Advice: All that I Give is Meant for Me to Hear

A new website design prompts reflection on lessons learned



Trusted to serve
by Tamara Paton in Work of the board

If you are reading this post on my website, you may notice that the format has changed. When a generous reader gently tore my old design to pieces a few months ago, I committed to a renovation. Feeling inspired, I sketched new layouts, combed through my photo library, and doodled logo designs.

For six months, I did everything but actually build a new site. Given that I often write about hustle, I’m feeling like a fraud at the moment. (See here and here to revel in my hypocrisy.)

Of course, you probably realize by now that these posts chronicle my own learning. I don’t bound out of bed every Monday with new wisdom to share. Most of the advice emerges from my own setbacks and challenges. When I research a response to a reader question, the insight inevitably informs my own board work a few weeks later.

In short, all the advice I give is meant for me to hear.

Looking back over the more than 80,000 words I’ve drafted for this site, a handful of lessons emerge.

We are what we consistently do

When I skim my early posts, I’m embarrassed by their simplicity. It seems that writing improves as it becomes a habit. In my experience, public speaking also benefits from consistent practice. And my networking tactics add up only when we make them routine.

Take action: If you save blog posts in a folder labeled “Someday,” choose one and take action on the ideas contained therein.

Underlying every success and frustration is a teacher

I have had the privilege of working with some truly outstanding professionals. My colleagues offer supportive feedback and a “been there, done that” approach to organizational challenges. As much as I appreciate formal governance training and a healthy reading list, we perform at the level of the five directors with whom we spend the most time. Try to make sure they are worthy!

I have also worked with a small number of less than inspiring individuals. On occasion, I’ve been stunned by the abuse of power around me. Navigating and eventually anticipating their questionable behaviour, however, became a valuable learning ground. In short, nothing surprises me anymore.

Take action: Over the next week, keep a running tally of teachable moments in your work and the individuals who conveyed the lessons. Thank your sources of good advice for the positive difference they make.

We must carve out rooms of our own

A 7-year old girl who aspires to be president one day received a recent note from Hillary Clinton. In it, Clinton encouraged the girl to speak her mind, own her ideas, and value her contributions.

“If the space you’re in doesn’t have room for your voice, don’t be afraid to carve out a space of your own.”

We follow Clinton’s advice by seeking board roles that once belonged to a chosen elite. We create space when we clearly communicate our goals and help other directors own their ideas. As a director, I’m trying to stand my ground and support others as they do the same.

Take action: In your next board meeting, identify the dynamics that help and hinder others as they share their voices. How could you spark a shift?


A reader once described this blog as a “Boardroom 101” resource. Buoyed by a new design, I hope to make it a home base for those carving out boardrooms of their own. Thank you for being part of the experience and for your encouragement along the way.

Your turn: What are the two or three key lessons you’ve learned through your board career? If you wrote a blog post like this one, what themes would emerge for you?

Please share your response via Twitter, LinkedIn or e-mail.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button on LinkedIn and/or share it with others in your network. Doing so helps my work reach others and would mean so much to me.




Advice: All that I Give is Meant for Me to Hear

by Tamara time to read: 3 min