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This past Christmas, one of my daughters faced a dilemma.  “Dad,” she said, “I’m trying to decide which kind of dessert to have and I’m having a hard time making a decision.”  Given what I do for a living, of course I walked her through the benefits of each choice, and even talked her through a decision matrix (in 6-year-old terms, of course).  I’m not sure what kind of an impact I had – in the end she just picked the biggest one.

That conversation, though, started me thinking.  When we are faced with difficult choices in our businesses, who do we go to for help?  Whose opinion do we look to when we’re “stuck”?  Is there somebody we count on?  Or do we just feel isolated & muddle through alone?

A recent survey by the Build Network asked business leaders to name their greatest sources of management advice.  The number one answer was a peer (31%).  Some other choices included: advisory board member (23%), member of the management team (19%), spouse/partner (18%), or no one in particular (10%).  Regardless of the source, why is it important to have a person or people to rely on for help?  What difference does it make?

I’d argue there are at least 4 reasons you need a support person or group.  The first is fairly obvious – none of us knows everything.  Without any regular outside contact we lack exposure to new ideas.  We just end up recycling the same ones over and over.  We also end up reinventing the wheel on a regular basis.  Other people are facing the same situations as you – why not learn from their experience?

The second reason is that sometimes as people (and leaders) we forget who we are.  What are our core values?  What is our Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA)?  Why are we in business?  What do we do for our customers?  More importantly perhaps, what don’t we do?  The reality is that as we get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, it’s easy to forget some of those vital things.  Having somebody there to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, wait a minute, is this what you really want to do?” is invaluable.

Third, we have a tendency to be our own worst enemies.  I’m a huge believer in positive self talk – if you focus on positive things and tell yourself positive things, eventually you will believe it and your actions & life will reflect those beliefs.  The problem is that there are times when it’s really hard to be positive.  Having a group to sincerely build you up can have a huge impact.

Finally, there is accountability.  We talk about accountability on this blog on a regular basis.  The reality is that in most cases and with most people/businesses, there really is no such thing as “self accountability”.  At some point you need someone to help hold you accountable.  Who better than a group of people you trust and respect?  Sometimes just knowing that people you trust and respect know what commitments you’ve made will motivate you to keep them, almost as a matter of pride.

Who is your support group?  Who do you surround yourself with?  Who hears your ideas?  Who helps keep you on track?  Who gives you encouragement when you need it?  Who holds you accountable?  If you don’t have a group like that, find one.

Would you like to have a support group?  Click here for more info. 

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