A strong support structure or system can help your development both personally and professionally, while you in turn support theirs. These are the people you can rely on in tough times and with whom you share your wins of every size. The support is always a two-way street. But these things don’t just happen without making a concerted effort to make the time to build a community.
You can build your community from existing friends and family, or with past and present co-workers or a mixture of both, but the emphasis has to be on support and listening without prejudice. A strong support structure is not just going to the pub and having a laugh and some drinks, it’s much more focused than that. I’m not saying you can never go to the pub, but it’s not the main focus. Every Thursday afternoon, I have a focused Mastermind with my support community of let’s call us “Change Agents” and we discuss anything and everything that comes up from wins to the things that are holding us back to new ideas for our businesses. It’s such an important priority of my week that I have even attended it while at the gym and on the train.
It is really important to have people you can rely on, because we all face obstacles in our lives and our support structure can help us to overcome them faster and more effectively.
Support structures can change our perspective on a problem, or they may even have a solution that you never considered, and they help you to celebrate your wins. Sometimes though, it just feels nice to have someone listen without judgement. It is never a weakness to lean on others, it requires vulnerability and courage to be open and honest about your situation and your needs.
You may even have more than one community that you rely on for different needs such as emotional, instrumental or informational support. Your communities can be filled with people on a similar journey to you, with a similar goal or people with a wildly different goal. It doesn’t matter if they are ahead of you or behind you in reaching their goal, because the beauty of human relationships and the human mind, is that we all have something more to learn and equally, we all have something to teach.
Benefits of a strong support structure
There are many benefits to having a strong support structure, such as:
- Increased well-being – having people to talk and relate to has been shown to allow you to decompress and thereby lowers blood pressure, reduce stress and helping people to better problem solve and cope with future issues that arise.
- Better coping ability – the more we are able to find solutions to problems, the better we can bounce back each time due to increased resilience.
- Reduced depression and anxiety – having someone you trust implicitly, to spend time with, talk to and vent with reduces anxiety and depression by giving you an outlet and a non-judgemental ear.
- Creates a sense of community – helping you to experience companionship and acceptance which is part of Maslow’s human need of belonging.
- Builds confidence and self-esteem – solving problems and successfully navigating life’s challenges builds confidence and self-esteem by providing evidence of your ability to overcome.
- Increased motivation due to accountability – being held accountable to someone else often spurs us into action, because generally we don’t like to disappoint others by not making good on the promises we’ve made. Obviously not everyone feels this way, but most people I speak to do, which is why hiring a personal trainer increases the likelihood of someone going to the gym, it’s not the money it’s wasting someone else’s time and letting them down that creates the motivation to go.
How to build a strong support structure
- Remember that giving support is not about issuing orders, no-one likes to be told what to do but the situation becomes wholly more effective if the solution is reached together.
- Make time and make it a priority
- Use active listening, most people listen to respond and often miss what is actually being said. Focus on what the person is saying verbally as well as non-verbally with physical cues, with intonation and timing. Pay attention, let the speaker finish, seek clarity on what they are saying if needed, and then respond.
- Be assertive, speak up and say what you need and also how you can help.
- Be honest, act with integrity and do not share what people tell you in confidence. And DO NOT use other people’s work without express permission.
- Join in. If you don’t have an existing community, you can start to build one by joining clubs or societies, sports teams or a gym.
- Don’t compete. The point of the community is to support each other, not to compete with each other. Some competition is healthy, but you don’t have to compete all the time.
- Be clear with your expectations if meeting as a formal group, like in a Mastermind.
- Don’t make it all about work, life matters too.
- Give each other permission to hold accountability, there’s nothing worse than being told off for things you haven’t done when you weren’t expecting to be, and you were expecting a sympathetic ear instead.
- Hire one. If you can’t create a community you want to share important or intimate details with, hire a coach or a therapist and create your support system in this way. Sometimes it is easier to talk to people you don’t know on a day-to-day basis.
I put time and effort into my support system because I believe life is better when you don’t have to traverse it on your own. If you would like to add me to your support structure, please get in touch.