What do you do when you find you need help? I teach a simple way to identify your four support circles to assess who is in your corner (you may have forgotten some who you can call on!) and where you may need to build people and resources in going forward.
When English Poet John Donne said, ‘No man is an island,’ he sure got it right! We need people, community, belonging, collaboration and sharing in many areas of our lives. We might have a solid family life, or a group of long term pals to count on, but are in need of more support at work. Maybe you have the best crew of medical docs, a great housekeeper and accountant, but could use more reconnection with friends or family.
At work we know leadership can feel lonely. Especially so if you don’t have someone at home who really understands all you manage on the job. You likely get pieces of what you need from a business partner, board, committees, or a networking group with whom you can share challenges and exchange ideas and solutions. But each professional relationship still requires varying levels of discretion. For more freedom, you might have a colleague who is at a level where they can relate, but are in a different field. Further, an executive life coach or therapist can provide safety that you can’t find with professional peers.
This applies to your personal life as well, but for this blog, we’ll address your personal life from the context of how it supports you in your business life. So let’s also look at your home life, friends, and groups of outside interests. They help you have greater quality of life, spirit, health and mind – all of which fills your well – and affects your professional performance.
THE FOUR SUPPORT CIRCLES
The bullseye. This is the circle of intimacy which includes those closest to us, the people and/or connections whose absence would be felt deeply. Some people would include their pets in this circle, especially if they are a primary source of companionship.
Those good friends and close relatives who are strong connections but don’t quite make it into the first circle. These are the people we can confide in and turn to for support during times of need.
Those acquaintances and connections developed through participation in organizations, affiliations and activities like a spiritual group, work colleagues mentors and/or club members. Individuals from this group may later move up to circles one and two.
These are those paid supporters in our lives – a trusted doctor, lawyer, accountant, teacher, even your hairdresser or car mechanic would be included.
LIST YOUR SUPPORTERS
Let’s do an exercise to better illustrate this. Draw 4 concentric circles on a piece of paper like a bullseye. Start by writing who your Anchors are in the center. Extending outward, title each of the concentric circles of support as listed above. Next, fill in the names of people who fit in each.
You now have an easy overview. It easily helps you see where things are in good shape, and where any holes are. Now ask yourself:
- Who is really in my corner and in what ways?
- Are any of these levels lacking?
- How can I deepen or strengthen the areas where I need the most support?
- Conversely, where may I notice I have people that drain me, or take more from me than I receive?
Now, with that substantially increased awareness in mind, you can begin looking for who might fit where needed, or for ways to cultivate the connection you have with those who are there. Be aware of the one way streets, and perhaps invest in those less.
Not everyone can be everything to us. One key is to manage our expectations. There are people who you only do specific things with – the folks with whom you may go wine tasting or kayaking, or serve with on a school committee might be perfect to share those activities, but can not be ones you reveal your struggles to. And that’s perfectly OK. Some people come and go through time, as our interests change, if we move, as we change companies, as a byproduct of living a full life! There are those people who continue in our lives through all of it! Seeing your big picture at any given time allows you to discern who fits within your four support circles today, or if they do not – and where if they do. This will make subtle but significant shifts in the quality of your life.
Set yourself up for success by choosing people with the right skills or traits to help fill needs in the 4 circles. Take heart that to have a handful of solid people as Anchors and Allies is enough. So aspire for quality over quantity, knowing the right fit can take a little time to find. This is a living exercise, one that will grow and change as you do! Enjoy your Associations, and thank your stars for those Assistants who really help us thrive.
TIP: If one or more of your four support circles are really in need, it’s an opportunity to get curious of how you may contribute to those voids, like rarely going out, or regularly saying you are too busy for a call or that coffee with a friend. You may be pleasantly surprised to see what happens if you did either or both!
This is a rich exercise, a life-long tool to learn and use. The results are both subtle and substantial. My first Ebook will be a workbook on this topic and will be available on my website very soon. Sign up for my monthly newsletter now to hear about it first, and join me on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook for more tips and encouragement!