilisers. Secondly, it’s important to be open to constructive feedback in order to learn and accept your weaknesses. This practice allows you to close these gaps; all in order for you to achieve your set targets and goals. Believe me, knowing what you don’t know is a real exercise, but I’m guessing we all know this!

Recruiting the Advisors  

To venture out to recruit this team, you will need to be focused on getting people that help you solve current challenges. The goal here is not to recruit fans but to identify folks that can help you grow your business, contest your views and poke holes into your action plans and strategies. Push yourself to find people outside of your social circle. It’s easy to rule out this option, especially if you feel you are a young start-up or enterprise with no funding to attain such talent. However, with proactivity and outreach to relevant individuals on professional mediums like LinkedIn, you’ll be surprised with how much traction you could acquire from accomplished individuals who are willing to lend a helping hand.

Engaging with the Advisors 

It’s crucial that you schedule relevant check-ins and engage with clarity with these individuals. Building and engaging with a personal sounding board requires both time and energy as investments. It’s important to identify adept individuals for such roles and tap into their knowledge to truly gain value from these relationships. Focus on being clear in your request with each engagement and be focused on identifying the right communication channels to discuss challenges, ideas and failures. It’s important to be vulnerable and open of your struggles in these conversations, so the individual can really add value to you. At times. it’s easy to get carried away with these discussions and not take down notes; so, stay attentive and invest a 100% into these conversations. Create a schedule for follow-up conversations. This allows you to gear up to discuss progress, or even potentially how you have learnt of an avenue where you may require further help in problem-solving.

Closing the loop 

I’ve learnt that the toughest part to action on is closing the loop. Once you’ve discussed challenges and possible solutions, it’s extremely crucial to ensure you take stock of the implementation process of the solutions to re-engineer your thought process. I find it valuable to take stock of where you were prior to the discussions and where you are upon implementation of strategies or even changing your approach to things. I do believe setting realistic goals and measuring your progress around these goals are an effective way of closing the loop. This practice ensures you are getting value from the conversations and solutions shared. 

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