Twenty first century leaders have tough jobs that are mired in complexity. There can be a lot to manage; our actions affect other people’s lives and livelihoods, our behavior affects the bottom line, and our decisions are often put under a microscope. No matter how challenging circumstances become, people (rightly) expect us to use our expertise wisely and carefully to make the best decision for all stakeholders. That’s a tall order — and an important one.
Since the stakes are so often high, many smart leaders develop a habit of consulting valued resources and trusted confidants to ensure they make the best call. This is a highly effective habit — when we can actually spare the time to pick up the phone or meet up for lunch to get advice. The brutal reality is: nine times out of ten, there simply isn’t time to formally consult with others. So many of the decisions leaders must make in a day or week are on-demand and time sensitive. That’s why we need practices that empower us to make the best decisions in the moment, on the fly, in the eye of the storm.
Our Founder, Doug Conant, has developed a practice that allows him to consult with all his most trusted advisors, at a moment’s notice, whenever he needs them, without having to go anywhere or call anyone. The practice is called the Entourage of Excellence™ – and it’s a straightforward practice that you can develop too.
Here’s how it works:
Think about your leadership journey thus far. Surely, there are countless people who have influenced the way you choose to walk in the world. It’s likely you admire a host of different people, for many different reasons. For example, there may be somebody who comes to mind when you think of an exemplary work ethic, or negotiation skills, or remaining calm under pressure.
Some of these people may be friends or family members. Others might be famous leaders or mentors. Others still may be authors, coaches, colleagues, or great thinkers from centuries ago. Whoever they are, and however they’ve influenced you — most leaders have “go-to” people that spring to mind when they think of the positive attributes they have observed and hope to emulate with their own leadership behaviors. Inevitably, your “go-to” people change depending on the situation. You might think of one person when you are facing a competitive situation, another person when you are preparing to give tough feedback, and another person entirely when you are trying to bolster your emotional intelligence.
As you advance in your journey and encounter tougher and tougher problems, and you must make decisions faster and more decisively, you won’t always be able to call those people up, or consult the book they wrote. It is immensely helpful to put a process in place for having all the people who have ever positively influenced you at your disposal – no matter the situation. The Entourage of Excellence™ exercise is a way to do exactly that; it is a way to add discipline and intention to reflecting on your leadership influencers. And it also jumpstarts a process for having a high-impact entourage of advisors available to you — at a moment’s notice, any time you need them. Essentially, this exercise helps you to build and curate your own concierge advisory board.
Start small. Your entourage doesn’t have to be huge to begin with; the only requirement is that you think carefully about the exercise and populate your entourage with people who are inspiring and helpful to you. First, choose two people from your professional life (past or present), two from your personal life (past or present), and two leaders from history who have inspired you.
For each person you choose, on a sheet of paper — write down their name, the qualities you admire about them (i.e. team work, mental toughness, EQ etc.) and a brief, two to three sentence story or anecdote about why you are adding them to your entourage. This inaugural group of six is just the beginning; as you get used to the process, you’ll continue to add members to your entourage throughout your lifetime.
Once you have compiled your entourage, it is always with you, wherever you go. Anytime you need guidance, you will simply do a quick mental accounting of your entourage, choose the right person for the job, and ask, “What would ______ do?” Mentally transport yourself to an actual consultation with the person you have selected. How would they respond to the situation? What would they recommend? What questions would they ask you? How would they challenge you? The more you practice the exercise, the faster and more efficiently you will be able to leverage your entourage in your decision making. For example, Doug is so used to this practice that he is able to “consult” with his entourage in a split second, but it’s a split second that often makes an enormous difference. When you develop this as a habit, you too can more confidently choose the best path forward, with excellence. At a moment’s notice.
Who’s in your entourage? Share some of the “go-to” leaders that spring to your mind.