How deep is your bench? It’s a question often asked of sports teams, but applies equally to companies and their leaders.
When developing a support network–men and women who support your goals, both personally and professionally–what attributes, and whom, do you look for? We asked business owners and executive coaches to weigh in, and while the ideal number of “teammates” fluctuates, some characteristics remain constant.
Your support network should include:
- People you trust, who’ve walked the path you’re walking
- Someone in a different field, for perspective, who’s honest, been successful, and whose strengths are your weaknesses.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll find everything you need in one person. “You need a variety of people with different personality factors and life experience,” says Karla Brandau, executive coach and CEO of Workplace Power Institute, which specializes in assisting virtual teams. “Someone who is street smart will give you different advice than a Ph.D. You need to get advice from both,” she says.
“You have to consciously curate a list of people who possess the key habits or traits you need to get started, and then intentionally cultivate meaningful connections with them to help you achieve your goals,” says Alexandre Douzet, CEO and cofounder of job matching service, TheLadders. Douzet says he’s done this both personally and professionally, as both an entrepreneur and a triathlete.
Once you’ve identified these people, how do you meet them? If you hate attending networking mixers, you’re in luck. It can be as simple as going online and hitting social media sites like LinkedIn, says Mary Kurek, a professional networking consultant.
While it’s easy to connect with people, Kurek says it’s important to make meaningful connections to create relationships. She suggests looking for people whose background and experience are in your field and meeting with two or three of them a week, either in person or via Skype. She’s connected clients with business partners, and attributes that success to regularly working her network. “There’s always a people solution to a people problem and there’s always at least one person between you and your goal,” she says.
“When I first started my consulting business, I reached out to people across the country that I had previously met at conferences, or whose blogs I followed, says Stacy Lindenberg, owner of Talent Seed Consulting LLC, a strategic consulting service. “I asked them for 20 minutes of their time, and asked them questions such as, ‘If you could do one thing differently when starting your business, what would it be?’ and ‘What did you learn that you didn’t know before?’” Lindenberg says. She used the responses to formulate a business plan, sent thank you notes, and maintains a relationship with her support team.