Mark Zuckerberg leaned on Steve Jobs.
Bill Gates looked to Warren Buffet.
Richard Branson relied on Sir Freddie Laker.
These three billionaire entrepreneurs—who have inspired countless business leaders to reach for greatness—all understand the power of having the right people in strategic places in your life. They recognize that success in business isn’t just a one-man (or one-woman) show. It requires a dream team.
The Cast of Characters
If you want to get ahead in business and in life, you need people to fill four important roles. These relationships are essential for your success.
Imagine a coach you once had. It can be a football, soccer or basketball coach—just someone who led your team. Now imagine them in a business setting—minus the whistle and sweatshirt. A business coach helps you sharpen your skills and up your success. They are the one always pushing you to develop your skills and unlock your full potential. Plus, they have a knack for helping you find the determination and perseverance you need to succeed. Think of the coach as the one who makes you go just a little bit further—even though you’re tired and ready to go home.
Prepare yourself. The Challenger holds your feet to the fire. They hold you accountable to your goals—but they don’t stop there. If they see you doing something that could jeopardize your success, they call you out. They aren’t afraid to tell you what you need to hear, even if it makes you angry or uncomfortable. This probably won’t be the buddy you hang out with on the weekends, but they are critical to your success.
Also known as the role model, this person is a few steps ahead of you and inspires you to reach a higher level. They demonstrate the attributes, skills and talents you want to add to your professional tool box. Sometimes this person is in the same profession as you—but not always. You may find your role model in a place you never expected, so stay open to learning from all types of people. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Not just any old friend will do. You need the kind of person who will listen without judging, troubleshoot when you ask for their input, and accept you even when you’re at your absolute worst. You want a friend who doesn’t share your secrets or exploit your weaknesses, but they will gently tell you when you’re wrong. These kinds of friends don’t come along every day. When you find that person, guard and protect that relationship!
You may call these people by different names: cheerleader, accountability partner, life coach. The names don’t matter. What matters is their ongoing influential presence in your life.
What to remember about relationships
Identifying these people in your circle of colleagues and friends doesn’t automatically lead to productive outcomes for your business. You need to let those people know the valuable role they play in your life. Also keep in mind the following truths as you grow these relationships.
- Relationships will change. You may have one mentor when you’re just starting out and a different one when you’ve been in the business for 20 years. That’s OK! Just don’t buy into the lie that you will reach the place where you no longer need a mentor, coach or friend.
- Maintaining relationships takes hard work. You have to make them a priority—at home and in the office. As you become more successful, you’ll be tempted to let these relationships fall by the wayside and replace them with less valuable but more urgent needs.
- Honesty is everything. If you’re not completely honest with these four people, you can’t expect to reach the next level in your career. I know, you want to look good and impress others, but playing it cool won’t help you grow. It might actually cause you to fail. Your influencers can’t help you if you don’t keep them in the loop.
- Pass it on. While others invest in your life, you need to invest in the lives of others. Fellow and future leaders can benefit from your experiences, successes and failures. It’s a two-way street. And you’re going to learn from the people you mentor—just like you’re learning from your dream team.
No one is an island. You won’t reach the pinnacle of success in leadership without the help, encouragement and advice of others. But if you take the time and energy to grow in these four relationships, you will discover that the return far outweighs the investment.
Who are your Fantastic Four? How have they helped you in your career?