It is easy to get caught up in being busy and forget to connect with others. Bills need to be paid, kids need to be fed and taken to school, and the latest work crisis needs to be resolved before the boss ends up with a heart attack. In the middle of all of that, it is important to remember to keep in touch with others - friends, family, and other non-urgent connections.
A few weeks ago, I got reminded of how priceless a support network is. Perhaps predictably, the reminder came as a result of a crisis. I was leaving the Vancouver airport to conduct a presentation the following day. To my horror, I found out that my laptop wouldn't start. Needing my laptop for a presentation the following day (a Monday), this was quite a bad thing. I knew two people with all the necessary computer knowledge needed to solve my problem. One of these friends was unavailable but I was able to speak on the phone to the other friend about the situation. At the same time, my mother and step-father were heroically fighting bad traffic so that they could pick up Windows Recovery CDs from my home and bring them to the airport before my plane took off, in case my on-the-phone troubleshooting with my friend was insufficient to solve the problem.
At the end of this whole operation, I was actually quite humbled. I had the help of my friend, my mother and step-father, and one very kind airport security supervisor who schlepped my CDs from my mother to me at the take-off gate. My computer problem got solved, and I was able to take off from the airport breathing a little easier. If I hadn't had everyone able or willing to help me, I would have had a tough time finding someone ready to help in Monterey, California, at my midnight arrival time. I was humbled as I felt very lucky to have people around me who made it possible to solve my crisis so quickly and so efficiently.
Do you have a strong network that you could call on in a crisis, when you need someone to be there for you immediately, with no questions asked? I have noticed that with each coaching client, a support network is almost always missing. I have also noticed that building a strong support system is always one of the key factors which lead to great growth in a client. Here are some of the things to pay attention to as you build a network.
TRUST AND RELIABILITY. If you have built a strong network, there will likely come a time when you will need to call on someone in your support system (and vice versa) at some very inconvenient time. It could be a Sunday night, it could be 2 am. If you ever need to ask for help, you want to hear, "yes, I'll be there". If you haven't built sufficient trust (or if the people in your network believe in one-sided help only), this help will come with resentment or not at all.
RELATIONSHIP DEPOSITS. You need to take the time to build the relationship. That takes work, and there is really no easy and quick way around that. You will need to "do lunch", catch up on the phone, and send "congratulations on your child's graduation" cards. And, of course, when THEY call YOU at 2 a.m., you will need to think hard before saying "no" to their request.
COMPLIMENTARY TALENTS. In a strong network, you will have people who have strengths and knowledge you don't have - and vice versa. This way, you can learn from them and they will learn from you. You might also be in a position to help each other indirectly, through introductions to other people and resources in your respective networks. Write down what strengths and knowledge you would like to have, and consciously look for people with those qualities.
CHALLENGE AND INSPIRATION. The people in your network should challenge you and inspire you to be the best you can be. It may be a cliché, but we really do "become like the 5 people we most commonly associate with". If that's the case, pick wisely. If your current support network doesn't challenge and inspire you, there is no need to abandon your friends, but you will want to find some new ones as well.
In North America, there is sometimes much value put on individual achievement and not enough on shared success. In my experience in talking to great leaders, they always cite a strong network as one of the absolute keys to their success. Isn't it time to build or re-evaluate your own network so that, when a crisis hits, you can weather it better? And, if there is no crisis? You will simply have some more neat people to learn from and to enjoy a nice conversation and a glass of wine with on some cool winter night!
"Next week there can't be any crisis. My schedule is already full."
Henry A. Kissinger
"Ours is a world where people don't know what they want and
are willing to go through hell to get it."
"If you want a quality, act as if you already had it. Try the "as if" technique."