From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

Choosing Inner Circle Members

Let us expand the inner circle relationships lesson from the last issue. You will learn strategies for choosing which individuals in your social network should belong to your inner circle.

The discussion forum will remain open until Midnight-January 31 for questions about inner circle relationships. You can also reply to this message if you do not feel comfortable posting on the forum.

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Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

How to Choose Your Inner Circle Members

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

When selecting individuals for your inner circle consider a few points that will help you focus your efforts, introduce maximum value, and provide a group that can achieve mutual success. Inner circle relationships are the core of your sphere of influence. Choosing the right inner circle members is critical to you business success.

Many executives and independent professionals do not choose the people they associate with in their daily activities. Others never invest any time to consider the value of these relationships to their own objectives, or their value to the other individual. This mistake costs time, effort, and creates unnecessary frustration. How much effort do you put into selecting the relationships around you?

If you take a conscious effort to manage the quality of your closest relationships, you will create an inner circle that moves forward in ever action.

According to those who study group dynamics, there seems to be an almost magic number governing group size. Most groups function better when they are of less than 150 individuals. This seems to be the case in my own experience; groups over this size tend to segment into smaller niches that reduce effectiveness and focus. What are your own experiences with group size?

Remember, everyone needs time away from the work world, at least to recharge their batteries while garnering new ideas from hobbies and social interests. It is so important to have a few personal relationships even if your primary drive is your business. Since there is a practical limit of 150 strong relationships, choose your inner circle for your goals in life.

The benefit of separate personal and business relationships will be more evident in the future. A stable family life is the foundation of a balanced lifestyle, success in your work, and is necessary to achieve your business objectives. Of the 150 total strong relationships you will have at any given time, use 100 slots in business, and the remaining in two personal/social categories discussed later.

Get out a pad of paper, or open your contact manager to list a group of inner circle relationships. Right now a name and a few details describe below will be all you are noting. This group of 100 individuals will represent your business inner circle relationships, and these individual will have the following characteristics:

  1. They have significant impact on your success. Think about those people who must accomplish something for you to get something. The success of your subordinates becomes your success, and your board or stakeholders' success increases your own opportunities. This includes people who contribute to revenue if revenue is a measure of your success.
  2. You have a clear benefit to them. Members of your inner circle must influence your success, but even more importantly, you must contribute to their success. If you do not provide some value, why would they want to help? Look to those people around you that depend on the resources you have at hand. Document that benefit for each individual on your list.
  3. They have a clear benefit to you. Some individuals in your inner circle will not contribute to your success as much as they provide other benefits. Look for individuals who have strengths that complement your own abilities. Perhaps they have resources you need to help others in your network or customers of your business. Document this benefit with each individual.
  4. You already know these individuals. Many people could contribute to your success, benefit from knowing you, and provide benefit to you, but very few already know who you are. It is better to start with people you know, than to start from scratch building new relationships. It is easier because with a small inner circle, you have something to offer new members and can network through existing contacts to find other people of value.
  5. They have a positive attitude towards you. Not only must inner circle members know you, they must be supportive and positive of what you do. You are not going to convert an enemy, save your resources by choosing those people who are already contributing to what you do. If you are not clear where someone stands in his or her support of you, just ask.
  6. You see great potential in them. You have to respect individuals in your inner circle and see they have potential to grow. Otherwise, you will be cynical about the time you have invested in growing the relationship. Choose people who will be a greater asset in the future, those individuals who when promoted open new resources that fulfill mutual objectives.
  7. They represent high-quality relationships. Right now, you know people who can benefit you, but the relationship is not strong enough to start working together directly. You can drop in on an inner circle member, unannounced, and they will be happy to see you. Choose individuals to whom you already have a high-quality relationship or could easily upgrade the relationship through effort.

Inner circle relationships are not about the number of people you know, but the people who will help you grow.

As you mature in business, you may find more relationships outside of business, perhaps in social groups. Always have inner circle relationships that are both personal and business related that mutually support your objectives. In another lesson, you will learn how your inner circle will change as you mature as in individual.

Work with a group that is easy to grow.As an executive, you will want to include key clients and employees, subordinates, industry leaders, and others who influence help you accomplish your objectives. Look for people who can advance your business objectives, career goals, and those who have resources you will need to succeed. It is important you are compatible with these people, but you do not necessarily have to have a strong relationship with them now.

You want to choose individuals who are interested in seeing you succeed. How do you measure their interest level? While you make a list of individuals you would like to have in your inner circle, take time ask these people their opinion of you. Yes, you will not always like what you hear, but inquisitive dialog is the only way to learn more about these relationships.

Inner circle relationships will be both in and outside of your current business. If you do not already have an inner circle of at least 100 individuals, work on improving the relationships you already have. Later you can expand your inner circle by introducing current relationships to others you meet in the course of your business. You can even ask people about their objectives and brainstorm about whom else might have similar interests.

Most executives find people who just click with the objectives they have defined. Choose those people who are around you and you will find greater success for all involved. After this, relationship building becomes easier as you clearly see the mutual benefit between each connection. What are you waiting for; analyze your own situation, document relationships, and be of value to those around you as much as you expect them to be for you.

© 2004 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ relationship-realms | executive-relations /

More readers equal more solutions that are relevant to you. If you know executives or independent professionals with a serious desire to improve business relationships, please tell them about Inside Strategic Relations. You can point out they will be in good company: readers include prominent leaders in the technology and professional services industries, scholars from top graduate schools, and top-name experts dealing with business issues. Many readers have been with this publication since 2001. Encourage interested parties to join privately at

Relationship Building Challenges You Must Consider

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

Kevin Ferguson is a long time reader of Inside Strategic Relations from the United Kingdom. In a recent conversation, we exchanged experiences about executive relationships that apply to these lessons on inner circles. His ideas are critical because they come from both practical experiences in customer relationship management and the foundation he has set down in started his own consultancy.

Challenges you will face in building inner circle relationships:

  1. Developing trust in referral partnerships. You will have to pass referrals between inner circle members to expand your own network and provide value to the group. Are your inner circles relationships strong enough that you trust they will perform in a way that positively reflects on you?
  2. Seeing the reciprocal value in mutual benefit. When one side demands from the other without sharing any value in return, relationships are ruined. You have to give before you can get, but do you know how much you can afford to extend before you are putting yourself out?
  3. Staying focused on a core value schema. You cannot be the best at everything, but too often individuals fear specialization because giving work to partners seems like revenue lost. What is it that sets you apart from all others, what do you do exceptionally well?
  4. Building networked opportunities that extend value. Many create vast networks of individuals that serve their own needs without seeing how segments of who you know can help those you have not yet met. How can you be a moderator that facilitates greater accomplishments with the resources you have?

The conversation covered other areas that future lessons will address. Right now, concentrate the four points listed above to expand inner circle relationships in value and influence. Kevin touched on the important point, "If I give you a dollar, and you give me a dollar, we each have a dollar. But, if I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we now have two ideas!"

Building relationships is the exchange of useful ideas at points of interaction. The ideas your inner circle create will solve problems and make available resources you currently do not have available. You will accomplish more. What actions will you take with the ideas shared here?

© 2004 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ magic-one | executive-relations /

Kevin Ferguson is the founder of Ancora Imparo IT Consultancy, providing independent advice for customer relationship management, systems auditing, and gateway services. To learn more visit

Justin Hitt gives executives tools they can use to increase profits using relationship building strategies. For real results in your business, call +1 (276) 254-8747 for a complementary 15-minute consultation.

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