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Leaders Have Mentors, Athletes Have Coaches, Our President Has a Cabinet. Have You Created Your Circle of Trust?

It is impossible to do it all on your own. You simply can’t. You need the assessment and guidance of a reliable core team. In this article I will discuss how you can orchestrate your own trusted team. Ignore the fable of the solitary rock star practitioner and the do-it-alone drivel that our society flings at us.

The genuine track to victory in your professional and personal life can only come from having an inner circle of deep, trustworthy relationships with a handful of people who will give you the reassurance, inspiration, advice and backing to achieve your dream, whatever that might be. It is this reason that top executives have personal mentors, star athletes have coaches, our President has a Cabinet and college research candidates have thesis advisors.

You must have heard the story of Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch and how it came into existence? Well, the story goes that as a child Jean was overweight, a trend that continued into her 30s. She would try various diet programs but would lose motivation in a few weeks despite losing several pounds each time. Soon she realized that she needed someone in her peer group to periodically motivate her and talk to her for support. She recruited her friends and started a trend where they would all lose weight together. Thus started weight watchers where the core idea was the combination of dieting with peer support.

In the end I feel that it is not just about the money you make but also more importantly about producing the results that you really want out of your life. Otherwise you might make a lot of money yet remain miserable or feel unsuccessful. You need to know what drives you, what your inner stimuli and primacies are, and then stay out of your own way. That way you can focus wholeheartedly on your goals and live what you might believe to be a satisfying life for yourself.

Also remember that although the Internet is a vital resource, it is not the solution to your inner circle needs. The number or quality of your online-connections is great but you cannot count on them as a lifeline. It’s usually the case that the ones that thrive in today’s business ecosystem are those people that actively seek and secure support, advice, mentorship, feedback or coaching from within and outside of their companies.

People want their work to have meaning and having an inner circle of friends and advisors is a great way to find that meaning. You’ll be surprised to learn that most companies do not encourage close social connections in the workplace. That’s what Tom Rath has revealed in his book Vital Friends which says that less than 1 in 5 people work in companies that they believe offer an opportunity for them to bond beyond basic professional ties.

In order to create your inner circle you need to understand, practice and if possible master some core traits of human behavior.

You need to be able to help others flourish in whatever capacity you are able to do. Be generous even if you think you have nothing to offer. You always have something to offer. Austrian Neurologist and Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has captivated generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.

Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. He rejected feeling like a victim by focusing on tiny, perpetual deeds of kindness that went a long way. Frankl’s theory of logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”) reveals that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and search of what we personally find meaningful.

Remember that in the end we all possess the universal characteristic of relationship building that allows us to connect with almost anybody on earth through tenderness, listening, commiserating and compassion. For specific and deeper relationship building you need to find out what it is that the other person really needs in order to have overall happiness in their life, and then do whatever you can to help them achieve that. Lastly, you need to equally let others help you, a vital component to the completion of the equation of giving and accepting generosity.

You also need to be able to “let them in” so that there can be mutual trust and understanding. We have been drilled into our heads from our childhoods that we can’t present a weak front or it opens us up to being victimized. Think of it this way though. On the rare occasion when you have tried to open up why is it that you have found it difficult, very difficult in fact.

It is because showing your vulnerable side requires a tremendous amount of strength. But this is something you will need to master if you have any hope of establishing a trusted inner circle of advisors. So what do I mean by opening up? Well, it’s the strength to say what you feel, reveal your true feelings and emotions, the good, bad and ugly to the listener. That way, you create a circle of safety with your confidante and open yourself up to feeling a sense of closeness.

You need to tell your advisors what your anxieties might be, or what hesitations you might have from your workplace or life in general, and then seek their support to surpass these fears in order to get to where you need to be.

If you need a step-by-step guide to establishing trust and closeness with your mentors, here is something you can work with.

  • Construct a trustworthy atmosphere
  • Check your preconceptions
  • Portray optimism
  • Express your desires
  • Discuss your aims and aspirations
  • Reexamine your personal and professional history
  • Discuss what might be giving you sleeplessness
  • Discuss your anxieties and worries about what lies ahead

It goes without saying but let me say it anyway that you need to be completely and totally honest with your confidantes including having a frank open critical discussion. This is the greatest present you can contribute to your circle of trust and open the relationship up to receiving such candor in return.

So how do you really be totally honest and establish that relationship of sincerity and straightforwardness? Here is a short step by step guide to assist you with that.

  • Look for mentors that you hold in high esteem
  • Build the opening to candor
  • Establish the rule that any criticism or advice from you is your present
  • Recognize and admit your mistakes, plain and simple
  • Let the mentor know if you will do something with their counsel
  • Do not put words in your mentor’s mouth or steer them into telling you what you want to hear
  • Be targeted with your probes
  • Return the favor, however you can

Lastly, you do need to follow through and deliver on whatever assurances you make to people and vice versa. It’s critical to appreciate the distinction between a friend or mentor and a responsible and trustworthy friend or mentor.

Usually your everyday friends and family are too chummy with you to push you through against all odds, or keep you laser focused on your goals. So you need to find someone who will hold you accountable and vice versa, nothing less.

So now that you have understood the human behaviors required to creating your core team lets discuss how you can go about constructing this team of inner circle itself.

The first thing you need to do is communicate your dream or vision in life whatever that is. You need to do this because in all the employees I have seen working in the various companies I have been associated with, almost everybody seems to have minimized their potential of achieving much more than what they were doing, by not deploying and making full use of their God given talents and not having a clear vision of what they wanted out of their life.

We never look deep inside of ourselves and never really know who we really are or what we want from our life. Do you know what you want out of your professional or personal life or the direction your career is taking as a function of your goal? If you do not, then how would you recruit a core team to help you achieve your vision and fulfill your life’s journey?

In order to achieve far reaching success, you also need to widen your circle of friends and mentors beyond your close friends and family. You need people who can help you change your life, people that are dedicated, wide-ranging i.e. know a lot about a lot, inquisitive and dissimilar to you.

I often meet people for long business lunches or dinners. I find these the only way to really get them to open up, especially if I am looking for an advisor or mentor. On the flip side, if somebody requests my time, I only meet if they commit to a long dinner or lunch for at least 2 hours.

Various experts especially senior partners in banking or management consulting have attested to this format of pulling people out of their daily routine and away from disruptions, in order to to inaugurate a warmer relationship grounded in sincere consideration. You need an environment that eradicates pretense and posturing, and lets the partakers soften up to genuineness. Also at the end of such lunches or dinners, you should always set up time for the next opportunity to get together or touch base so that you have continuity.

Also when you are setting your vision, do what successful companies do – employ more than one person to help with the process because going solo is not the most effective way to figure out your goal. You need a team that helps you with all the key aspects of your life, personal, professional, health, intellectual, spiritual and financial. Most importantly, you need to figure out who will help you achieve your goals – your core team, your sanctum sanctorum of mentors and advisors.

Do remember that the process of setting goals is not a smooth one. It can be intense with a partner or mentor you completely trust. It requires a lot of soul searching, give and take, and learning, evolving and developing. Most importantly, you need to actively be listening, not the kind you do when you are browsing your smartphones or being slightly attentive by responding perhaps, but actually deep listening where every being of your body is in tune with the process of figuring out that goal and vision for you.

During the process you will realize your weaknesses. You should make a list of them and then finally make a public commitment if possible to overcoming them and achieving your goal. Public commitment is a very vital aspect of this process because it is emancipating, requires tremendous courage and makes sure that you do not fall back. By making a public commitment, you build more intimacy with your mentors.

Even if you find it hard to instantly change your core beliefs or do not see the future right away once you have made your new public commitment, you should try hard to alter your behavior at least or “fake it” with the help of your mentors. It’s a good way to program your brain into artificially experiencing the rewards of what could be, as to encourage it to alter your day-to-day beliefs and set you on the path to achieving your new goals. Imagine touring open houses of large estates in order to get a feel for what real wealth could produce. You not being real of course, but psychologists say it’s a good idea.

We spend most of our lives at work. We all have the power within us to affect universal change by being genuine mentors to one another. If each of us builds our inner circle of trusted advisors and offers ourselves up in all honesty to help and mentor another, a time will come when we will all experience a higher level of personal performance, satisfaction, productivity and overall happiness.