The top 5 elements for creating a support network

07 October 2019

Jen Harwood

Jen Harwood is a business coach, author and entrepreneur. She has worked with thousands of leaders and managers to help them identify and appreciate how to build solid teams of support.

The five elements that make a good support network that will help you through the good and tough times in business and life.

Over the last 20 years, I have been working with business owners and leaders on how to network better to create better opportunities for their careers, business and lives.

What I’ve noticed in recent years is that the connection people have with each other really comes down to how well an individual builds the personal relationship with the contact. You see, surface level connections, social media likes and the number of followers, really doesn’t constitute a solid network that you can do business on and create leverage.

There are five elements that a leader needs to work on to ensure they have a network of trust that they can rely on in the good and the tough times in business and life.

1. Genuine connections. You know how much you trust someone by how naturally truthful you are with them. If you feel the need to be guarded or withhold in a conversation with someone, listen to your own awareness. If you notice your own behaviour or language change around someone, you should also be aware of that change. In my experience, if you change your behaviour or language, the other person is possibly projecting and being something that isn’t genuine, and you are reacting or responding to it. If you change in the presence of someone else, something is off. Okay, I admit that sometimes in a first meeting, everyone can be a little awkward or nervous and might not be themselves. It’s good then to meet once more to check who this person is and how you are with them. For me, it’s usually a confirming second meeting, as I have learned to trust my awareness and first instincts every time.

2. Reciprocated support. When building a personal network, you need to be able to count on people and they need to be able to count on you. The best way to start building a solid network is to support others and more importantly, to see who is actually going to reciprocate supporting you. Reciprocated support could be in endorsing your idea in a meeting; it might be supporting you in a community activity; it might be financially investing in a project; it might be supporting a particular charity event or a community activity; or just showing up with you to a particular meeting or a particular event that means a lot to you. Unfortunately, lip service is everywhere. Be on the lookout for a person who actually shows up and delivers in either thought, word or deed – or all three. Anyone that supports you is to be valued. Similarly, make sure you are not just giving lip service to others. Go out of your way, make an effort and reciprocate support for people you value.

3. Personal investment. A bit like the above, you want to start investing emotionally, mentally and physically, and be present with people that are valuable to you. In order for people to invest in you, you have to share yourself. Be vulnerable. Be open. Now, as you are building your support network, don’t lay it all out ‘on the table’ at the first meeting. Personal investment is sharing insight, stories, experiences, jokes, conversations and the like. You need to invest little amounts at a time. But the great thing about this, is that those investments need to be made together and equally. You both value the connection, so you both invest into it. If it’s all you investing, it’s not balanced. Similarly, if it’s all them, it’s not balanced. Keep a watch on your connections and relationships that are valuable to you and make sure it’s equal. It’s okay if you’re both not investing for a while together, like catching up or doing business. Just make sure that both of you are occasionally reaching out to keep in touch and check-in.

4. Proven confidence. Another factor in building a network of support is making sure that you have a group of people that can hold your confidence to keep things confidential. It’s really important that your network can protect your inner thoughts, ideas and secrets. Again, when people protect each other and have their back, it creates a space of safety for you (and them) to be vulnerable and share what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and what you’re trying to create, without judgement and also without attack. In today’s world, most people are not sharing what they really think or what they really want to create. As a result, there are too many people trying to solve problems or create solutions all by themselves, which is not only really hard but often ends in failure. So, the more people you can have in your inner circle who you trust completely and who trust you, the better. When you have proved confidence, you get confident because with your support network behind you, you can create, do and solve anything. Also note, for many people that might mean that none of the people in your inner circle and your trusted network are your family, and that’s okay.

5. Resiliency and bounce back. Support is very important in times of success, growth and thriving. It’s even more important in times of hardship, struggle and change. The best people to have in your inner circle of support and network are people that are already proven with you through all of those times, not just one part of it. I encourage people to be on the lookout for ‘like-minded’ people. You may find/meet a new person in your support network at the high point or low point in your life or career. That’s fine. Just make sure that you don’t over-inflate their benefit to you, nor over-infatuate their significance to you, because they’ve come in at an emotionally challenging time in your life. True friends and true support are constant and everlasting. The best networks and support people to have in your life, are the ones who are there with you through all of it. They don’t judge. They support and allow your humanness to be you. They encourage you to keep going and keep it real.

In summary, the best support networks and relationships endure time, circumstances and life. When you build and invest into them, and the other person builds and invests into them as well, you end up creating the most valuable asset you could ever have.

 So, build relationships for the long-term and allow the great people in your life to shine throughout your life. And don’t forget to make sure you are there for others in exactly the same way. 

Jen Harwood will be conducting a workshop at the 2019 FPA Professionals Congress on: How to build a support network you can trust. The workshop will be on Thursday 28 November. For more information, click here.  


 Jen Harwood is a business coach, author and entrepreneur. She has worked with thousands of leaders and managers to help them identify and appreciate how to build solid teams of support. In this current digital, quick-fix age, the people who make the biggest impact and greatest difference are the ones who have solid relationships and support networks around them. Jen teaches the principles of great leadership and how to build great teams.