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You don’t need to be alone in making your decisions. Maybe you had parents, friends or partners as key supporters in the past for key decisions. This can be all a bit ad-hoc.
One of my ex-Andersen colleagues left the business and has built up two very successful consulting companies. He has held control of his businesses but, surrounded himself with people who had built similar businesses before, who could advise and challenge him. I meet other CEOs who feel pretty alone; they don’t have talent around them to guide them and hold them to account.
When I look at successful individuals and businesses the leaders have collected around them six types of supporter.
The person they look up to and aspire to. You may have multiple ones for different elements of your life. For example, some people might take Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela as role models for dealing with adversity, but Richard Branson as a role model for being an entrepreneur. You might take a boss, colleague or business leader as an example.
This is a person who believes in you. You may or may not have had that from your parents. You might not even realise that you have a supporter. It might be a client who keeps asking you to be on their account. It might be a boss who keeps asking you to follow them.
This person helps you take away the barriers in your life, open up possibilities and encourage you to make decisions and move forward. It can be a formal relationship, such as a life coach or therapist. It might be a mate in the pub. This is a person who will be with you for the long haul, whom you can share your hope, fears, and decisions, and they can be honest back to you about your strengths and weaknesses.
This person knows more about you in the areas you need to succeed. It might be someone who knows about product management, intellectual property, setting up a web-site and much more. People love sharing their experience and advice, and for the cost of a dinner, you might get both advice, and also a potential future champion for you.
This person is different from an advisor; they will help you build skills. So you might need an advisor to tell you about the sales pipeline, but a teacher will help you run great sales calls.
The last type of supporter is the door opener or networker. This is someone who is well connected, and can join you to the people you need to know. This person might be someone unexpected – e.g. the mum at the school gate who knows all the parents, or the person who runs the local bar.
Who is in your team of supporters?
Think of your family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, friends from sports or hobbies. Who is already on your team – and what roles are missing?
When thinking of the people in the roles, you may have 3 challenges:
- They aren’t actually building you up, even if they think they are. For example, they might be a ‘yes-but’ person, thinking they are helping, but always finding problems in what you do. It is helpful to know your traps but without help in moving to the next step, it can just be demoralising. Alternatively, they might say ‘call me whenever’ but then aren’t there when you need them.
- They might not be the right person for the role. For example, for one entrepreneur, he surrounded himself with other people in more of a pyramid scheme than real supporters, so he didn’t have role models of how he could succeed, only people who were looking to make money from him.
- You aren’t (yet) in the right network. At least you now know. If you have heard of the six degrees of separation, then you’ll know that you just need to call through your network to find that person.
Success requires a team. To ‘make your future work’ you need the right people around you. For the people I work with, I can provide some of the requirements of these different supporter roles, but I always encourage them to build a team of supporters in depth. Where are your gaps and how will you fill them?
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.