How To Surround Yourself With People Who Are For You

In my post yesterday on Career Trends, I noted the importance of "hanging" around people who really want you to win.  Conversely, I noted you should stay away from the nay-sayers and critics.  I got a comment from Jim that made me think about why its so important to choose who you surround yourself with.

The following are 5 keys to knowing and choosing:

  1. Start thinking seriously about the circle of people that surrounds you now.  Evaluate (why do you hang around them, are they positive or negative, would they be around if you failed) the value they bring to your life, and then make a decision about whether they should be in your circle.  Sign post up ahead; this won’t be easy.
  2. Test those who you’ve decided to keep.  For example, tell them about a dream you have.  See if they tell you its impossible.  A person that embraces the impossible is more than likely seeking to keep you in a box.
  3. Do the people in your circle cross-pollinate with you? Meaning, are they looking to you for inspiration.  You don’t want a one-sided relationship.
  4. Have the people in your circle connected you with others who can help?  If they haven’t, question why not.
  5. Is there any jealousy between you?  If someone in your circle is jealous, then its a sign of someone just hanging around to satisfy their insecurities.  Be careful here, jealous people eventually betray.

It’s so important to have a powerful circle of people who genuinely seek your good.  These people are ecstatic when you win.  They also will be grounded in reality, which is key in keeping you from chasing fantasies.

Career Trends

Penelope Trunk posts this piece on The End of Work As We Know It.  It reveals much on future trends in the work place.  I’ve written and many of you have heard of the changing demographic that is the American work scene.  Penelope gives us some very futuristic thoughts on how it will all play out. 

Do you think people (workers and senior management) are preparing for what might occur in the next 5 years?  Judging by the way many manage their health and money, the answer would be "no preparation in progress."  Not to mention, the spell of fear and greed that many organizations are currently under.

A changed environment for work would be a good thing.  But a changed work place without changed people would be disastrous.

Here are some tips on how to be ready for a new work environment:

  • Know thy self well.  In other words, take an inventory of what you have to offer, write it down and act on it.
  • Embrace change, because it is a sign of your learning.
  • Distrust comfort (specifically mental).  Comfort is the place where die and don’t get buried.
  • Deal with your insecurities.  This might be your greatest challenge.  Let’s face it, dealing with our baggage can be painful.  Just the same, deal with your insecurities.
  • Surround yourself with people who want to see you win.  Let other people hang around the critics and nay-sayers.
  • Learn the art of vision (your preferable future).  Failure in this area will leave you vulnerable to someone else’s dogma.

For the Idea’s Sake

I have a new responsibility at Epic Living; I’m the Chief-Idea-Spreader.  So this post is for those that believe the idea is what matters.  It’s for those that are not hiding behind sales pitches.  It’s for those that care about you and not yours (thank you Paul).  It’s for those that have been told they’re nuts for trying.  It’s for those that face the lonely road that is following their ideas. 

Some questions for you if you fall into that group:

  • Are you allegiant to your ideas? 
  • Would you defend your ideas to the death (not necessarily to literal death). 
  • Have your ideas cost you anything?
  • Do you have any scars to show for your ideas?
  • Can your ideas be bought?
  • Have your ideas been the source of someone’s impugning laughter?
  • Do your ideas support a cause?
  • Are your ideas nothing but a business plan in disguise?
  • Do your ideas create a fear that you are compelled to face?
  • Have you crossed the Rubicon?

How We Develop Leaders


I’m for the group and not the individual.  Recognizing that it takes multiple individuals to create a group.  Some arenas call this a team.  I get a little leery with throwing around the word team.  It’s overused and rarely is it an accurate representation of reality.  And even then, you have to address whether the group is really interested in the good of the whole. 

That brings me to this article from Fortune.  The ideas contained in the piece are of some value.  But I wish we could hear from those that come out of the programs instead of hearing once again from the CEO.  Yes, I know, that leadership often starts at the top.  My opinions don’t negate that truth.  I just don’t think the CEO is the most valuable member of the team.  Nor should they be.

Fortune needs you to buy the magazine.  So it makes sense for celebrity to drive that approach. 

Here’s some things to consider as you look at leadership development in your organization:

  1. Leadership development should not be exclusive to the "anointed."  Leadership is influence and therefore should cascade through the entire organization.
  2. Call your customer service department/division and be the customer.  Your experience will tell you where the organization truly is as it relates to leadership development.
  3. Ask yourself who’s doing the talking.  If only senior management is fulfilling this role, then your organization has a ways to go in leadership development.
  4. Is your CEO a servant?  Does he or she put themselves last?
  5. When was the last time you were encouraged to make a mistake (often the best path to learning)?  Better yet, how were you treated the last time you made a mistake?
  6. In reference to #5, is your organization tolerant of multiple mistakes?  If they are then your in a cult.

The Authentic Side of Truth

Are you struck by the willingness of some to stray from the Truth?  Are you shocked that in many situations people have redefined Truth.

I didn’t think we had a say in the matter.  Truth is truth, right?

This article from AP details some excerpts from Alan Greenspan’s new book The Age of Turbulence.  Did Bush & Co. miss it on controlling spending?  What would Truth say?  I come down on the side of they didn’t control spending.

What’s more disappointing is when nobody is willing, specifically in the business world, to stick by Truth.  What to do, what to do…

Here are a few questions to ask to see where you stand:

  • Have you accepted that you might lose something in order to gain something, when you stick by the Truth?
  • Have you revised the meaning of Truth since you started out in your specific career?
  • Is it ever OK to lie to a customer or fellow stakeholder?
  • Is it possible for the Truth to change from year-to-year or generation-to-generation?
  • Do you think there are dire consequences when you lie?

Go find your mentor/adviser/coach (spouse, friend, parent, colleague, etc.) and give them your answers.  Send me a comment if you need help.

Worth the Risk

What project, mission or quest have you entered into that you’ve consciously said is worth the risk it required?  The greater question may be found in whether you’re involved in something that has tremendous risk.  Low risk situations/endeavors sound really good, but are often poison pills designed to get you comfortable.  And we know what comfort can do…

Organizations would be more effective if they embraced more risk.  Sadly the allure of making money dulls some to taking on more risk.  Organizations become voyeurs (always watching some other group take the shot) and stand behind the lines.  You might be surprised at how many of your employees desire to risk greatly in order to be a part of something great.

Individuals would change the world if they’d stop looking for easy safe paths.  Don’t you want to be involved in something that has enough risk to make you nervous, anxious or downright afraid?  I know you may be thinking I’m crazy, but everything in my life that creates those feelings are pathways to greatness. 

Are you afraid of losing your position and power?  That answer will reveal a lot.

This post is not about taking stupid risks.  It’s about waking up from the slumber of safety.  Safety says its always wiser to keep doing what you’ve been doing.  Foolishly, we think that past results will create equally positive ones in the present and future.  See the music business on that one (the impact of iTunes on their business model).

Here are a few insights on how you can take more risk:

  • If your organization hasn’t ventured into new businesses, start investigating the possibilities.  The ones that scare you could be big winners.
  • Find a mentor/coach/adviser who will challenge you to move out of your comfort zone.
  • Volunteer for something you believe in, but have ignored for years because of your insecurities (I’m not smart enough, I don’t know anyone, fear of rejection, etc.).
  • Be willing to fail.  It won’t kill you, but it could lead to even more opportunities.
  • Start seeing risk as a friend and not a beast from hell.

Why Personal Vision Matters

I know a few people who are being confronted by a changing environment in their respective career paths.  It’s striking how they ignored the signs of decline.  There were evidences years ago that something was coming, but either the money was too good or they were just plain comfortable.

Personal vision is important many ways.  Not the least of which is having a sense of where things are headed.  In other words, is it a dead-end or a short to meadium-term ebb.  Seth Godin has written a wonderful book called “The Dip” that speaks well on the matter.

So where do we learn personal vision?  Sadly, not many places in the world we live. 

Corporate America is too fixated on quarterly numbers to bother.  There are tons of consultants and coaches out there, but many of those are just looking for a “gig.”  Churches have fallen into the trap of teaching people to be religious.  You need someone or some group that will help you, in an authentic way, to deal with your greed, deal with your pain and without a doubt deal with your fears.  Everyone of those issues will block you from seeing clearly.  You cannot become what you cannot see.

Here is a brief list of those I’ve encountered who’ve helped me in an authentic way to develop my personal vision:

  1. Terry Walling and Leader Breakthru
  2. Seth Godin
  3. Rick Williams
  4. Guy Kawasaki
  5. Larcel McGhee
  6. John Eldredge

Who is authentically helping you in the pursuit of your vision?  Give me your thoughts…

Character and Skills

A mentor of mine reminded me this week of something I’d heard before, but didn’t really understand until now.  He told me that one of the biggest threats to a leader is when their skills development outpaces their character development.  Quite frankly, the problems we’re seeing in corporate America (H-P, Converse Technology, etc.) is very likely a result of this chasm.  Think about it, no one would question the skill level of the executives at H-P.  But obviously we would question their character.

So how much time does the average leader spend on character development vs. skills development?  If the most recent headlines (Business Week Online) are to be believed, more time is spent on the skills side.  Isn’t funny how the thing that can wreck a life or career is the thing we ignore.  Some call it arrogance…I call it stupidity.  We’ve all been warned about what happens when character is left in the dust (see Enron, Citigroup or Adelphia).

You have a chance to turn the ship around by giving your character some attention-major attention.  Start by putting as much time into the development of your character as you would on skills.  For example, if you’re taking fifteen hours of classes at your local university to get your MBA, then give your character that much.  Believe me, their are churches, universities, books and more that can offer you the right material on character development.  Do it now!  You thank me for it later…

The world needs more leaders who are well balanced in their character and their skills.

Why the Past is Past

If you’re in the mode of trusting in your past successes, then beware!  It is a dangerous trap that many leaders small and large fall into.  For some reason, our past triumphs lead us to believe that the future is discovered by them.  In many ways this is not so.

The past is a time-frame of occurrence.  It was a place of experience and opportunity (if we were awake for it).  The only value in the past is to “connect the dots.”  We derive learning and encouragement from those “dots.”

Don’t be fooled, the future doesn’t care about your past…it was birthed by your experiences of yesterday.

Start today by realizing that the future is about forward movement.  You must make a conscious choice to look forward…it doesn’t happen naturally.  If you’re living an Epic Life, then you know this is true.