Here’s a proposal I made to a group of entrepreneurs, who wanted to re-vitalize their meetings, and provide more value to each other:

I’d suggest that at each meeting we function as a Board of Advisors for one member business or business to be. We’d have that business make a brief presentation about goals, organization, status, and some critical decisions that they are facing. The group could then ask questions, and, finally, offer some advice.

A few notes about this process, what’s required, and what might go wrong:

  • We’d all have to respect confidentiality — that’s what’s shared in the meeting room stays there.
  • It’s always temping to listen little and speak quickly. This process demands a process of listening carefully, then asking questions that really are about clarifying and understanding. Only after that it advice appropriate.
  • I deliberately said board of ADVISORS and not of DIRECTORS. Assume that we have no power, except the power of good ideas.
  • From experience, I can tell you that the discussion needs to be carefully moderated, and by somebody who is not going to be a main contributor. The moderator needs to slow the group down, allow for good sharing, keep the discussion on topic, and counteract the presence of any egos that may be present in the room.
  • The advice we come up with may be worth the price paid (and no more!). It’s important to be modest about our knowledge and skill — even as we work with integrity and energy.
  • The whole endeavor also requires committed subjects, who are really trying to develop their business, who want to tell themselves and their advisers the truth, and who are open to change.

I should note that I’m happy to work with groups (profit or non-profit) interested in trying this process.

I have several coaching clients who are dutiful in helping others, but hold back nurturing themselves.  Whether it’s a tool that that really need (and would use well) or a massage or special meal that might help them celebrate, guilt or other forces keep them from offering these gifts to themselves.  Even naming the things they might want can be difficult.

One way I’ve found to make get past this is to ask my coaching clients to create a set of gift certificates for things / services / experiences they want.  For example, “I’d never get a massage, but it sure would be nice to have a gift certificate for one.”

The homework assignment is to generate those 12 or 20 gift certificates.  This puts it right on the table.  My clients may or may not cash in their fake gift certificates, but they have the experience of being much closer to taking something that they really feel would be positive, and, in so doing, to be nurturing themselves.