Behind every great leader, at the base of every great tale of success, you will find an indispensable circle of trusted advisors, mentors, and colleagues. These groups come in all forms and sizes and can be found at every level and in nearly all spheres of both professional and personal life, but what they all have in common is a unique kind of connection with each other that I've come to call lifeline relationships.
These relationships are, quite literally, why some people succeed far more than others. In Who's Got Your Back, I want to give you a practical guide to building an inner circle of lifeline relationships so you can do for your life what Jean Nidetch did for hers.
Well Connected and All Alone
Ten years after leaving the executive committee of Deloitte Consulting, I had been, at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, one of the youngest chief marketing officers in the Fortune 500. In 2003, my first book, Never Eat Alone, promoting the power of genuine relationships and generosity in our lives at work, had become a national bestseller. And from everything I heard back from readers and clients, the book was helping people change their lives for the better. I felt as if I was beginning to find my real purpose in life–helping others improve their careers and their companies. It felt so much more meaningful than putting "butts in beds," as I would joke, as the chief marketing officer at Starwood. Shortly afterward I had fulfilled a lifelong dream by starting my own consulting and training company, Ferrazzi Greenlight–or FG, as we called it. To the outside world, I seemed to have it all–success, money, recognition, well-paid speaking engagements, a stack of appreciative fan mail, and a professional and social network the size of a midsized metropolitan phone book.
On the surface, life was great. But beneath, everything wasn't as it seemed. The fact is, in terms of where I wanted the company to be, my business was disappointing me. I was feeling overwhelmed and isolated. It felt as if I was at a pool party, surrounded by friends and acquaintances, but instead of mingling and passing drinks, I was alone in the deep end of the pool, struggling just to keep my head above water . . . and no one seemed to notice.
I realized that I was behaving like a mediocre manager. Too much of our client work required me to execute it personally. Although I'd hired a handful of skilled executives to help me build FG, I hadn't prioritized the time to coach them to do what I do, or to figure out a business that didn't involve me doing most of the legwork. When my colleagues tried to intervene and take the burden off my back, too often I was disappointed with the results. My solution: I put my head down and tried to bulldoze through my problems, taking on even more, which caused me to neglect even more of the day-to-day management of the company and spend even less time coaching my team. I was on the road constantly, an absentee CEO. Our work was more than just a job to me; it was a mission I believed passionately in. I believed in it so much that I couldn't let go when I should have. So I was racing around the country like a crazy guy. And yet FG was turning down business because I couldn't do it all by myself.
It was an old behavior that I knew in my gut was tripping me up, yet I couldn't see a pathway beyond it. It was a downward spiral.