As a former entertainment industry executive, I used to attend management retreats at ritzy resorts in Laguna Beach or Palm Springs. The chairman would bring his team from research and development, legal, finance and marketing who would gather to discuss company issues, ending each session with a rousing chorus of the boss’s trademark chant, “Costs down, revenues up!” While they were focused on the studio’s problems, I’d fantasize about having my own corporate retreat attended by a team of brainy folks dedicated to sorting out my personal and professional life. My very own Support Squad. I’d picture myself at the head of the table wearing a stunning Armani suit and tasteful Tiffany earrings – this is my fantasy, after all - while my team brainstormed business strategies, overhauled my fitness regimen, and advised me on my love life.
When, in midlife, I left the relative safety of the corporate world to publish my first book and launch my own coaching and consulting firm, I knew my Support Squad would help see me through. There was just one problem. I didn’t have a Support Squad.
Not to be deterred by this small detail, I decided to enlist a team to help me jumpstart my business and adjust to single life (did I mention I was also newly divorced?). I started by asking my former boss, Andy, if he would serve as my business mentor. He immediately said yes, and only later confessed that he’d had no clue what I needed, but hoped I did. Emboldened by my first successful recruit, I added a financial advisor, a physical trainer, a landscape gardener, even a great group of girlfriends who shared my passion for theater and travel.
Some, like the financial advisor and fitness trainer, were paid professionals. Others, like the gardening pal and girlfriends, offered their support simply out of the goodness of their hearts. It wasn’t always clear exactly what role each person would play, but as long as they were enthusiastic, or at least willing, to help me change my life, I knew we’d figure it out as we went along. And we did.
What kind of support do you need to see you through the major transitions or daily dilemmas of life? Whether you want assistance with work, kids, fitness, finances or all of the above, recruiting your Support Squad isn’t as difficult as you might think. Start by making a list of friends, colleagues, or relatives who might be willing to help you meet your goals. And if you don’t know what your goals are, clarifying them can be your team’s first endeavor. Pick the least intimidating person on your list for your first recruiting conversation, working up to the more challenging ones as your confidence grows. Follow these simple steps to solicit support and build your squad:
- State your goal. It could be, “I’d like to begin a fitness program,” or “I want to start my own business.”
- Make your request. “I’d like you to be my workout buddy,’ or “I want to hire you as my business coach."
- Negotiate next steps. Whether it’s a paid professional or a friend, determine exactly what form their support will take with regard to timing, location, length of commitment and payment, if any.
- Evaluate on an ongoing basis. If your goals are clear and measurable, you’ll be able to determine if your team has helped you reach them. Add new members as the need or opportunity arises.
- Be sure to give back. Volunteer to be a part of someone else’s Support Squad.
Congratulations, you’re on your way to creating your own customized Support Squad to help you travel hopefully toward transforming your life!