Choose Supporters, Not Saboteurs
Noticing who’s around when you’re successful can really help you find success. For example, if you have constant conflict with someone, ask yourself, “Is this person supportive of me? Is she a supporter? Or, is he a saboteur?” You can quickly and easily find solutions by recalling who is with you when you are most successful. Emulating supportive leaders, networking with them, admiring them, and learning from them can also help you improve your leadership as well as your personal and professional relationships.
Supporters give you direction
Similar to a GPS (global positioning satellite) that tells you where (on earth) you are and how to reach your destination, supporters can give you direction too. But, supporters provide an SPS, or social positioning system. Because people close to you can help you determine where you are in relation to your goal, it’s important that you find a supporter, a supportive change partner, you can trust and respect. Spend some time each week with this person, talking about where you are, where you want to be, and the distance between these two points.
Supporters are healthy for you
There is overwhelming medical and psychological research demonstrating how important interpersonal relationships are to our health. People who have less stress and more success in their life have relationships that are supportive, nurturing, and advantageous. Successful people balance personal needs with social responsibility. They balance “what’s in it for me” with “what can I do for you”. Although they have “alone time,” these successful leaders have social time as well. The people you associate with can determine your performance level, success, and happiness. And, it’s much easier to do well when your friends and family are happy, supportive, successful supporters-NOT saboteurs. As the saying goes, “If you want to soar with the eagles, don’t hang with the turkeys!”
Supporters can help you change
Who can provide you with the means to achieve your goal(s)? Who will be on your support team? Like a motivational coach often checks in with you every week to see how you are doing on your goal, supporters can do the same. Your supportive change partner can hold you accountable so that you implement the changes you desire. Having this support network will help you boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. As a result, the quality of your life and your work will improve. But, before selecting your supporters, ask yourself this Magic question from chapter 10 of my book, Leadership Success in Spite of Stress: Who’s around when you’re most successful? Here is the link to the book:
Clara was a leader with a lot of stress. Being a mother and a travel agency owner, the daily events in her life had her reeling. Her body’s response to stress-the adrenaline surge, rapid heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure-had her feeling like a revving car with the gas pedal stuck and the engine racing while in neutral.
When she asked herself this question, Clara recalled that it wasn’t her cranky friend or her antagonizing ex-husband who were around when she was successful managing stress. They usually irritated and frustrated her. It seemed that they did little more than create more stress in her life. “Choosing to ignore their comments was empowering and relaxing. I didn’t allow those people to push my buttons. Instead of choosing people who will drag me down further with their negative attitude, I found someone healthy to talk to—an understanding friend, a boyfriend. When I’m upset, I sometimes think I’m the only one. But talking it over with someone who is supportive reduced my stress by making me feel less alone. By making friends with positive thinkers rather than chronic worrywarts, I got out of the habit of worrying.”
Some relationships are helpful while others are not. According to Dr Phillip McGraw, author of Ultimate Weight Solution, the latter category includes people who are energy draining. “I don’t mean that you have to be self-centered. There’s nothing wrong with helping those who need your help once in a while. Actually, this helping can boost your self-esteem. But energy drainers seldom get enough. These needy individuals will run you down. “No amount of help is likely to ‘help’ them.” The more you sacrifice for them, the more convinced they will be that they need you. “This may be flattering to your ego, but it will increase your stress.”
Many of the women I coach have several friends. However, when I ask them if they have the right people advising them in their leadership positions, helping them advance their careers, or helping them achieve their goals in spite of stress, they say “no”. They feel like creating these “strategic” relationships seems manipulative, superficial, and selfish. They worry about whether they deserve the favor they’re asking. You see, girls were socialized to avoid being labeled as a “user” or “phony” whereas boys were taught that pragmatic relationships or connecting with someone for the simple purpose of getting something done was acceptable. Women tend to think they can do it on their own or that it’s easier that way. Or, they underestimate how important the right relationships can be in getting ahead, completing tasks, and accomplishing objectives. When I speak on this topic, I ask the audience to think of a major accomplishment in their lives, one they feel especially proud of. Then I ask them if they were able to achieve it on their own. 90% of the time, people again say “no”. They had one or more people who were pivotal in helping them get there. High achievers rarely do anything significant by themselves.
Build mutually beneficial relationships
I am not suggesting that you build manipulative, impersonal, or self-serving acquaintances. What I am referring to here is mutually beneficial relationships that provide both parties with opportunities to learn and get ahead in their careers. You may have arrived at where you are in your career by capitalizing on your technical skills, by positioning yourself as a “star” employee who does a great job, by getting results from your team, and by meeting your goals and objectives. But, as you climb the corporate ladder to higher levels of leadership, you must learn to deal with more strategic issues. You need fewer task-oriented skills and more relationship-building skills. Successful executives with whom I work not only have credibility, leadership skill, and authority. They also have a diverse and rich pool of people on whom they can rely. On the way up, they invest time into befriending smart, talented people. They create the right mix of backgrounds, perspectives, and levels of influence they need in order to achieve success in spite of stress.
So focus on relationships that are positive and reciprocal. Choose relationships that are mutually beneficial. As much as possible, limit or be selective regarding the people with whom you work, do business, or associate. That doesn’t mean you have to stop talking to certain people. Remember the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle? Eighty percent of your success comes from 20 percent of your efforts. Nurture the relationships representing that 20%. And, remember, you cannot be everything to everyone.
Surround yourself with successful supporters
Surround yourself with people who will give you inspiration. Associate with those who support a success-oriented way of thinking and acting. As a part of your success team, these supporters can celebrate each victory with you while providing encouragement and support during disappointments. They will give you positive and constructive feedback, which will continue to reinforce your motivation.
Whether they are a professional coach, friend, or a colleague, find a mentor—someone who has what you want and find out how they got it. This is an excellent example of a support person. Model that person’s behavior. You don’t need to become that person’s clone. Just pick up the traits you admire and begin to emulate them. You may even want to ask your mentor to introduce you to her/his network of contacts. Again, be sure to build some reciprocity into those relationships. The more you help others, the more help you receive in return. The successful executives I’ve worked with have strategic relationships built on collaboration and mutual support. These relationships also have a positive impact on their well-being.
Supporters can reduce stress & increase success
Nothing is more critical to your success or effective at reducing stress than relationships. But, rather than being a self-sacrificing martyr, you may have to be a little selfish. After all, you have only so much time to give to relationships. Let all the players in your life (spouse, friends, employees, kids, everybody) know your boundaries—what they can ask of you and when they can ask. Explain that if you take on too many tasks, chances are you won’t get any of them done, so you must be selective about what you agree to do.
Rather than scattering yourself all over the place among energy drainers, you would be better off cultivating those relationships that will advance your career success. This doesn’t mean that you should appease the office jerk because he may be able to advance your career. That’s demeaning. Besides, most people can detect that kind of manipulation and insincerity. Instead, develop meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships—real friends—as you go up the ladder. It will pay off in a huge way.
You will always encounter people who have an interest in seeing you struggle or fail. These are the people who like to be there for you when you are down and needy. To see you making positive changes and taking risks that secretly they may have wanted to make themselves but were too afraid to, is uncomfortable for them. It threatens them. After all, what would happen if you no longer needed them? They’d be useless because they need to be needed, right? Avoid this type of person.
Take a relationship inventory
One of the first steps in building a solid support network is to identify the kind of relationships you have now. Take the following Relationship Inventory:
1) With whom are you most successful?
2) With whom are you least successful?
3) Do you have any relationships with people who take so much time and effort they suck the life out of you?
4) Which of your relationships have an equal exchange of time and energy?
5) Which of these people help you?
6) Which of these people bring out the best in you?
Author, Trainer/Facilitator, Executive Coach
LPI (Leadership Practices Inventory) Certified Coach