Who’s Got Your Back?

Along with the cornerstone activity of setting goals and imagining them to be true from my last post, “The Slow Death of Idle,” another tried-and-true quality among leaders we respect and admire is having a long list of supporters. We all know despite technological advances in the workplace we still need meaningful face-to-face exchanges, particularly when starting a new project or team. But it’s much more than the obvious tactical benefits:

  1. Meaningful, positive connection and the support of others is critical for personal health and happiness. In the book Mind Over Medicine, New York Times best-selling author Lissa Rankin, M.D. describes several studies that show how social ties, healthy relationships and support of a community affect not just your happiness, but your physiology.
  2. It’s heralded as the best way to grow your career and find the best opportunities, demonstrated by the popular book, “Your Network is Your Net Worth,” and other similar resources.
  3. For two straight decades we’ve heard about the “war for talent” and growing skill gap compared to jobs available. This quote from a recent Forbes article, “We Need To Change How We Think About Talent,” puts it best: “The ‘best and brightest’ will have to make way for the highly motivated and deeply connected.

Who’s Got Your Back?

Hence, one of my 2014 goals is to grow the list of positive people with whom I can learn from and give back to. Will you join me? I decided to come up with three people with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Inspire me in some way
  • Have skills I want or need
  • Need a helping hand, mentor or advice
  • I owe a “thank you” to for providing help, knowledge or support

Once you’ve thought of a handful of people, next drop the beliefs you have about the discomfort of reaching out to such people. Just trust yourself to reach out in a way that isn’t awkward and shows genuine interest. In my case, there are a few people I’d like to thank for something specific, and plan to just do so. In another case, I will refer to my goals for 2014 and ask to speak for 20-30 minutes about her journey to what she’s doing today. What have been her Peak Moments on this journey?

No matter what was the original purpose for the interaction, always close with, “If there is anything I can ever do for you, please let me know. Is there anything I can do now?”

Why am I doing this, and why should you? This is the start of the, “Who’s Got Your Back” list. It’s sort of like managing your LinkedIn network, except taken to a more meaningful level — people who you value and have built a selfless relationship with. People you respect and want to give back to. People who ultimately can speak to your deepest strengths and vouch for your integrity and character.

Also, because you want to grow, lead and move forward purposefully from where you are today to somewhere better. A big part of how you’ll get there will always be strong relationships.

I realize this type of activity competes with a very real drain from dealing with folks that would be the last on your list of positive people with whom to associate. Conflict and choking back what you’d really like to say, day in and day out, edges out activities to build positive relationships.

Well, take back that energy by associating with people who “get” you, can help in your career and people you admire or should help. Gradually without even being aware of it, you’ll find yourself in the desirable place of being with people who matter, and less and less with people who don’t, or at the very least, you’re less bothered by them.

Every interaction is an opportunity to build your brand among those who might have your back someday, so pick three people today and show them you care. It might even make you healthier and happier.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

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