by Dr. Henry Cloud, author of “The Power of the Other“
Every entrepreneur and business leader worries about the strategy and business plan. They know it has to be sound. And they worry about having the right people around them in order to succeed. But how do you decide who is right? In my leadership consulting with CEO’s and other business leaders, the great ones look past just talents, brains and experience and are very, very careful about the dynamics of the relationship with those close to them: board members, direct reports, peers, and advisors.
And, it’s a good thing they do, because research backs them up: the kinds of relationships you surround yourself with has more to do with your success than any other factor. Here are some keys to choosing your most important business relationships:
1. Relationships that fuel.
Leaders are always on output mode. Running at full speed, giving, sacrificing, pushing others. But all of that takes energy. For your brain to work and your passion to stay alive to fight another day, you must have relationships that provide fuel for you: support in the hard moments, inspiration in the dark times, problem solving and understanding in the failures. This is not just happy talk…it is surrounding yourself with people who will be honest, but affirming and “for” you, even when things do not go well. They give you energy, instead of suck it out of you.
2. Relationships that drive freedom to take ownership.
Leaders need to be in control of the steering wheel of what they are driving. If you have board members or bosses or even partners who are climbing into your head and trying to micromanage or take control of what you need to be driving, that will undermine your greatest strengths. We need help, we need input. But everyone, in order to perform their best, must be given the freedom to do their job. Define what your role is and find relationships that will support you in it, but set you free to execute it.
3. Relationships that hold you accountable and responsible.
You want to be in control….great. But that comes with a price—being held responsible for results. This helps great performance. High performance requires feedback and accountability. Find the relationships that will not just give you freedom without accountability. Find the ones that give you control but expect you to use it well, and will hold you accountable to your behavior, decisions and results. That will help keep you on track and see what you might not be seeing yourself.
4. Relationships that push you.
Leaders want to succeed. But sometimes that takes some push….some challenge past where they might be, or might be thinking is possible. We need to be pushed to greater and greater heights….past where we are, and past how well we are doing. The 10X push is what drives greatness. While being pushed too hard and too far is counterproductive, so is not being challenged enough. Find relationships that challenge you past what you ever thought possible that actually is possible if you think differently.
5. Relationship that “defang the beast of failure”.
Every business has failures, problems, setbacks, obstacles and the like. If you have a board, boss, or partner that sees every failure or setback as something to beat you over the head with, that will get you further away from the goal than not. Research tells us that when we have people around us that are critical instead of helpful in failure, we go backwards and not forwards. You need the truth, but you need it in a way that is not toxic, inducing fear, guilt or shame. Find people who will help you face fumbles with courage, see what went wrong, adapt, learn and get back at it. They will help you use each step as a learning moment instead of a hammer.
When running your business, choose the people around you wisely…not just in terms of their brains or backgrounds. Remember that the relational dynamics that they produce are the ones that you are going to have to work with, for good or bad. Find the ones who fuel, encourage freedom, hold you accountable, push you, and pick you back up. If you choose those well, you will be way further along than if you don’t.
Dr. Henry Cloud is a leadership and performance consultant, psychologist, and New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is “The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have on You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond-And What to Do about It“.