Heading into the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of a new decade, Susan Roberts features as our guest writer on the Spring blog.  She has worked in Retail, Logistics, Sales, Business Improvement and currently Data Protection – it’s been a fascinating career, and has been featured on her blog which gets into cycling and other important matters. If you’d like to chat more with Susan then connect on Linkedin and chip in with your comments below.  Thanks, Luke


Time to take stock of the past year (decade, gulp) and set intentions for the new one. I usually start with thinking about how I can improve on my weaknesses and because this is not a particularly amusing task I mix it up with some good “plots” You know what I mean, I imagine doing stuff! Some of it will always remain a dream but some plots take shape and become a plan, they build and twist and turn and develop with a cast of characters. However the risk with these plots is that they can become big and scary or they get complicated or worse still fizzle out.  To prevent this they need stewardship and support .

This is where my Board comes in. I know that in order to get the best performance out of myself (proper selfishness) and also the best for others around me I require support; and in order for some of those plots to become marvellous magical adventures I need help! Similar to in business the Board are there to coach, support, sign off on plans and set me right when I go off course.

I came across the idea of a Personal Board whilst reading Achieve the Impossible by Professor Greg Whyte. Understanding your wheel of success and what part the right team with the right skills play in it, made me think more about the benefits of having a team with different skills not only to help with sporting challenges but also career and pretty big life stuff.

Alone I would ponder and dither and essentially do less. So the Board of Susan are a key component to my success. Let me qualify success. I am a good enough parent, I have developed my career in a number of directions, I have achieved all my sporting dreams and am still standing! I am capable of doing a reasonable impression of a grown up most of the time.

The Board is made up of an amazing group of people that I have collected along the way. From a friend I made at the cricket club aged eight to the management consultant who worked with me for a year and God love him still takes my call ten years later. There is the colleague who I could not get on with for years who now is my greatest supporter and the members who I have met through my bike adventures who have provided huge knowledge and wisdom. I have occasionally added new folks to the board and as I develop myself some skills are no longer helpful. All offer unbiased and super clear advice the sort you couldn’t rely on your family for “you will be wonderful at it darling”….. Nice as this is, it’s not always true. The board are the straight talkers and compensate for my own blind spots and inherent biases.

When reflecting on a tough year I thought about the roles they have played and the ways they have added value.

Board approval: my reaction to change is not always the most positive so Board members are used to counter my natural reaction and give an objective view to temper the catastrophising. When there is a ‘plot twist’ the Board offer reassurance and clarity of thought.

Achievable: chapters! I have a board member who helps me divide things up into chapters. All building towards a story but sometimes with different flavours or focus. Chapters make it a lot less daunting and make plot twists expected and a necessary part of a good story.

Strategy: corner to corner. Once a plot has been devised Board members sometimes advise on approach. This can be helping with training plans, recommending how to fill knowledge gaps, or coaching. Often it is just breaking it down into small chunks. When cycling up a mountain it’s not a 13km climb it’s just cycling corner to corner! Every hair pin conquered is another step towards the goal.

Belief: “You got this, I got you” one Board member just sends a text with the above words. Always the same always when it’s needed. Knowing that someone has that level of belief and is there if you mess up is key to keeping trying.

Showing up: sometimes it’s about them being “by your side” whether it’s in the audience of a key presentation, next to you on a bike, meeting you at a station in London to buy you champagne or at the end of the phone. Being there is important.

The truth: “choices not sacrifices” When I protest too much about the sacrifices I make, the things I don’t do or miss out on, one Board member calmly reminds me that they are all my choices and they can be changed. Anything can be changed.

Cheer me on: “Goose honking” I love the fact that geese can fly 70% further in formation honking each other on. It’s key to me that the Board includes those who will cheer me on whatever the situation. Just knowing they are watching a little tracker blob on a screen or waiting on the corner to join me in the last few miles means I know I can’t stop and must keep moving forward.

Living on a prayer: The power of a good song – With one Board member I go for a drive turn the music up very load and sing badly (My singing voice is the worst ever… So this Board member is a saint!) It’s about letting off steam and venting.  (I highly recommend the Cranberries for this activity if Aerosmith doesn’t do it for you)

Maybe these sound like small things but this group, I believe, are my greatest strength. Their board duties are performed with great thought and consideration not just for me but for those around me. The level of trust we have means it can be the things I need to hear. “Get over yourself, get on with it, break it down, start small” are as valuable to me as the positive affirmations and encouragement. The unique perspectives they bring from their different professions, backgrounds and circumstances provide a wealth of knowledge.

As I start to formulate plots for the Roaring Twenties I am thinking they will have their work cut out! However, I am forever grateful and I hope the fruits of their labour give them some level of satisfaction too. There is no other bunch I would want to take another trip round the sun with. I hope they never get bored of Susan and whatever my share price they stick with the stock they have invested in.

If you’re still reflecting on what you want to work on this year or your plots need a bit of shaping, perhaps start with thinking about the stewardship you might need to reach your potential. Here’s what Carl Dorvil has to say about selecting your Board Members in his Forbes article.  What sort of advice and knowledge sharing would enable your plots to develop, flourish and become the story of your life? Who are your Board members?