There is truth to the adage that no one succeeds alone: the Lone Ranger had Tonto, and Bud Abbot had Lou Costello. They needed and relied on each other to achieve their goals. Even the self-made millionaire used “somebody’s” resources to achieve professional success. It makes sense to have a system that allows people to pool their mental capacities to solve problems, generate great ideas, learn together, and perhaps even conquer the world. It is important that you know how to build your support network.
Who do you have on your support team, the people who watch your back?
Your support network should consist of about four to six people who are committed to helping each other achieve their goals. Members of this support network do not have to be from the same company, they just have to have a willingness to help others while helping themselves. Each member of the network assumes the role of “buddy” or sidekick to the other members.
Why You Need a Support Network
As part of the work I do, I interview accomplished people, and a recurring theme is the importance of having a group of people who support you and cheer you on. The language may differ from person-to-person, but the message is clear: You need a team of advisers, people who you can call on, you need people to be accountable to, no one succeeds alone, you need people to watch your back.
How to Find Members for your Support Network
- Identify people in your diverse networks whose goals, personal mission and values intersect with yours. LinkedIn is very helpful in finding members for your support network.
- Initially, get together to talk about what is important to you, and where you would like to see yourselves in five years.
- Brainstorm various ways to fill the gap between where you are, to where you want to be.
- Before committing, take the group for a test drive to discover if real chemistry is there.
Desired Characteristics of the Members in your Support Network
- Willingness to share wisdom, knowledge and experiences
- Ability to explain, teach and communicate
- Capacity to listen actively
- Old enough to have learned important life lessons
- Accomplished and possess extraordinary perception
- Unique ability to sort out the valuable from the superfluous
- Facilitates understanding
- Enlightened and understand that the world is bigger than them
- Willingness to help others succeed
- Well-read and has exceptional intellect
- Demonstrates intellectual inquiry
- Problem solvers
- Change makers
Characteristics of Highly Successful Support Networks
- Established ground rules
- Clear purpose and well-defined expectations
- Non-competitive relationship among members
- Safe and secure environment
- Absolute confidentiality
- Group has structure and focus
- Members pool knowledge and resources
- Encourage each other to achieve personal and professional goals
- Members support and encourage each other to overcome obstacles
- Personal chemistry within circles among members is important
- Respect for diverse backgrounds and needs of co-mentors
- Values among co-mentors are aligned
- Members are people whom you trust
- Members have to be people with whom you can speak freely to
- Improve upon each other’s unique skills
- Members recognize both academic and non-academic achievements/professional and non-professional achievements of each other
- Commit to meet between one to two hours every two weeks
- Evaluate regularly to determine if the needs of all members are being addressed by the group
Final Thoughts: How to Build Your Support Network
Rotate roles and responsibilities among group members. Members in your support network could be co-mentors to each other. In today’s environment, standing still is no longer an option in work and life. Use your support to partner your way to success.
UPDATE: First published in September 2009