Tips for Assembling and Using a Personal Committee to its Full Potential

As your work takes you to new places, there are more reasons than ever to gather early feedback. For this purpose, I propose what I call the personal committee. The committee has gotten a bad reputation recently, so let me explain how this is better than abhorred concepts such as “design by committee”. A personal committee is a group of people who, separately but simultaneously, act as a sounding board for a project. The project can be anything from a new business or new market to a career change.

The concept and its practice are very flexible. Personal committees can function by formal or informal arrangement; communication can be virtual or in person, and members can include mentors and peers. The committee is comprised of individuals you consult at the same time, but they need not know or interact with one another. The magic of the personal committee is twofold–it can serve to keep you on track and provide early and frequent feedback in an otherwise lonely endeavor.

Here are some tips for assembling and using a personal committee to its full potential.

Select. Choose candidates for your personal committee who have some knowledge, experience or connections relevant to your goal. Look for individuals with whom you are already acquainted, and to whom you do not report in your day job, if your endeavor is outside it.

Pitch. Thinking like a recruiter, craft an introduction that crows your past accomplishments, and gives a compelling case for the purpose and benefits of your next project. Think through the committee process, and provide a general scope (such as frequency of contact and the number of project milestones). Your recruit will be in a better position to consider the commitment with knowledge of the undertaking.

Engage. Begin with a live meeting, if possible. Discuss your goals, strengths and weaknesses, as well as what you are looking for from a personal committee. Based on the immediate feedback, move forward with a suggested touchpoint cadence.

Collect feedback. Find ways to report updates, provide project artifacts and collect feedback on a regular basis. Revealing your work will likely push you into uncomfortable territory, since your project is large and challenging. Be realistic about the volume you plan to complete for each milestone, and monitor your own B.S. meter if you find yourself delaying. Be aware of twin schedule tensions. Give yourself too much time, and you may be too paralyzed to complete anything. On the other hand, if you try to compress work that requires a great deal of consideration by promising it too early, you may cause yourself stress. As a rule, rather than trying to “perfect” your work and deliver it all at once, share well thought-out chunks frequently. That way, you’ll get the most benefit from feedback.

Appreciate. Find ways to thank your personal committee members. Write them recommendations, include them in your dedications, thank them in your speeches, and provide professional referrals in your day-to-day. These gestures will go a great distance to demonstrate the value peer committee members contribute to your work.

Ready to give it a try? I’d like to hear about your personal committee experiences!