The idea of a Board of Directors is not new. Indeed, I love the work of Artie Wu Preside Meditation) , who teaches about a BoD running your life, often in relation to younger versions of yourself. He talks of who is at the table, who is excluded, sometimes even shut away so they can’t have a voice and how we can get back to allowing each member to have a say and be heard.
Today I am musing on the analogy of Board of Directors in relation to our multiple brains. Who would you appoint around the table if you had a choice to reassign your Board today?
Before we appoint a Board – let’s get the room ready in our heads. What shape is your Board Table: round, rectangle, mixed?
Do you have a seat for a chair?
How many seats are round the table?
Do you leave any seats empty?
I want you to take some time to think about the Board of Directors for your life (now – as it is now and ideally – how you would like it to be).
You might like to draw your table and around it place post-it notes as seat, and we can start to explore who you would want to invite to the table.
You may already be able to label some seats – go ahead. Just have other notes available to be able to adapt and evolve your BoD as you work through this blog.
Chair of Board
Let’s start with the chair. Who would be the best person to be the chair? Who can monitor how you feel and what you desire? Who can check out how any decisions impact on others and who can determine what is really important to you?
In mBraining it is pretty clear that is the heart and we talk of ‘letting the heart lead’. I wonder how many of us have the heart as the chair of our BoM in practice? I know I certainly haven’t always done so and even now have to make a deliberate and conscious choice at times, when I feel like there is a risk of being hurt, shafted or taken advantage of.
So great reflections might be:
What role does the heart play on the BoD if not the Chair?
How does it choose to chair and lead the BoD? Collaboratively or more autocratically?
How does the heart respond when it is not seemingly supported by the other board members?
What could the heart do to be an even more effective chair?
I am sure there are other questions too … but these would be a great start.
Having reflected on the Heart as the first Board Member – think about how you will label the heart on the table. Is it called ‘Heart” – or is there a name which would be even more appropriate, which in some way reflects a deeper meaning for you or a link to someone else who you aspire to model when you are playing that role?
You have made a great start.
Let’s move to identify who else is around the table?
Obvious members from an mBraining perspective would be head, gut, ANS and pelvis brain. That already gives a team of 5 and for many of us we might want to add spiritual wisdom as number 6.
As you start to consider who is on your Board of Directors – and it is your Board – you can have anyone you like. Be curious about where you place people, including the chair (which might not yet be the heart). Notice anything about how you write the name, whether you place any post-it notes close together, or conversely far apart, notice who you place next to who and be curious as to why … let’s start to have some fun with this.
Let’s start to explore those other members and the role they might play:
The head is great for planning and strategic vision, but you do need to watch the underlying direction they are working to, especially if the heart has not directionalised the planning (all Board members have potential gifts and shadows – which it is wise for us to be aware of).
The head is also the seat of ego and remember ego is about keeping us stable and in a known environment. It’s job is to keep you safe with what it knows, so it can disrupt and try to derail plans where you want to step outside your familiar zone. It’s intention is honourable, but it may not always serve where you want to go.
The head is also an amazing story teller. Take time to listen to the stories it is telling you, but don’t believe all of them. Maybe consider putting someone with a critical ear on the Board to support the head to ensure that you evaluate the stories for accuracy and to determine whether or not they are serving you.
Lastly the head can be a bit of a nerd. It loves facts, figures, research and to explore what is known. Find a way to enable it to do that in line with what you have determined you want. Ensure it is prompted to look for both sides of any argument, not just to find evidence to support what it has predetermined to know (the head can sometimes take the quick route, which is not always the best route and it can be very self serving to get what it wants!).
And, I am curious where did you place the head round your table? Was it near the heart? Is it happy to sit by heart and be guided by it, or has it got its chair turned slightly so it’s got its back turned to the heart? Where is it in relation to the gut?
OK, let’s look at Gut.
The gut is a really important member of the board as without gut it’s unlikely you will get much done. The gut is your action taker, and internal encourager, like a cheer leading team telling you that ‘you can do it’. Your gut also holds a deeper sense of who you are (way beyond the head based story of who you say you are) that deeper you that is both a consistent essence of who you are and ever changing and evolving you that changes over time. Deep inside there is a version of you that is deeper than the societal expectations that have been placed on you, and deeper than the fears about failure (or success), deeper than the versions of yourself you have built over time…
Accessing that gut will enable you to stay true to who you are and enable the gut to be the person you want to be on the board.
Another important thing to point out is that your gut is strong and courageous. Again, notice where the gut sits and how it talks to the other members. How does it express its strength? Does it cheerlead the other brains or shout over them? Is it prepared to take action at times before all the other members are on board and what results has that created for you? Sometimes taking action first can be great, but there does need to be some checks in place that the gut is not going out alone for its own sake and is considering the wider board. Any member working in isolation can be problematic.
As you look round the table who does the gut speak most easily too and what would need to happen for it to talk to the other members as easily?
Let’s talk ANS.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is key to a functioning board. The ANS enables the other members to communicate to each other, opening up a sense of flow and honesty, encouraging the members to be open and transparent with each other (usually). They act like an in board controller – making sure things keep moving. Like all board members they can function sub-optimally at times and you need to watch the ANS is not contributing to any miscommunication by changing the messages as it passes them along between the board members. Ensure the ANS Board Member lets you know they have heard about where you want to put your attention – so it does not get distracted. Sometimes the ANS with good intention will be scanning the environment and taking in other information above and beyond that that comes from the board members and can change the message, but it can sometimes do that through old filters and out of date story. Maybe it will alert you to something as a threat, that isn’t really a threat, but as a child that is what you learned that action to be. It is just doing its job, ensuring you as a whole board stay in balance, but it needs directing.
Let me give you an example. A child who was not warmly nurtured in the first few years of its life, can find the ventral vagal part of the Vagus nerve is not fully myelinated. This can cause their internal set point for danger to be quite low. They live their lives on high alert. People like this may have difficulty trusting others and may set off a stress response inadvertently, when no actual threat was present. In terms of your Board members, it may be your heart says it desires to collaborate with someone and it sends this message to your head to plan how you will do that. The ANS who passes that message on, may intercept the message and change it to be, ‘while it would be nice to collaborate we don’t know if we can trust them’, so let’s either (1) not collaborate and take for ever coming up with a plan to sabotage that, or (2) build a plan that has many ways of protecting us within it so we don’t really give up control so we are not really collaborating or (3) send the message to head, but also talk to gut about firing up a stress response to alert us to the first sign of fear or threat (which may be when one does not really exist). Can you see how the ANS can play a role for good intention, which might have devastating effects. This is why one of the key parts of mBraining is working directly with the ANS and balancing that BEFORE starting our board meeting.
OK. Let’s look at Pelvic Brain.
The pelvic brain plays a great role on the board and will help us to drive towards what we really desire, instilling a deep urge to move forwards. The pelvis will also alert us to the deeper and wider connectivity out into community and alert us as to how we can serve others. It’s about acting in line with our deeper purpose, leaving a legacy that lives on beyond our current board and giving us a deeper pleasure in what we do.
And if you have a spiritual board member, then it’s likely they will be sitting with heart, gut and pelvic brains, unless they are not feeling connected and are finding they do not have a voice. Where is your spiritual board member sitting? What have you named them? Who are they talking to? Who are they not talking to? And what sort for voice do they have? Do they get consulted on all discussions, or only in a crisis, when the other members have run out of options?
Can you begin to get a sense of how your own board is made up? Do all of these members have a seat? If not, where are those members? Have you shut them out of the room, or even locked them away in a cupboard? If they are around the table, can they genuinely have a say? Are they all allowed to have a voice? Do they have voting rights? Do they feel safe to contribute?
By exploring your Board of Directors, you may be able to see how you are running your life. Are there any other significant members who are also sitting at the table? Or any that need to be? Name them and give them a post-it note place too. I know for me a younger version of me is still sat at the table, having been excluded in a cupboard for a long while! I now have invited her to the table and after an initial rant, she has quietened down but is not yet ready to walk away. A teenage version of me has recently joined my table too. At 15 I lost my dad suddenly to a heart attack and in loosing my mum recently I have recognised that I never allowed that 15 year old to express her emotions and grief. She jumped right into practical support of others. So, your Board will change over time and that is OK. Let it evolve, review it often and ensure it is best serving you. One way to think about it might be to consider your multiple brains as permanent members, and in addition you can co-opt other members for a season. For here and now who would it be useful to co-opt onto your Board? Create them a post-it note and invite them to your table…
Starting a Meeting
Before you open a formal meeting ensure you take a few minutes to get into balanced breathing. Set some intentions around respect, honesty, safety…whatever you need to set and ensure you get agreement from all board members before you start.
Ensure you have set aside enough time – and consider having a coach in the room with you as a trusted advisor to guide you as you conduct your board meeting.
Remember also to thank all the members for showing up, ask them what they need and show appreciation for their input and contribution. Ensure you check in regularly with each one to see if they have anything they want to say. You can begin in the easiest way by asking the member who wants to speak first – or you can begin in the foundational sequence, adding in additional members as feels right to you – you will know exactly where to include them.
Get in touch…
I would love to hear your experiences of setting up your Board of Directors and running a meeting, either for yourself or with clients. Do let me know how you have played with this to enable wisdom to emerge. Send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org