I didn’t always know how to build a support team at work.
I had to be taught.
And each day since, I’ve been grateful for the lesson.
Here’s my story.
When I led a regional division of a large HR consulting firm, Bridget was my boss Suzanne’s executive assistant.
Even though we worked 500 miles apart, it was easy to see how Bridget kept Suzanne moving quickly and efficiently through the quagmire of work, deadlines, and details a senior corporate leader has to face.
And she did it with a smile.
One day, Bridget called me. Her husband was being transferred to my city and would I be open to her transferring into the group I led there?
I immediately said yes to put her mind at ease and prevent any thoughts of her searching for work elsewhere.
Then I realized something.
We had no available positions budgeted at the time for an assistant, and certainly none at the level of Bridget’s expertise.
My brain went into overdrive with schemes and plans to make sure Bridget could work here. I knew none of us wanted her to take a job elsewhere, but I kept getting stuck thinking we had no openings to fill.
I’d scheduled a call with Suzanne to discuss it, and in that call, I started to pitch what I thought were practical solutions–job sharing with other departments, making budget cuts to afford her, renegotiating other budgets, etc.
Yup, I was in the swirl.
Suddenly, Suzanne interrupted me and said these life-changing words:
“Darcy, just have Bridget support you directly. She’ll take things off your plate you haven’t even thought of yet.
With her support, you’ll be able to do so much more than you can right now.”
It was a lesson that changed my life at work and my effectiveness as a leader.
It made me change my mental definition of the word “support” from “a way to get help when you need it” to “a way to build you up to be stronger.”
I had been caught up in the minutia of “how” and “when,” and my big-picture thinking boss was focused on the “why”—why more support would be good for me and our business.
As a byproduct, of course, the “why” was also good for Suzanne, since she could keep an excellent employee—Bridget—and increase the contributions of another one—me.
And Suzanne’s prediction came true—with Bridget’s support, I was able to focus more on higher value activities that made a bigger difference to our people, clients, and business –work that I now know was much closer to my superpower space.
The addition of a support person actually multiplied the important work that could get done.
Now, long after I’ve left that job, I’ve never forgotten that lesson: building your support team is essential to bringing your superpowers to work.
How to Build Your Support Team
Okay, so not everyone can be lucky enough to have a Bridget in their lives, or a Suzanne blazing the path.
But it’s easier than ever today to seek out the support you need in all areas of your work and career.
You just have to start.
So, what’s the support you need to ask for at work right now?
What’s the work you’re doing that’s not in your superpower space–work that could be done more efficiently and effectively by someone else?
(Not sure what’s in your superpower space? Discover them in my mini-training here.)
Or, if you already have professional administrative assistant support in your organization, are you involving her or him enough?
A true admin pro wants to understand the bigger issues, be part of a team, and help solve problems.
But often I see leaders only asking their admins to execute, rather than understanding the superpowers that administrative pro brings, and letting her or him do more.
Or, maybe you need to make a business case for additional support.
I’m always amazed at the companies who are short-sighted enough to see administrative or operational support as a cost and not an asset.
For example, I once led a series of coaching groups for selected high-potential employees at a major technology firm.
For me, the best part of these groups was watching talented, insightful people actively growing their own leadership skills as well as supporting each other in the day-to-day challenges of a fast-paced environment.
The worse part of these groups is that these busy, high performing and highly paid people did not have administrative support.
So, they spent loads of their highly valuable (and highly paid) time scheduling meetings and tracking down meeting rooms and call-in numbers.
Truth is, even great calendaring technology does NOT make this an easy nor productive use of time.
I once did the math and realized that based on their average salary, these leaders’s time came to about $100/hour.
If you’d asked the CEO whether he thought it was a smart idea to pay someone $100/hour to schedule meetings, he would have said an emphatic NO.
But that’s exactly what they were doing.
I shudder to think what that deceptively simple but time-consuming task cost that company over time.
Another way to build your support team is to ask.
Are there others in your company who you can swap superpowers with—maybe you can work on their spreadsheets if they’ll help you with your stand-up presentations.
Or are there others in your industry you can mastermind or brainstorm with to find better solutions to your workplace problems?
It’s easier than ever to meet people like this at professional associations or to post questions in online groups such as LinkedIn (where you’re welcome to connect with me–just tell me in your invitation that you “met” me here.)
What’s the support you need to really be your best in your superpower space?
Your red cape doesn’t get hung by the door when you get home; it’s part of you.
Beyond your workplace, start to think about your support team more broadly:
- Do you need a new doctor, nutritionist, massage therapist or workout buddy to help you feel better?
- Is it time to see an image consultant, personal shopper or hair stylist so you can look better?
- Would a personal organizer, housekeeper, tax accountant or lawn service eliminate some stress so you can think better?
- How would a coach, mastermind group, or class help you prepare for the future better?
“But I can’t afford the support I need”
Finally, if you’re saying right now, “I’d love more support, but can’t afford it,” then you’re not alone.
And you’re wrong.
Everything we do either costs us energy or gives us energy.
Activities outside our superpower space always cost us energy—we call them “draining,” “exhausting,” or “overwhelming.”
Work in our superpower space gives us energy, even if the work is complex and hard.
If it’s the right work, you can certainly be tired at the end of a day but still feel excited, proud, and great.
Money is just an exchange of energy.
Paying it to someone to eliminate the energy drains around you—the things that aren’t in your superpower space but might be in someone else’s—can be the best investment in yourself you’ll make.
What’s it worth to you to be in your superpower space, feeling proud and great, more often?
Here’s my own example.
I am really, really clear on my superpowers, and keeping an organized space is not one of them.
My brain is very organized. My physical environment, well, not so much.
Intellectually, I know I can clean a closet—I know how and am bodily able.
Yet, the idea of spending precious time doing it bores and drains me, and so I procrastinate, make half-hearted attempts on rainy days, and end up spending more brainpower avoiding the job than doing it.
Until I met Emily.
Emily is a certified professional organizer, and she’s in her superpower space doing the same exact things that rob me of mine.
Plus, since she cleans and rearranges closets, drawers, and secret stashes all the time, she does it quickly and efficiently and knows the tricks and tools to get the job done.
I might wander in the Container Store for hours; Emily knows what’s there before she goes.
I first hired Emily to organize my small yet cluttered kitchen. Then my office. Then a closet. And another.
What I gained in time, refreshed energy, less guilt on those rainy days, and better use and enjoyment of my physical environment has been worth every penny of my investment in her superpowers.
What support do you need right now to be able to bring your superpowers to work each and every day, to feel clear, confident, and in control?
Most of us weren’t taught to pay attention to the places we’re spending time on things others can do–we’re told to get more done ourselves. But that never works.
If you’d like to create more time in your day at work, feeling more in control and less stressed, I’d like to help. Schedule your initial 30-minute coaching consultation with me now–it’s fast, fun and free.
Here’s how it works. Hit the button below, and pick a date and time that’s available. Answer a few short questions, and then I’ll call you at the time you picked.
There’s nothing to prepare–just show up right where you are. If, after we talk, it sounds like one of my coaching programs or courses will help you going forward, I’ll share details after our call. There’s no pressure –my goal is to be helpful immediately.
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