The first time I heard about a Steering Group (SG) I was in my mid-twenties, working for a huge financial institution on a merger project. I was an assistant to a project manager and one of my tasks was to ensure that the SG had everything they needed to understand the health of the project: financials, latest updates, project risks, assumptions, dependencies and issues… and a big long etc. As years went by I have become accustomed to the concept but it was only some time ago that I realised that having a SG could be useful for my own life.
I am proud to be a girl boss and I am passionate about my career and have very clear life goals that I want to achieve. Having my own Steering Group is one of the best decisions I have made because life is full of choices and sometimes I appreciate to see things from a different and knowledgeable perspective. Like in the Change Management world, my steerco will provide me with useful insights that come from their years of life experience or specific knowledge that I don’t have myself; they are skilful individuals that will answer my questions in an open and objective way – sometimes leaving aside their own feelings or existing relationships.
The range of topics and big questions that I run past them are really diverse: from property ladder discussions to professional career moves. It is worth mentioning that there is a very important factor to consider at all times: even if your SG assists you in the decision making process, you are ultimately responsible for the final answer and its consequences – after all no one but you can be held accountable for your own life. Some of them know that they are on my “board of directors” (and it is quite fun… until we go into the serious chat!), but you don’t have to tell them if you don’t want or it might feel weird.
How to choose your team of advisors
As you have read through this post, you probably have a couple of names that spontaneously popped into you head. It is very likely that you already have some people around to share your aspirations and thoughts. Perhaps a close friend or a relative that you feel comfortable speaking to because of how incredible supportive they are.
Whilst having a trustworthy intimate circle is really important, your Steering Group is about something else: there are certain skills that, in my opinion, are a must. Perhaps your mum is a great source of security and love but if (for example) she is scared of change and never leaves her comfort zone; she won’t make a good Steering Group member.
Choose people that are not afraid of trying new things or making mistakes. You will recognise them because they are probably living on their own terms: these are the people that have fallen seven times but managed to get back up eight! When making life-changing decisions, you cannot be constrained by fear or otherwise, you will end up living with your parents forever and never falling in love (just in case it hurts!)
Consider the specific skills that you need your Steerco to complement you on: if your strength is not numbers and finances, perhaps you need someone to discuss everyday life things such as pension plans, mortgages or budgeting tips. On the contrary, if you are passionate about how to best manage your moneys but struggle with home organisation and minimalism, you will rather look for your very own Francine Jay.
Something very important if you what your SG to survive in the long run is to ensure that everyone has a constructive criticism approach rather than a judgemental one. If they are the truly steering members you are looking for, sometimes they will deliver difficult messages to you and tell you things that perhaps you don’t want to hear. This will be fine as long as they communicate with kindness and a pinch of humanity. At the end of the day, their role is not to disapprove what you want to do next but to help you analyse whether it’s the best thing for you.
And last, but not least: confidentiality and discretion is absolutely required.
A Steerco Example
A while ago, I wanted to leave my employer to pursue my own project. It was a very difficult decision to make and I had a very clear view of the pros and cons that both would entail. Lose of a permanent source of income. Autonomy to choose the projects I wanted to do. Having to hunt for clients. Freedom to decide how much time I want to work… Even though I was perfectly able to understand the consequences of making the move (as well as the consequences of staying the same!) I was struggling to make a decision alone and therefore, I decided to ask my Steering Group members.
All of them came up with a positive endorsement towards leaving my employer. They could see how I was not feeling happy and professionally fulfilled for the last year. They reminded me that if I didn’t like to be self-employed, I could just look for a job again – we went through the worst-case scenario together: e.g. what would happen if I took the wrong decision. My SG even helped me to plan the best timing and considerations to make the move and once I took the jump, they were extra supportive because they knew how important it was for me.
*Disclaimer* The pictures I have used to improve the readability have nothing to do with a Life Steering Group. Taking pictures of things like skills, steers or decision making processes is probably beyond my photographer expertise and I did not want to insert the typical and topical pics of people talking to each other. Therefore, I decided to use some pictures that I took in a recent trip to Dundee where I visited the V&A museum.
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