Your inner circle

A business is influenced by so many people that as business leaders, we need to choose those influences carefully and cautiously. That’s even truer when it comes to our inner circle.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is probably most famous for his statement that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. And yet very few of us actually decide who those people are. A big part of my annual reflection/planning time is to carefully choose who I want those five people to be and to schedule the time with them for the entire year so I make sure we get enough time together.

But before I can schedule the time, I need to decide on exactly who I want those five people to be. Here are some of the criteria I consider and by the way, these are not just people who influence my business life. They influence my whole life and make me a better business owner, marketing guy, coach, client advocate, boss, friend, dad, etc. I want to surround myself with people who will make me a better me, not just a better business me.

Who inspires me to a level of excellence that forces me to really stretch myself? They say that if you want to get better at a game, you should play with people who can beat you every time. I need to hang out with people who are further along, more adept and more successful than I am if I want to keep getting better.

Who is willing to teach me? Just because someone has something to teach me does not mean they are open to being the teacher. I need to seek out those who have much to share and are willing to be patient with me while I learn.

Who can I teach? I believe we learn the most when we’re helping someone else learn. Who is willing to let me learn alongside them?

Who will challenge me and call me out when I need it? Let’s face it; it’s easy to surround yourself with cheerleaders. But we also need those who will hold us capable and accountable and let us know when we’ve dropped the ball or missed the mark.

Who sees me more clearly than I see myself? It’s impossible to accurately describe the outside of a bottle when we’re inside the bottle. We need objectivity and someone who sees us as we truly are.

Who thinks very differently than I do and will push me to consider new possibilities? My way is never the only way and often not the right way. I want to be with people who approach challenges and opportunities from a different place.

Who fills me with joy? If I am going to spend a lot of time with these people, I want them to do more than make me better. I want them to love me. I want them to make me laugh. I want to look forward to our time together and I want to add value to their life too.

It may seem calculated or silly to be this intentional about the people you spend the most time with. But I can tell you that I’ve been doing this annual exercise for years and I can point to specific changes in my business and personal life that I can directly attribute to my inner circle. There’s no doubt that I’m better because of them.

So, for me, this is a business must. Give it a try and let me know in 365 days how it played out for you.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.