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I hung up the phone in disbelief. I’d called to tell “M” the good news: I had accepted the position. But he’d barely said Congratulations before turning to a discussion of next steps, followed by a stern reminder to “keep networking.” Keep networking?!  I had just landed the position I’d been working for, the position WE had been discussing for several months. My goal had been achieved! I won!

I thought, Is he crazy?! Can’t I rest now?

No, he was not crazy. His advice was spot on.  It always is.

M is one of the first people I call when looking for a sounding board for tough decisions and strategic counsel.  I know he will listen actively and provide thoughtful and candid feedback. I always walk away from our conversations inspired to do my best, feeling that I have gained knowledge and been heard. We started as colleagues in my former corporate life, but over time M has grown into a trusted advisor and a dear friend.

M is the captain of my A-team.

Do you have an A-team?  By A-team, I mean a trusted group of individuals, intentionally designed to help you achieve what you want to achieve, and become who you want to become. All while functioning at your best – mind, body, and soul.

The rest of my team consists of several other talented individuals who I respect, admire and trust who serve different roles and provide various areas of expertise. As a team, we contribute to one another in the way of skills, expertise, coaching and resources.

I didn’t always have an A-team. There was a time I did minimal networking and team building. I spent almost zero time thinking and planning for my support and what I needed. I had a difficult time asking for help. I just left things up to chance and spoke with whoever was closest in proximity.

I didn’t discover the importance of building a support system until midway through my career. Even after years of hearing the message that I should intentionally build my networks, I resisted, telling myself I didn’t have the time, or that it didn’t apply to me. Everything in my career had been going well.

Until…I found myself swept up in a re-organization and working in a part of the business I would not have chosen. Surrounded by new faces and with no close ties, I looked around and realized those individuals with strong alliances and support teams were well positioned for what they wanted to do next – much more than I was.  Since then I’ve become intentional with building my A-team and it’s made a huge difference.

If creating this support team feels like an insurmountable task, don’t stress. You can start working on it right now – even this week.

Here’s how you can build your A-team from scratch, or expand from a couple of key players to a group of trusted advisors.

Start by getting clear on your goals and ambitions. What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months? Why is it important for you to achieve this?

Next, make a list of who your “go to” individuals are today. Who is currently on your team and how do they contribute to your goals?

Ideally, you want to have individuals serving these roles:

“Inside” peer relationship – someone who is doing something similar to what you’re doing now or want to be doing. A colleague who understands your day-to-day and industry jargon – someone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. Someone you trust to share challenges and best practices. Someone who enjoys rejoicing in your celebrations.

“Outside” peer relationship – someone outside of your immediate context/industry. Someone who is savvy enough to understand what you are talking about and provide a fresh, unbiased view.

Aspirational Advisor – someone a few levels above you (and yes, you can have more than one!) Look for people you admire for their accomplishments, whose path you may aspire to follow. Someone you can learn from both directly (through engagement) and indirectly (by watching their careers progress). These individuals often challenge us to step outside of our comfort zones, take risks and dream bigger. These individuals raise our game just by being in their presence.

Health and wellness – individuals/practitioners who help you stay healthy and perform at your best. These may include doctors, massage therapists, coaches, trainers, workout partners, or therapists.

A “just because” person. Someone you can call just to vent, and they will listen with unconditional love and support. Just because they care about you and want the best. With no solution needed.  We all need these individuals – sometimes you just need to know you’re not alone in this crazy world!

Over the years, and in my coaching practice I’ve found that many people struggle to ask for help. Especially high achieving women who think they can do it all, and fear that asking for help will be viewed as incompetence.

What they don’t realize is that those at the top of their game have a team of people working behind the scenes. Experts, mentors, friends who listen, support, advise and encourage. Not only is it okay to ask for help and seek support, but it might be impossible to succeed with out it.

Do you have an A-team that helps you succeed? Would love to hear from you in the comments section below.





*image courtesy of flickr

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