Building Your Protection Team

In this “Thoughts from the Field” (Feb 2022) my colleague Bob Bernatz (Newport CA) highlights a critical mindset every leader must adopt – I need others to protect me. It’s a bold bit of humility! CEOs become CEOs typically because of some mix of hard work, intelligence, creativity, and relationship building. To reach this apex, one must be humble enough to recognize their own limitations; this is essential for success in the role. The key is to recognize that this protection team must be given permission to protect! Their job is to develop character as much as strategy. In my line of work – the person who typically learns the most is the leader, not the team. Enjoy!

Written by Bob Bernatz

As followers of Pat Lencioni’s work know, all organizations need to be both smart and healthy to be successful and influential. Leaders need to be both, as well. One of the biggest causes of leaders ending poorly professionally is their tendency to focus solely on achievement and status yet ignore how isolated they can become as they ascend the ladder of responsibility from college, to middle management and onto the C-Suite. They begin to lose their vital connections to people who can influence their behaviors, decisions and even their identity. We are always maturing yet, in isolation, that maturing can be greatly diminished and can often lead to misjudgments, mistakes or even failures.

The Cost of Isolation

Building Your Protection Team

As with organizational health, the foundational behavior for individual success is being vulnerable and trusting of a select group of friends and associates who care for you, are wise and know you extremely well. We all need a team to succeed in life and, at times, protect us from ourselves. Vulnerability for leaders means that we seek out and allow others to influence us, care for us and are always with us in success and in failure. It is also caring and being vulnerable with them, in return. 

There is a personal ladder in life that is created by our abilities, position and, most importantly, our character. The character rungs are the foundation of our success in life. The first rung starts with being humble. Being humble is putting ourselves under another’s influence and acting on that influence. In doing so, we create trusting relationships that speak the truth about us and challenge us to stay true to how we are wired and gifted but also where we can sometimes be our own worst enemy. When we trust and act on these truths, we keep ascending our ladder and, hopefully, end very well as a leader, spouse, partner, friend, professional and parent.

I recently saw the wonderful and touching documentary on John Madden. Coach Madden was a great example of someone who allowed others to influence him and how much he influenced others to real greatness. John was an incredibly humble man and that humility made him one of the most beloved coaches and broadcasters in our lifetime.

Having a group of people who protect us as we protect them is vital in life. Our most important personal and business decisions need to run through these trusted people, your “protection team.” These protectors also strengthen our identity. Integrity is knowing who we are and who are not, what we can do and what we can’t do and what we believe and what we don’t believe. Knowing clear answers to these critical questions will lead to a far more influential and satisfying life both personally and professionally. 

Your protection team can offer you a trusted lens to see ourselves more clearly and possibly from a very different perspective. They can help greatly in clarifying and fine-tuning our understanding of ourselves. At times, we can go through life quite blind or oblivious to our true gifts that may be unknown or even some quirky behaviors that may hurt our effectiveness. Often, we don’t really know who we are until someone else tells us. This team can play a very important role in staying true to our highest calling and avoid roles that may not be best suited for us.

Actions to take . . .

·         Assess your level of isolation and its effect on your entire life.

·         Make a list of people who know you well, who are wise and are deeply invested in you.

·         Seek them out as a group when you are failing in a role or when you are making an important decisions or changes.

·         Have consistent connections with them throughout the year.

·         Act on their observations, counsel and advise.

We have all seen leaders who battle isolation by intuitively building this team in their lives and have achieved very meaningful and significant things. I encourage you to do the same and see what a difference it makes in your life and the lives of those you lead, work with, love, care for and influence.