Step One In Developing An Inner Circle

In my last two posts, I described why you need to develop an inner circle of leadership. We looked at several compelling reasons you need an inner circle, including the example that Jesus set for us. I also identified and answered several common objections to this idea. Now that you are convinced that you simply must have an inner circle, let’s take at look at how you do it!

inner circle

In this, and the next two posts, I am going to break this process into three simple steps using material from Dave Anderson’s book, How To Run Your Business By The Book.

The first step in developing your inner circle is to:

1. Identify and invest more into those with the highest upward potential

Identify Your Inner Circle

Let’s start with identifying the people with the highest upward potential. So, exactly how do you go about doing this? Well, first and foremost, I would pray about it. I would pray for wisdom and discernment as I reviewed my employees for prospects. Ask for Him to reveal qualities and characteristics that you may not already be aware of. Pray for patience as well. Jesus prayed all night!

Next I would look at your current leadership structure. The easiest people to choose are already in your key leadership positions. Hopefully, assuming you have these positions, the people you have here are trustworthy and have the potential you are seeking. Mutual trust is mandatory.

For me, it was fairly clear because I had been fortunate enough to have people in my key management positions that fit this role perfectly. Not only did they have the highest potential, but they also shared the same values and beliefs and were quickly bought in to the mission as I presented it.

Your situation may not be the same. If not, you may have to spend more time on this step. You also may see that you are not positioned well with your key people. While that is likely not something you can change quickly, it is certainly something you need to address over time.

Here are three keys to choosing these people:

    Ready – The people you choose must be ready to take on the additional learning and responsibility. Regardless of where they are now in their leadership growth process, they cannot be immature, unstable, or short-sighted. They need to be ready to take on the challenge you will place in front of them.
    Willing – Another requirement is that they must be willing, even eager to join this group. You do not want someone that you are constantly having to sell on the idea! They need to see the opportunity you are presenting and value it.
    Able – The actual level of each members’ ability to take this on depends on the general ability level of the group. While every member of the group does not necessarily have to be on equal ground with all of the others, they need to be close. If you have one potential member that trails the others by a significant amount, you may want to consider another path for them. Otherwise, they will likely hold back the progress of the group.

One note, it is my opinion that you may need to start with only one individual that IS the right fit rather than trying to force two or three others that are NOT a good fit. Think quality over quantity! Personally, I have a total of five. I am not sure there is a magic number, but I would not have many more than this. Intimacy is also important for this group.

Invest In Your Inner Circle

This step will be different for each leader, depending on the level of the members of the inner circle. Depending on your industry or your company’s mission, you may already have a ready-made path for leadership development. If not, you may have to create your own. The key here is to be intentional about their development.

Here are some simple steps to consider:

    Determine the gap – Look at where they are as a group right now. Look at where you see them in x number of years after you have invested in their development. Now try to plot out a path to close that gap!
    Gather material – Choose material that will reinforce your mission while moving them down the path you have chosen. Make sure it is not too far above or below their ability to absorb. Obviously, the internet is an almost infinite source of material! Consider joining a C12 group as one source!
    Schedule time alone with them – Jesus spent time with the crowds, but He also carved out time just for His twelve. He then carved out other time for the three. You have to do the same.
    Monitor your progress – Take time along the way to stop and check your progress. Document what you are doing. This will give you a sense of how far you have come as a group.
    Celebrate growth – Take time to celebrate your progress! While there is a lot of work to be done in this process, you need to enjoy the fruit of it as well!

Are you ready to choose your members?

What are your challenges here?

What is your next action step?

(Originally posted 10/19/11)

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  • When I read about “Determine the Gap,” I thought of those opening days of baseball season and seeing the freshman players. They had a long ways to go to become a team and to learn the skills needed to perform on the diamond. Practice prepared them for games. Games measured their growth (and a lot of that can’t be determined by wins or losses but just simply watching them on the field). Interesting to note the practice-performance-practice-performance cycle highlights that we need both to excel. If we only practice, we lack purpose. If we only perform, we lack skill [that was evident last night in our church league softball game; walks by the pitcher (me) and errors (mostly our outfielders) resulted in a 19-2 loss–ouch!].

    • Sorry about the game! I have been there!

      Great line: “If we only practice, we lack purpose. If we only perform, we lack skill.” You nailed it!

      • An outcome like that only proves the point that practice helps. I normally play 2nd base but our regular pitcher was gone. We had 2 players who filled in because about half our team went to teen camp this week and even with the additions we were still short two players on the field. Oh, well. That shoots my 0.00 ERA up a bit (pitched 2 scoreless innings at the end of blowouts in order to prepare to pitch a whole game).

  • It has been hard for me to shift my focus from the community of readers to the community of editors, as The High Calling has grown.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn over the last few years. Hopefully, I am giving them the support they need.

    On a side note, I also have to be careful thinking about my inner circle too much or my mind can play tricks on me, dismissing people as “unworthy” of being in my inner circle. Or jockeying and pandering to people who I hope will let me into their inner circle.

    • Good points, Marcus. I understand the difficulty in shifting your focus, but as you get better at it, your impact is multiplied!