When times get tough, who do you call? Your spouse, partner, family member, or a friend? Maybe a colleague? Are you a member of a group that meets regularly to talk about life? If you have not already built a support team, it’s time to start.
Having a support network and knowing when to reach out for guidance is important. Everyone needs help occasionally, and you’ll find that cultivating a reliable support team benefits your emotional health and makes you a stronger leader.
Building your support team outside of the office
Studies show a lack of support in general can lead to depression. This may be amplified for leaders, because in addition to the regular stress of life, they carry additional pressure. Plus, leadership is isolating. The old saying “it’s lonely at the top” is true, but it doesn’t have to be.
Authentic leaders counteract the stress of leadership by traveling with company. In Discover Your True North, we talk to Piper Jaffray CEO Tad Piper. Piper is a member of three support groups that meet regularly. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a couples group, and a Bible study. He credits each of these with positively impacting his life.
“Most of us don’t find the balance we desperately seek,” he said. “It is incredibly valuable to be reinforced by others who are wrestling with similar issues and actually doing something about them.”
Support groups allow you to hear new perspectives and put yourself in another’s shoes. Leaders tend to think of their decisions as final, but incorporating outside opinions allows you to see your choices for how they impact the bigger picture. Your support team also helps you keep a level head. When power and wealth pull you off course, your support network will keep you on track and hold you accountable.
In Discover Your True North, you read that gaining self-awareness through feedback is vital to your success as a leader. Support groups offer a natural source of feedback; they are necessary for your growth.
Developing support within your organization
An article from the University of Rhode Island points out that organizations are focusing more and more on specialized employees. Perhaps as a leader, you are hiring for a specific expertise right now. If your organization is full of various personalities and you make a decision without any input, you could negatively impact the majority of the company. However, if you bring multiple stakeholders into the decision-making process, you are more likely to get a true cause and effect response, and a decision that fully accounts for possible outcomes.
Shared decision-making also engenders trust. Employees appreciate being heard — especially Millennials, who want to feel empowered by a collective vision. Sharing the pressure of leadership is a way to be more open and vulnerable. Remember our discussion about how vulnerability humanizes a leader and draws a team closer? It’s all starting to come together.
Mentoring is a two-way street
Mentors are an important part of your support team. The benefits of having a mentor are clear. You can seek advice, bounce ideas off an experienced person, hear about obstacles and talk through challenges before they arise. But it may be equally valuable to provide this guidance to others. Lasting relationships must flow both ways.
The best mentoring relationships spark mutual learning. If you are mentoring someone, you’ll find you learn about your own industry as you talk through what you know.. You will also gain the perspective of another, often younger, person. You will see the business through a different lens. This offers valuable insight into what is working well and can expose where change is needed. Thirdly, you will develop valuable relationships. You will grow close with your mentee and gain access to a broader swathe of people as your mentee moves into the world.
Art Markman, author of Smart Thinking, puts these benefits of mentoring in three buckets: “Learning by Teaching,” “Building a Neighborhood,” and “Perspective on Your Career.” This is a nice summary of what we talk about in Discover Your True North. Mentoring is an act of self-growth, networking, and gaining new perspectives. Mentoring another person is, for a leader, a valuable component of support.
True North Groups
A True North Group is a small community of people who engage in intimate discussions about their lives and work. In 2011, I wrote True North Groups with my good friend Doug Baker Sr. We wanted to present a clear structure that allowed groups to efficiently extract honest communication. If you find yourself lacking support, start a group of your own.
When you feel the winds of life beginning to pull you off course, reach out for support. A support team or a True North Group is a great way to develop your self-awareness and move forward into honest communication. Support keeps you balanced. It’s irreplaceable if you want to become an authentic leader and continue toward your True North.
Learn more about this topic in Chapter 7: Support Team.