As the year comes to an end and we all reflect on where we have been and where we are going, part of the evaluation also needs to be what family, friends and associates have we allowed to be a part of our inner circle.
What is an “inner circle”? An inner circle is your closest friends, family or associates that you associate with because of a common purpose. Every successful person has their own private “Inner Circle” – a person or group of people who inspire, coach, motivate, encourage and propel them to the greatness you see from the outside looking in… It does not necessarily mean all of the social network friends that you have on your BlackPlanet.com or Facebook.com site, it is that intimate inner circle that provides the foundation of who you are. You need to think, ‘What do I need from friends and am I being a good friend in return?’ “ Personally, I do nurture a private group as my inner circle to help me stay grounded and balanced.
A successful person’s potential is determined by those closest to him or her.
Five questions to ask when evaluating your inner circle:
Do they display integrity?
Deception eats away at a friendship or leadership team like cancer. Dishonesty on the part of one member of an inner circle can bring shame and disaster to all. Entire organizations have toppled from the misbehavior of one bad apple.
Do they bring complementary talents and insights to the table?
If your best friend eats healthily, he discovered, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself.
Imbalance within an inner circle can attune a leader’s ear to only one side of an argument. When putting together an inner circle, prioritize diversity of personality and perspective. By doing so, you widen the range of your vision and the breadth of your influence.
Do they provide strategic influence within your group?
Members of the inner circle must have the platform and influence to implement a leader’s decisions. If they cannot be relied upon to execute a chosen strategy, then they shouldn’t be entrusted with a spot on the leadership team. In addition, inviting uninfluential advisors into the inner circle disrupts the political balance of an organization. High performers suffer a motivational blow when they see a less deserving colleague granted special access to top leadership.
Do they add value to your life?
When considering someone for the inner circle, you should be able to articulate clearly the value they will bring. Ask yourself the following questions: What will they infuse into discussion? Where do they have expertise? What unique skills can they be counted on to bring to the table?
Do they positively impact other members of your inner circle?
If you’ve ever inhabited a house with a feuding husband and wife, then you can understand the need for leaders in close proximity to get along. Infighting saps energy and focus from a senior leader, forcing him or her to mediate conflicts with time that could be better spent elsewhere. Differences of opinion signal healthy debate, but personal animosities destroy a leadership team. Make sure members of your inner circle have the emotional intelligence to keep arguments from becoming too personal.
We’ve looked at the questions to consider when gathering a team of trusted advisors, I’d also like to offer thoughts on the two traps you can fall into when forming their inner circle.
Two common errors in constructing the inner circle:
Soliciting praise instead of candor.
Stacking an inner circle with flatters and “yes” men ranks among the lousiest decisions you can make as a leader. Doing so restricts your perspective, exposes you to blind spots, and leaves you on an island when do-or-die decisions must be made. When picking members of your inner circle, be sure they have the gumption to voice dissent. You’ll rely on them to question your assumptions, to focus you on the mission, and to measure the integrity and worthiness of your ideas.
Driving away talent so that your power isn’t threatened.
The wisdom of accumulating a talented inner circle may seem intuitive, but a rising star may threaten insecure leaders. Leaders should not be, and cannot be, the utmost authorities on all matters germane to the organization. Invariably, people have weaknesses. Wise leaders staff around their weaknesses, and welcome talent in areas where they lack strength.
We all need somebody to lean on!