As an avid basketball fan (and player, I was typically shooting guard) as a kid, I learned the importance of cooperation early on.
Every position, from forward to center, plays a crucial role in defense, offense, and most importantly, scoring. Without everyone working together, as a team, you will most often lose.
Being successful in any venture—on the court or in the boardroom—requires poise, persistence and partnership. If you want to be an MVP in your field, you have to push yourself to think (and work) harder constantly. But even this doesn’t cover all your bases.
Although my ball days are long since past, you’d be surprised to hear how much I think about them. Playing and watching basketball taught me the value of collaboration and many leadership tools I use today in my work as an Inc. 500 entrepreneur, startup advisor, founder of Influencive and marketing executive.
It’s impossible to know everything, but collaborators can help you learn much more.
By offering different perspectives and challenging your ideas, they help you become well-rounded and thoughtful. The right kind of collaborators complement your strengths and keep you in check, they help you be forward-thinking innovative—when you’re creating something out of nothing.
Here’s how to surround yourself with partners who motivate you to be your best.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Realizing what you bring to the table, as well as your blind spots, is a process. It takes time, self-reflection and awareness. While it’s important to be confident in your abilities, being part of a successful team requires you to balance a conviction in yourself with an appreciation for how others can fill the gaps in your knowledge.
You have to be willing to shed your ego.
I might have a good IQ, for example, but my real strength lies in my EQ, my emotional intelligence. Reading situations, gauging other people’s motivations, and understanding how to work with others comes more naturally to me than working with numbers in a spreadsheet.
That’s why over the years, I’ve sought out business partners who excel in aspects of business and fields that are complementary to those in which I excel.
Seek out people who are different than you.
It can be tempting to enclose yourself in a group of only like-minded people who don’t challenge your way of thinking. Early on in my career, I sought out people who were exactly like me.
But being in an echo chamber doesn’t lead to growth, and a good partner is someone who has different thoughts and ideas than you.
I still work with one of my first business partners. He’s the polar opposite of me in every way. Physically, mentally, personality—we couldn’t be more different. He is this incredibly tall, larger-than-life guy who can start a conversation with just about anybody. (Many of you will know who I’m talking about at this point). For example, while we both have various business superpowers, his expertise in business development and sales perfectly complements my experience in marketing and strategic networking. And at the core of it all, we have two common denominators, which are: drive and relentlessness persistence.
This synergy is what makes partnerships work so well.
The magic of collaboration really comes to life when people bring their own ways of thinking to the table, their own methodologies. This kind of diversity helps you build a well-balanced team. One with varied voices, diverging opinions, and people who challenge each other—rather than yes-men who agree with everything the boss says.
Value your teammate’s opinions and stand by them.
In the example of one of my business partners, he is someone who’s always kept me in check, in a respectful way. I appreciate his approach and value his viewpoint. And we have found a lot of success working together, especially after all these years.
Being surrounded by collaborators who challenge your ideas or criticize your work can lead to hurt feelings. It’s only natural. But, knowing how to communicate with partners accurately is vital to a productive working relationship.
If I ever feel attacked by somebody I work with, I take a moment to slow down and reflect on this person’s intention. Sometimes, I actually am being attacked. More frequently, I realize I’m just being protective of my idea.
There’s a big difference between a collaborator who’s merely nasty and one who doesn’t like your idea. Whenever you feel hurt by someone’s comment, take a step back. Your colleagues probably aren’t attacking you, so try not to get offended immediately. Determine if your feelings are justified or if you’re feeling defensive because your ego has been bruised.
Surrounding yourself with the right collaborators will challenge you to grow into the best version of yourself and improve your game.
Remember, it’s always sweeter to celebrate a hard-earned victory with your teammates.