Do you believe you have everything you need to make it to the top of your profession, your company, or your industry? If you answered yes, that might be a problem. The most successful entrepreneurs and executives know they don't have all the answers they need, and they don't expect themselves to.
That observation comes from Mindy Mackenzie, a speaker, CEO advisor and author of The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth-Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team. "I know so many mid-level business professionals who think that you climb to the top of the ladder by being some sort of individual corporate warrior," she says. "Yet all of the successful business executives I've worked with are open about the fact that they have a small group of trusted advisors who help them navigate their professional and personal lives."
That group is what Mackenzie calls a "personal pit crew," and she believes every professional who wants to achieve success needs a pit crew of his or her own. Just as in racing, she says, "You can have the best driver and the best car, but without that pit crew, you aren't going to win."
Mackenzie says her own pit crew consists of about half a dozen people, most of whom have known her for years or even decades. She can ask them for advice or talk to them when she needs to vent. "They understand how I'm wired, love me in spite of myself, and know the world of business so they 'get it' without my having to explain a whole lot," she explains.
On the personal side, as a single mother she has a different pit crew to help her life run efficiently. "I can speak to how important it is to have a pit crew providing both professional and practical support," she says.
Sound good? Do you wish you had your own personal pit crew? Here's Mackenzie's advice for creating one:
1. Start from the right mindset.
Getting help begins with knowing that you need help, and letting others know too. "Be willing to be vulnerable and ask for help," she says. Recognize that you need help and that you don't have all the answers--and won't in the future either. Which is OK, she adds. "That's normal. And human."
It's an important first step. The most common reason people fail to get help is that they failed to ask for it.
2. Select people you trust.
"Is there anyone who has known you a long tim--perhaps a supplier, partner, executive coach or consultant who you really value not only for their intellectual gifts but for their character as well?" Mackenzie asks. "What about a former peer who keeps confidences and gives you great advice?" Any of these could be a valuable pit crew member, she says.
Your circle of advisers should probably not include anyone from your workplace, she adds. "They are swimming in the same water you are," she explains. "Their viewpoint is important, but it may not be distant enough from the day-to-day grind to help shift your own perspective when you most need it."
3. Invest your time.
Like anything else in your work or life, you'll get real benefits from your relationships with the people in your pit crew only if you put in the time to build those relationships. So stay in touch, reaching out to your pit crew members whenever you haven't spoken in a while. Don't just call or email when you need help--seek out ways that you can help them as well.
"Your pit crew surrounds you with support, practical advice, and fresh perspectives," Mackenzie says. "They provide you with the fuel to do your best. But they can't do that if you don't stay in regular contact with these very important people."