Who Has Your Back?

William SewardOne reason so many leaders fail is that they become isolated.  We all need good friends who “have our back,” as my friend and business colleague Jason Pankau likes to say.  Good friends tell us the truth, they are willing to speak up if they believe we are wrong, and they support and encourage us through the inevitable difficult seasons we all experience in life.

A couple summers ago, I shot the above photograph of the William Seward statue in New York City’s Madison Square Park knowing that one day I would write about him. Seward was a onetime political rival of Abraham Lincoln’s who became a member of Lincoln’s cabinet and one of Lincoln’s best friends.  Doris Kearns-Goodwin wrote about their friendship in her wonderful book Team of Rivals. Frequently, Lincoln went to Steward’s residence in Washington D.C. where the two men talked for hours. Seward’s friendship was a lifeline for Lincoln during his struggles with depression, challenging periods he faced during the Civil War, his wife’s mental illness and the grief he felt following the death of his son.

Ask yourself if you have a few good friends who have your back at work and in life outside of work.  If you do, why not reach out to them and let them know how much you appreciate their friendship.  If you don’t have close friends, take out pen and paper then write down the names of individuals who have the potential to become good friends. Consider the following questions when selecting potential good friends:  Is he trustworthy?; Does he share your interests and values?; Does he live near you so that you can meet on a regular basis? Now that you have a few names, prioritize them then reach out to see if they are willing to meet you over a meal or coffee.  If the meeting goes well, ask if he would consider meeting on a regular basis. In my next post, I’ll write about the types of interactions that will make your meeting time with good friends worthwhile for each of you.

NASA JSCI’m dedicating this post to one of my best friends, Jason Pankau.  Here is a picture of us when we spoke recently at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas (Jason is on the right side of the picture). We are standing in front of the Mission Control center for the International Space Station.

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