The Importance of a Strong Support System
One of the myths that people often hold dear is that they are responsible for their own success. But today, there is more and more acceptance of the notion that if you are going to succeed, it will be within a community, a group of other committed souls.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this. Think about the great innovators and doers in history. Were they operating solo? Was Thomas Edison working alone in his lab? Was Michelangelo up on the scaffolding all by himself, day in and day out?
People seek out and rely on social connections to a far greater extent than they did even a few decades ago. Think about the success of online networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. If you accept that most things are accomplished with a “posse,” it’s clear that you must think about who will accompany you on your journey, who will support you and help fill in the gaps. This takes on even greater importance during bad economic times. If you lose your job, your network might help you find a new one. Isolated people have a much harder time of it. (And your network needn’t just be online. Yours might be your bowling league or your investment club or those you worship with.)
Assembling the Dream Team
A big step on the way to a more balanced life is building a strong leadership team. This requires recognition that it really isn’t all about you. If the members of your team are talented and trustworthy, they will be effective, and you will be able to delegate with confidence. You’ll be free to do the things you are exceptional at, and you will have more free time—capital that you can spend as you like.
I like the advice that I heard Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, give during a talk at the University of Michigan in which he stressed that, for him, the most important aspect of team building is to pick people of the highest character. Be very selective, Dumars advised, and surround yourself with the right people.
As you do that, it’s important to resist the urge to tap clones of yourself. Select people who are strong in different ways and who can complement one another. If you’re the creative, big- picture type, make sure someone on your team is better at the gritty details. If you’re highly competitive but tend to rub people the wrong way, pick someone who is great at schmoozing and not as highly charged. Each member of the team should play off the strengths—and weaknesses—of others.
Once you have a great team, let everyone do their job. That’s what the team is there for. You won’t be forced to do things you’re not very good at or qualified to do. The team will step up. One of my clients put together a very strong team as he built his company. When he was ready to expand, he was able to turn his full attention to his mission while his team kept things humming internally.
Recognizing the importance of your team also will give you the proper perspective on yourself. Otherwise, you may think that you can solve everything. Failing to recognize your limits can be your undoing. Working with a team will keep an overinflated sense of how powerful and important you are from taking over.
This point was brought home to me by Robert Chapman, president and CEO of United Bancorp Inc., based in Michigan. “Leaders may be powerful and extremely important to their companies, but they’re also just ordinary people—no better or worse than anyone else,” Bob notes. “If your company or department or project is successful, it’s not just because of you—it’s because everyone has done their job, including the cleaning crews who came in after you went home at night.”
These sections came directly from my book, Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Times. The book is a toolbox of leadership strategies for men and women who want to improve their performance at work and in the community. This book helps aspiring leaders define their strengths and teaches them how to strike a balance between their career, family, and other circles of life. Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Times explains that leaders who balance these spheres of life are some the most effective leaders there are.