More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Eight Roles That Friends Play for Entrepreneurs

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 10, 2007

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As we’ve been discussing in recent posts, part of the challenge of being an entrepreneur is isolation and loneliness. Much of our work is solitary; Being so focused on (some would say obsessed with) our business and our dreams, can further distance us from those around us.

However, a strong support system  is essential  to our success as entrepreneurs.  Surprisingly, simply having a wide circle of friends, or even one close friend, is not the same as having a strong support system.  According to Tom Rath, there are actually eight distinct support roles that we need in our lives to be our best selves:   

Builder – encourages us to be more and do more

Champion – believes in us; cheers us on; promotes our causes; says good stuff about us behind our backs

Collaborator – shares similar passions, interests, and ambitions with us

Companion – always there for us; friendships that can last a lifetime

Connector – socializer; can introduce us to the right people

Energizer – makes us feel more positive and motivated; fun to be around

Mind opener – broadens our perspective on life; introduces us to new ideas

Navigator – gives us advice; helps us keep moving forward when times get tough 

It would seem ideal, and certainly most time efficient,  to find a single person who could play all of those roles for us.   But many of us make a mistake when we expect our friends or families to be something that they are not. Just because they love us and may be great in one role, does not mean that they have the personality to behave in all of these roles. In fact, Tom Rath says it is a mistake to put that type of burden on any one person.    It is important to have a circle of friends who can fill the various needs we have in our lives.

I have to say that before reading this book, I had not clinically examined my relationships.   I tended to hang out with people who lived or worked near me, who I enjoyed and who made me laugh.

But since reading the book, I realize that the majority of my friendships are with companions, collaborators and energizers.  Left to my own devices, I would probably continue to build more friendships like these.  They are enjoyable and enable me to stay within my comfort zone.

But as an entrepreneur, I need some people in my life who are going to encourage me to grow.

After doing some analysis of my friendships, I realized that I could definitely benefit from more mind openers and connectors.  These people could help me see new possibilities and introduce me to new people.

I could also use some builders and champions.  Building a business can be hard work and it is easy to get discouraged.  Having more people who encourage me to take risks, and believe in me when I am down would help me keep from giving up when things get rough.

I also could use some navigators in my life – these are the people who can see around obstacles and help strategize around challenges.  They could help me create an action plan when I am feeling stuck.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to go out and cold-bloodedly cultivate people with these traits or conduct screening interviews at my next networking event.  But I am going to give new consideration to my existing and prospective relationships. 

Instead of disregarding people who have different opinions than I do – I’m going to consider whether they can actually open my mind to new ideas. 

Instead of glossing over compliments as merely polite – I’m going to assume they are heartfelt and sincere and feel good about the way those people makes me feel.

Instead of keeping all my problems to myself and thinking I need to be the “lone ranger” – I am going to seek out advice from others and consider whether I could actually apply it to my situation.

I believe that being consciously aware of the value of these roles in my life, and being open to cultivating them,  will naturally help me to build them.

What type of relationships do you tend to build? What types of relationships could you benefit from? Please share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them.

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One Response to “Eight Roles That Friends Play for Entrepreneurs”

  1. flexstr said

    Totally agree, it’s hard enough to chew the ears of friends but your thirst for more formal and professional advice sees you wanting a mentor to fine tune the rough edges of your strategies and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

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