Business development, management and leadership aren’t difficult because of the actual mechanics involved. Sure, there are a lot of variables and no clear answers; but just because there is a learning curve doesn't necessarily make something hard. Consider the possibility that if you are relating to a project or endeavor as “hard” or “stressful” it just means you don’t have adequate support structures. Business development may seem difficult, but if you had a buddy checking in with you every day to compare accomplishments, AND a monthly mastermind group to share ideas, AND a staff person handing administrative tasks, AND a mentor to give advice and make introductions, AND friends to commiserate with when things don’t go as planned, AND a coach to help you to communicate more persuasively… it would seem a lot more manageable, maybe even fun or easy. There has been a lot of research on the impact of social support on the body’s ability to deal with stress. If two rats get the same pattern of electric shock and then one is put in a cage by itself and one is put in a cage with another rat, the one which is all alone will get an ulcer and the one which has companionship does not. How wild is that?!?!? Our urge to talk, to play sports or have a drink with friends is not weakness. It’s not just because there is strength in numbers, or so that we can help each other out. There is a basic biological, mammalian need for companionship when faced with stressful circumstances. So, don’t discount those friendships; after all, they are what stand between you and an ulcer.
In addition to supportive friends and family, what other social support do you need to handle your current challenges with ease? The following are some things to consider.
- Buddies – If you are trying to practice something new, change a habit, or take daily action towards a goal this is the single most powerful structure you can create for yourself. Any form of buddy system is helpful, but ideally this is an accountability structure in which two or more people check in with each other daily. They celebrate each others’ wins, help move past failures, and consistently focus on moving forward.
- Mentors – If you are looking for advice from someone who has been through similar circumstances, it’s time to find a mentor. The mentor doesn’t have to be in the same organization or same field, just as long as she had experience in an area that you want assistance. For example, some women get mentors specifically to address how to handle having a baby while continuing a professional career. Typically, people don’t meet with mentors very often, maybe every two to three months.
- Sponsors – Usually, we think of sponsors as senior leaders within your own organization who will put your name forward for high profile assignments, for promotion, and who will back you up if things start to get tough. However, you could also find a sponsor within a client organization, or within your community, depending on your professional circumstances.
- Coaches – Coaches help you to identify and address the interpretations, beliefs, and habits that get in the way of achieving what you want to accomplish. This may sound abstract, but it creates very concrete and meaningful results.
- A Posse – This is a group of people at your same level who cheer you on, say nice things about you to other people, and generally go out of their way to make you look good. It's like a group of friends, but rather than being grounded on social factors, it’s based on mutual professional respect and ambition.
- Mastermind Group – Unlike a posse, the members of a mastermind group are usually from different organizations. They get together periodically to share ideas, experiences, and plans. They call upon the wisdom of the group to help workshop ideas and refine project plans so that each person can be more successful in his or her individual endeavors.
This may sound like a lot, but of course you don't need them all. Adding just one of these support structures makes a tremendous difference. Next time, I will provide some tips on how to find sponsors and mentors, and following that I will address creating a posse, since those three in particular may seem a bit tricky. In meantime, what is one thing you could do this week to create the support you need?