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A large part of our success is determined by the people we surround ourselves with – this is known asĀ our circle of influence. Research has shown that we become the collective sum of the 5 people we spend the most of our time with, they are either influencing us in a positive or a negative way…..

Take a moment and reflect on who you regularly spend your time with – how are they influencing you and how are you influencing them?

They say if you want to be successful then you need to surround yourself with successful people as their thinking and behavioural traits will rub off on you.

In the workplace, a survey revealed that people starting out in their careers have a preference for positive feedback and want to know how they are doing in their role and the tasks they are performing.

Senior executives and experts on the other hand want constructive feedback so that they can improve themselves and progress in life.

You see we have been conditioned from a young age that feedback is negative and is seen as criticism. We first experienced this in school when we got our report cards back and if we didn’t meet the required pass mark standards we had failed. We received similar feedback throughout our lifetime in college or university and in our performance appraisals at work.

However this is not necessarily true. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. The feedback we receive tells us whether we are on the right path or whether corrective action needs to be taken (e.g. we need to study harder) or that we have made a mistake and need to change our actions (e.g. we didn’t have all the information we needed or expertise to make an informed decision).

This is where mentors can play a very important role in our lives.

Mentors act as sounding boards, they listen to us, our reasons for doing the things we do, provide guidance for us and give us feedback on our behaviour, thinking and actions.

It therefore makes sense that you pick the right people as your key circle of influence and the value that they can add to you and where you want to get to in life.

Here are 5 tips when it comes to selecting your circle of influence:

  1. Where’s the value – everyone has different levels of expertise, skills and knowledge. Know what value this person will add to you and how it aligns to your own vision and where you want to go in life before you connect with them (i.e. do your homework before you reach out)
  2. Don’t expect anything – approach a mentor with an attitude of how you can help them or add value to them before you start asking for favours. You need to earn their respect first and show them you are not a crazed fan but rather that you appreciate them for their expertise and wisdom and are serious about being mentored by them.
  3. Don’t be a puppet – you don’t have to agree with everything your mentor says or does. Just as you want a mentor to be honest with you, they expect people to be honest with them. They are constantly looking for feedback and ways to improve themselves and you are no different.
  4. Take a real interest – Get to really know your mentor. Remember things like their children’s names, their birthdays etc, enquire about their well-being. This shows that you are not just around them because of who they are and what they can do for you rather that you really value them and the role they play in your life.
  5. Have a plan – be clear on the things you want input and feedback on, if you don’t prepare for your meetings with your mentor you will be wasting valuable time that you could have used more constructively. Your mentor is a busy person so make the best use the time they have set aside for you.

Mentors don’t only have to be for our careers, we can have mentors in all areas of our lives e.g. becoming a better partner, mother/father, community builder etc.

Look at the key areas in your life where you would like to improve upon and identify possible mentors that can help you with the progress you want to make. Then set out to actively create a powerhouse group of mentors that will become your greatest circle of influence and help you succeed in your life and the path you have chosen for yourself.

Paula Quinsee is a Relationship Expert in Johannesburg. She teaches individuals and organisations how to cultivate healthy relationships in their personal lives and workplace. Paula runs a program for men called ‘The Mancave Mastermind Program’ which focuses on helping men become a better person, partner and leader. Enquire about the Jan 2017 intake here.

Paula is also the author of Embracing Conflict – a self-help guide filled with practical tools and insights. Attend one of her regular monthly workshops for great empowering tools.

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