All We Need is… Groups

How we can all leverage groups to help us Get S*^t Done

The Beatles said it better :)

Our demands from life and business are only getting greater every moment. As individuals, we want to find the one thing we’re really good at and excel at it. We want to find purpose and we also want work-life balance. As business owners, we want to build a fast growing company with a global impact. We also want to build great company culture to ensure our team members are happy. Yes, we want it all.

I’m constantly trying to hack my life so I can “get it all” too. There are so many life hacks I’m trying right now — waking up super early, eating food that keeps me focused throughout the day, and managing my time strictly. But these are only partial solutions. The real “hack” I’ve always relied on to help me move forward in life and business has been to keep myself surrounded with incredible groups.

Life gives us many resources. Time is indeed one of the most scarce and valuable of them. But there is another resource I’ve always valued more — people. The power of people working together is simply something that keeps inspiring me. So, I want to share with you my most consistent and impactful life hack to “getting it all” — building strong groups to accelerate your forward momentum.

This life hack, in part, was developed by a college professor who once gave me advice about gaining some measure of work-life balance. She said, “Do what you do best and outsource all the rest”. Given her accomplishments as a Harvard professor, author of multiple books, constant global traveler, mother to four great kids, and regular marathon runner, I took her advice on as a personal motto.

The message is simple for me. No man is an island. So, here are my tips for how to build, grow and sustain amazing groups that will help you get it all done — and then some.

1. Identify the goals and challenges you want to tackle

To truly organize, start, and then build groups that can help you — and that you become passionate about contributing back into — you have to start with outlining what you want to accomplish. When I first moved to San Francisco with a new company idea, I had a few goals— like kickstarting my company, validating our concept, and developing a great network of mentors. Right now, grab a pen and write down the goals you’d like to develop some momentum around. Make those goals measurable and perhaps some of them will be deadline-driven as well. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready for the next step in organizing your groups.

2. Identify the groups that already empower you

Groups are the basic organizational unit we use today as human beings. Psychologically, we organize people into groups based on their similarities and functions as related to each other and ourselves: Who should I include on this email about this project at work? Who should I allow to see this Facebook or blog post about my next trip? Which neighbors should I invite to the dinner party I’m throwing? Have you thought about how you might organize your groups of connections beyond work, personal and family?

Visualize the circles of people you have around you already and engage with (or would like to engage with) regularly — from the closest circle of your friends and family to the team you work in and partners you collaborate with weekly. Write these groups down, bearing in mind how they are aligned to the goals you outlined previously — some of them may overlap. For me, they generally include:

  • Family members and close friends who keep me grounded
  • Other CEOs and professional peers that are going/went through a similar journey
  • Investors, advisors and industry experts who I meet with as my mentors
  • Early adopters of Mobilize who I rely on to try our latest features and share honest feedback

Through outlining these groups you’ll see where you have strong support and where there are gaps. Also, you’ll have time to think about what makes some of these groups more effective than others. You may want to more actively engage with and learn from these groups for a month or so before going to the next step.

3. Create new groups where you see gaps

When I moved to Silicon Valley to start my company — I knew fewer than 5 people in this city. That’s all. It was a fresh start to say the least. So I had to proactively create new groups. The most efficient way to add new groups is to join existing ones. Joining an accelerator program can be really useful for startups (we joined UpWest Labs, which helped us kickstart our journey in Silicon Valley). To initially expand my network, I tapped into the ecosystem the accelerator provided. I got to know everyone in the current batch I was a part of and immediately started asking for introductions. In parallel to the people I started meeting through that initial avenue, I started to see a need for creating my own groups. I identified two main needs I had as an individual. I wanted to meet with other CEOs, entrepreneurs and professional peers whom I could consult and collaborate with on an ongoing basis. Advisors, mentors and investors would likely be another critical group to learn from for this fledgling idea I had. So I created a list of people I identified and proactively reached out to them, asked for intros and built new relationships from scratch. These two provided the basis for groups I’d actively have to curate and develop over time.

4. Organize your groups thoughtfully

We’re all increasingly dependent on the people around us, which makes it more critical to be thoughtful about organizing and maintaining these relationships. Unless you’ve previously developed fairly involved Google Groups or personal CRM solutions, you likely haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of organizing groups of people for personal or professional reasons. And even then, you’re probably not feeling as on top of making these relationships strong and meaningful as you’d like. For example, on a business level, specially in the new highly networked economy, we rely more than ever on groups like partners, resellers, early adopters or brand ambassadors and investing in them means investing in the future of your business.

We need to become more mindful and efficient in how to use and reciprocate these connections so they propel us as individuals and our collective efforts forward. Here are some steps I’ve used in the past to organize the people and groups around me.

  • Put the groups and aligned goals you’ve already listed in the steps above into a spreadsheet. Add or research any additions you want to make.
  • Next, think about how often you want to engage with each group of people to accomplish your goals — whether they’re organizing that monthly meetup, or gaining regular mentorship from CEOs of companies larger than yours.
  • Finally, think through what and how you want to communicate regularly — emails, texts, pictures, whatever works. These are all the tools that will facilitate your continuing relationships within these groups.

5. Sustain your group relationships with care

Now that you’ve thought more about all the incredible people you’re connected to — and want to develop stronger relationships with — to reach your goals, you need to remember something. To develop healthy and long-term relationships, you must care for them appropriately. Relationships require reciprocity and authenticity in order to last. Here are a few suggestions for how to turn your groups into dynamic and rewarding relationships.

  • Whenever you interact with your people or groups through email, calls or in-person meetings, proactively ask what you can help with or what challenges they’re facing. I’ve been intimidated in the past with thinking about what I could possibly offer experienced advisors or inspiring peers. However, over time I realized there was a lot I could do to help with testing products in development, keeping my eyes open to potential candidates or just lending my fresh perspective to a problem. Keep asking how you can help and then follow-up.
  • To the point of following up, make sure to let your groups and contacts know how you took action on their advice or how their help made all the different for you. I make a point of regularly sending updates to my advisors and celebrating milestones with peers and friends for two reasons. These communications hold me accountable to working towards my goals and they let my groups know the role they’ve played in my successes and learnings.
  • Consider how your groups can communicate with you or each other to share news, opinions and reactions. We’ve all been so well trained by all the social media platforms to “like” and heart posts. When it comes to sharing clear opinions or actionable ideas, however, those platforms are often too passive for deeper communications. To continually strengthen your groups, think about how and where to encourage genuine connections and the ability to communicate multi-directionally. This may include making sure to ask open-ended questions and tagging specific people you know have strong (and even contradicting) opinions. (Or, brief plug to check out Mobilize for sharing various types and forms of communications amongst groups.)

Why This is So Important

Several years ago, NPR noted that we only have 150 friends we can keep track of regularly. If we have only 150 friends, how many people do we all regularly connect with through our broader personal, professional and other circles? We likely have many, many more connections we can’t accurately account for given this narrow cognitive grouping. Regardless of the number of people you’re connected to though, I believe that — like myself — you are looking to get the most out of each relationship you have and every minute of everyday. Being more mindful of these connections and the groups they fall within will help us take more advantage of the know-how and energy we all possess reach our individual and shared goals.

And well, I’ll let this Beatles song summarize why groups are truly critical for each one of us, cause’ eventually — we all just get by with a little help from our friends.