I once had a boss who was a great connection, on paper — female, successful, results oriented, a great supporter of me and my work. Over time, however, as my success and network of influence grew, her behaviour changed.
Once productive meetings became discussions of negative details; my big ideas, which had once been embraced enthusiastically, were shut down; my personal ambitions were devalued and marginalised. I was clearly and continuously put back in my box. A woman who had once inspired me now began to limit me.
Now it might seem unlikely that you would associate with someone who doesn’t support you or your work. Some of you may even resonate with the story above (as an aside, given an Australian Human Rights Commission report cites "The Beyond Bullying Association, estimates that between 400,000 and two million Australians will be harassed at work (in 2001), while 2.5 to 5 million will experience workplace harassment at some time during their career" it seems highly likely.)
But often the negative impact of such behaviours won’t be immediately evident. It is only with time and experience that you begin to recognise the subtle interventions that keep you small, or behaviours that are incongruous with the lifestyle you actually want to lead or the person you want to become. Many of us tolerate personal and professional connections who drain us of energy, inspiration and momentum.
Every 12 months I review my network to make sure I am surrounding myself with people who are going to help me achieve my dreams. At the same time, I am continuously moving on from any negative influences, because I want to surround myself with people who want to grow and live a positive life.
Thinking about who to cut from your network may very well make you feel uncomfortable or even downright self-centred. The idea of putting yourself first (not second, third or even at the bottom of the list), and being strategic about who you choose to ride alongside you on your personal journey to success, can make us feel, well, icky.
But remember this: Your network is for your growth — not your mum’s, your boss’s or your neighbour’s. If you want to have any kind of success — and happiness — in life, you need to surround yourself with the right crew.
Look closely at your network, and ask yourself if any of the people in it:
- drag you down
- make you doubt your abilities
- never seem to have ideas of their own, but always say yes to yours
- always see the negative in every situation
- put you on the defensive
- make you hesitate about your decisions and what you want to do
- talk about themselves all the time and show little interest in you
- take your ideas and comments for their own?
Figure out who you want in your inner circle and who is not supporting you or your journey. Because once you identify the negative people in your life who limit your progress, then you have the choice as to how much time, if any, you give them. You can put up boundaries, manage your time and as a result manage their impact on your energy.
Deepak Chopra puts it like this: ‘Negative people deplete your energy. Surround yourself with love and nourishment and do not allow the creation of negativity in your environment.’
Knowing who to cut from your network is as important as knowing who to keep.