With the recent passing of the beloved Dear Abby aka Pauline Phillips, it’s interesting to consider how most of us get good advice today. In simpler times, we wrote a letter to Abby or Ann Landers (Abby’s real life sister), called up our neighbor or doctor, or sat down with our pastor or rabbi.
Today, the world is changing at lightening speed, causing many of us to face perplexing social and economic challenges.
Where do we go for help on raising and protecting our children in a violent and sexual world?
How do we protect our finances and prepare for a time when social security may not exist in its present form?
How do we launch, transition or protect our careers or get a new job, when the economy is restructuring and the careers we were trained for no longer exist?
How do we grow our businesses or stop them from failing when there’s little financing available?
Today, life questions and worries appear to be at an all-time high. Where do we go to find the solutions? The concerns can be overwhelming; and so can be the sources of advice. Instead of having Dear Abby to help us solve our problems, we have information over load. We have experts on TV, radio and the Internet. We read blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook discussions. We chat, tweet and read digital books. Many are good sources of advice, but often they provide conflicting information. And none of it is customized for our specific problem. One yearns for simpler times, when Dear Abby was a good choice for a safe if somewhat sarcastic answer.
I’ve found the best solutions for the challenges in my life – be they business or personal – -usually come from my own trusted circle of professional relationships.
I call them my entourage, because they are there for me whenever I need them. They share better advice than most money can buy. Over the years, they have helped me solve some of my biggest challenges as a parent, a business owner and leader of associations. Some of the problems seemed insurmountable at the time, but with such an eclectic group of trusted friends and advisors, I quickly learned they were my most valuable resource. Yes, I believe in good coaches, therapists and mentors, too, but my entourage is quite different. They share their experiences, connections, successes and failures. They require no hourly rate.
There’s one caveat about the new entourage. It doesn’t function like the old-style entourage, which travels with celebrities, kings and queens. The new entourage is collaborative. While those in your entourage help you, you must be equally present for them, providing them with advice, insights and introductions.
The new entourage is made up of trusted relationships honed over the course of months and years. My entourage is not just there to help me. I’m there to help each of them, too. The new entourage is a mutually trusted and respected circle of people with varied backgrounds, expertise and experiences.
I discovered early in my career that when I helped others accomplish their goals – something instilled in me at an early age by my parents – most people respond by offering to support my goals and challenges as well. It’s almost magical. Yet, it’s a simple recipe, even for the inexperienced cook:
-Link out. Meet one or two new people each week at events, conferences or online
-Arrange to share a face-to-face conversation over coffee or Skype
-Ask about their goals and challenges
-Offer to help them with advice, introductions and personal experiences
-Follow-up to see how they’re doing
-Stay in touch via email, phone and in-person meetings
-Give them a chance to reciprocate by calling them for support, introductions and advice
-Keep linking out and repeat the above frequently. Before you know it, you have your own entourage.
Once you understand this recipe, it’s easy. You will cook up a feast of successes throughout your life. Your entourage will continue to grow when you add a big dollop of generosity and collaboration.
Thanks Dear Abby for getting us started. We learned from you that it is okay to ask for advice. If the original Dear Abby was still around, she would be very lucky, because we’d be giving her advice as well. – Leslie Grossman, author, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (John Wiley), www.lesliegrossmanleadership.com