Like many managers, I spent much of December wrapping up projects and getting organized for the new year. I reviewed everyone’s performance. I checked project deadlines. I made sure that every available dollar in the budget was well invested before it disappeared. I updated files. I uncluttered my in box. Until I became a coach, though, I didn’t spend anywhere near as much time reviewing my personal lists. Since then, I recommend that my clients complete the same personal year-end wrap-up that I do myself.
Making a List and Checking it Twice
The year-end review actually consists of not one, but three lists. The first isaccomplishments. It’s all too easy to lose sight of what you’ve been able to accomplish in the course of a year. Often, we more easily remember the lows than the highs. The second is goals. What do you hope to accomplish during the next year? I’ll save these two lists for another time. Right now, let’s focus on the list that I find my clients most often overlook: your support network.
Over time, relationships within and outside of the workplace change. People move on, new people come into our lives, roles change, relationships become something else. Yet, often someone will create a support network list (chart, really) and never look at it again. Twice every year there are public service messages everywhere reminding people to change their smoke alarm batteries to be sure they will be at the ready when we need them. Think of this as checking the batteries on your emotional support system so it will be fully functional at all times.
Your Support Network
If you’ve never created a support network this is how it works. The support network consists of four quadrants, each containing a list of names. Each quadrant serves a specific function so that you can identify supporters in each significant area. As far as possible, each name should appear in only one quadrant; never more than two.
Cheerleader: These people support you unconditionally. No matter how small the achievement, they are applauding. They’ll cheer when you finish a project or get a promotion. They’ll also cheer when you get your shoes on the right foot. They never criticize; they never make suggestions. That’s someone else’s role.
Comforter: These people are there for you when you’re feeling down. They show up with tissues, chocolate, weepy movies, wine – whatever you need. They will listen to the same story for hours, never saying anything more than there, there or appropriate sympathetic comments. They agree with everything you say. If you say that your boss is terrible, they tell you they’ve always felt that way. If, five minutes later, you say this is the best boss you ever had, they agree. They wrap you up in literal or figurative quilts until the crisis passes.
Confronters: These are the people who keep you accountable. If you tell them that you want to do something, they’ll keep reminding you, gently or firmly, of what you need to do. They may also help you create a plan or break a task down into manageable chunks. Then they’ll keep after you until the task is done.
Critics: It took me a while to recognize the value of these people in my support network. These are the people who stop you from making avoidable mistakes public. Think of them as copy editors for your life – and they’ll edit your writing as well. Sometimes, I don’t want to hear what these people have to say. And I can’t count how many times they’ve saved me from disaster.
December, as part of your year-end wrap-up is a great time to review your support network lists. Have you overused certain individuals? Maybe you want to move them to back-up status. Have some of the people on the list become unavailable? Proved to be unreliable? Replace them! Are there new people in your life who belong on your lists? Add them. Make a second quadrant. What roles do you fulfill for other people? Be sure that you know how you’re giving back or paying it forward. Add and subtract to this list as well. And renew your commitment to the new lists.
We all need support and we all need to support others. Performing this audit twice a year renews you and renews your relationships. Try it. I’m pretty sure you’ll be as glad as I was once you do.