As a woman who wants to make a positive difference in the world - and is juggling plenty of things as she does so - building a support network is critical. Today I want to share two key things to consider as you consciously craft a network that will really help you thrive.
Why is this so important?
Well, one of our soft power principles at One of many is that you can't thrive unless you're connected to others. In fact, I believe it's one of the things that sets apart the feminine energy, increasingly emerging as the most effective and resilient style of leadership.
As we face the complex and pressing challenges of the 21st century, we need to be growing these sustainable, adaptable, collaborative ways of working and leading. Whereas the masculine is about individualism and about pursuit and achievement and winning in spite of others, the instinctive response of the feminine energy is to band together, collaborate, and come together as a community.
Now, every single one of us can achieve individually. But if thriving is the name of the game, then you can really only do that with and through others. And this is why it's so important we all master the art of building a support network consciously and actively, starting now.
Your network is your strength
Think of your network as your fabric of support. If there's a thread missing that fabric is weakened.
In the realm of your family, maybe you need help with childcare.
If you have an argument with your partner, you need someone to talk to. Who’s not just going to bitch and whinge with you, and agree "they're awful" - but give you space for exploring what you want for your relationship, and how you can find your way to a more fulfilling place.
You need support in your professional life, in terms of mentors for your business or coaches to hold you to account or sponsors to open doors to greater things. You need support in the area of your spirituality and personal growth; support to keep you well and healthy.
All these areas need specific threads to be woven into the fabric, to make our fabric as strong and robust as possible.
Which leads me to the first thing to remember when building a support network...
#1 Your network needs active tending
Now, you might have had heaps of support at one point in your life, or in a particular area - but as life moves on, it’s really common to suddenly realise things have changed.
The mentor who helped you find your feet early on in your career isn't able to guide you through this next iteration.
The playgroup mums who counselled you through nappies and sleepless nights have drifted away - and now you need support navigating the teen years.
Your career's moved on, or your family responsibilities have shifted, or you're needing different guidance around your finances.
What I want to emphasise to you today is this: if you wait until there's an emergency, and you really need that help - it’s too late.
Your network is one of those things that you really need to foster the most and invest in at the most before you need it.
So take a moment now to quickly scan through the different areas of your life.
Where do you need help?
Who could be opening doors, providing practical help, or holding you accountable right now?
And where are the biggest gaps you'd love to fill?
We call this "conscious network design".
Why do we call building a support network "conscious network design?"
What conscious network design refers to is bringing some sane consciousness to who you have and who you don't have in your network.
By which I mean: you’re not already in the middle of a problem, you’re doing OK and thinking clearly, and you're being strategic about what support you need.
It's about activating those elements that you don't have and filling those holes.
And, crucially, being open to receiving when help is offered.
The next critical piece to be aware of is that even if help is offered when you don't need it, you don't have to wait until you need support to be able to receive it.
#2 Receiving help from your network takes practice
It's really great to get into the habit of receiving it when you don't need it.
This means there's a flow of energy going both ways between you and your colleague (or whomever it is and whatever support they're providing) - so that when you do need it, there's relationship. There's opportunity. There’s an experience or a track record that can be called upon.
For instance, let's say, let's say that your neighbor has said to you, they're very happy to do babysitting for you whenever you need, but because you don't want to intrude upon them, you haven't yet asked or taken them up on that.
What I'm suggesting is perhaps call your neighbor up and ask them if perhaps they wouldn't mind babysitting in three weeks from today. Simply so that you can go and I don't know, have a manicure, take a gorgeous solo walk, go out on a date... They then get the opportunity to develop a relationship with your child. It all happens in a nice planned fashion.
So that on the day, three months from now, when you need a babysitter, because an emergency has occurred and you have to go out and you have to leave your child with somebody, and none of your usual people are available. The neighbor is now in there as part of the fabric.
Sometimes people offer us things and we just knock it back. Instead, be open to receiving, even if you don't need it at the time to establish that connection and that strong thread between you and the person offering the support.
What if you don’t like asking for help?
Many of us are terrible at asking for help. However, if we turn that on its head - most of us are also really great at spotting where help is needed, and stepping up. So if you've been actively building a support network, often you don't need to ask!
A great network, if it's really solid and consciously designed, will oftentimes see that you need support before you even think to ask of it.
(Think about your mate who invites you out for a drink because she knows things have been tough with you and your spouse, and you could do with a vent. Or the colleague who puts up her hand in a meeting and offers to take a task off your plate - because you've been firefighting all sorts of issues, and she sees you don't have the bandwidth for something else).
It’s about having the right people in the right place to be called upon at the right time.
So that things can come up. Life can happen. You might wobble, but you won't get knocked off that platform because you've got great support and great love from the people around you.
When it comes to consciously building a support network then, I want you to remember two things.
#1 - This process is one that’s active and ongoing.
It takes some time and energy to see where you might need support, but it’s nowhere near the time and energy it takes to scrabble around for that support when you need it and it’s not there.
#2 - Identifying your network is only the first part.
Just as important is getting into the habit of giving and receiving, so that when you need to call on support you’re comfortable doing so. You know that you’re also giving to others in return, and you’re happy to ask for what you need and receive the help when it arrives.
Conscious network design - where to begin
With these principles in mind, I invite you to start crafting your network today. Just a quick scan of the key areas of your life and the people you need to help you thrive is a great place to start.
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