What Every Leader Needs To Know About Their Support Crew

Had it not been for some timely encouragement from his wife, Tabby, the now prolific and enormously successful writer, Stephen King, may have never written his first book – or, consequently, any of the others he has gone on to produce.

While writing what later would become the best seller, Carrie, King was working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Not yet fully confident in the quality or marketability of his writing, and discouraged by having no money to fix his car or even get a phone, he threw the first draft of his book in the garbage.

Fortunately, for all of his many readers and fans, King’s wife later pulled the pages out of the trash, shook the cigarette ashes off the crumpled balls of paper, smoothed them out and sat down to read them. When she was done, she redirected the trajectory of her husband’s life telling him directly, “I think you’ve got something here. I really do.”

Despite commonly held opinions to the contrary, many CEOs and senior executives suffer from self-doubt and a lack of confidence – as much as the rest of us. Having a select group of people who will believe in you is paramount to a leader’s resilience, ability to persist in the face of setbacks and ultimately, success.

Who do I mean by your ‘Support Crew’?  These are the people who:

– Know when you are getting closer to being your authentic self (and conversely when you are not)

– Believe you can do it, even when you aren’t so sure

– Will tell you when you are being a pillock (in a supportive kind of way and sometimes as subtly as raising an eyebrow at you)

– Are the opposite of the family members of a talent show contestant, who say you can hold a tune when you clearly can’t.  Your support crew know your professional weaknesses as well as your strengths, and have an uncanny knack of raising your self-awareness.

They can be an ex-boss, a mentor, a mate, your partner or a coach. It might even be your EA.

What’s the take-out?

  1. Know who your Support Crew peeps are and understand that you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, trying to carry it all on your shoulders is detrimental to achieving what you are currently trying to achieve. Every Stephen King needs a Tabby.
  1. Reach out to them today, thank them and tell them how much they mean to you. As well as making their day, gratitude has clear scientifically proven links to happiness.  Even better, write a hand written note letting them know how you feel.
  1. Take a moment to consider who you are currently supporting. Who looks to you as their support person? Ask yourself, “what’s one thing I can do today to really channel that support person vibe for them?”

And, if in reading this blog you aren’t quite sure who your Support Crew is – and if it feels a tad lonely at the top – see here for some ways to feel more connected.

Now the 19th best-selling author of all time, when King won the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003, he didn’t talk about his success in his acceptance speech. He spoke about his support person…the woman who rescued Carrie from the trash and insisted he keep going – Tabby.

“There is a time in the lives of most writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world,” King said at the ceremony. “In short, there’s a time when things can go either way. That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness…that the time had come to put my dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint.”

But of course, she didn’t. What’s more, if you open any edition of Carrie, you’ll read the same dedication:

“This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it.” Because that’s what support peeps do. And we couldn’t do it without them.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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