by Kelly A. Bennett, Esq.

Have you ever noticed that the most successful people, who do challenging work, are surrounded by a carefully selected team of people? Same thing goes for people who overcome significant hardships – rarely do those folks conquer hardships alone.

Think of the wildly successful professionals, like a brain surgeon. She didn’t get to the top of her field by going it alone. When she walks into the operating room to do her “magic”, that surgeon is surrounded by a team of other experts.  There’s supporting anesthesiologists, surgical nurses, other surgeons assisting, technicians of many sorts and the list goes on.

A lot of groundwork has been done before the big surgery day. That kick-butt surgeon has studied the labs, the pre-tests, the MRIs and other imaging. She’s consulted with other members of her team and the patient’s other doctors. And by the day of surgery – that rockstar surgeon has prepared mentally and physically, making sure she is in a positive, healthy state of mind before she walks into the O.R. and makes the first incision.

So what does a rockstar brain surgeon have to do with divorce? Everything.  Because no matter how you cut it, divorce is a tangled ball of issues, needing to be unwound. To successfully unwind it, a lot of thought, patience, wisdom and support is needed.

If you’re preparing for a divorce, a major key to successfully navigating the journey (with as little drama as possible) lies in the circle – your “Inner Circle”.  If it were your brain on the table, wouldn’t you be glad for all that preparation and the quality of the surgeon’s team?

We all have an Inner Circle. The question is, “Are the right people in your Inner Circle?” Are they the people who will hold you up and push you forward to stable ground? Or are some just dead weight, pulling you down and relishing in commiseration? (Side note: That word…”commiserate” originates from the Latin words “com-miserari” meaning “to lament with” – we all enjoy a little pity-party once in awhile…but who wants to hang with a bunch of “lamenters”?  Not!)

A powerful Inner Circle is two-fold: They are your support team and your personal growth team. They’re those people who will guide you through the divorce journey in a positive, healing manner. When you’re going through divorce, choose your Inner Circle carefully. Take the time to contemplate the qualities of those closest to you and make changes where necessary.

I love what former pastor and long-time leadership coach Dr. John Maxwell has to say about how leaders should select their Inner Circle.  Having walked through hundreds of divorces with people, we’ve seen how those with carefully chosen Inner Circles have come through the process well (and I’ve long wished more people could grasp how life-changing the Circle can be).  Dr. Maxwell’s keen advice for leaders is so applicable to people going through divorce.

He advises leaders to ask these five questions*, when assembling a powerful Inner Circle:

  1. Honesty/Character: Do they display exemplary character in everything they do?
  2. Diverse Perspective: Do they bring diverse, yet complimentary perspectives to the table (different ways of thinking about things)?
  3. Reliable Strategists: Can they be trusted to help you execute a chosen strategy? (Do they have the necessary influence and skill?)
  4. Value Adders: Do they have unique skills and expertise that will add value to you (and can you clearly articulate the value they will add to you)?
  5. Emotional Intelligence: Do they have the ability to positively impact other members of your Inner Circle, even when they don’t always agree?

Think about those closest to you. When you think of them, can you answer a resounding “Yes!” to each of the five questions above? If you cannot, odds are pretty high that some of your Inner Circle members need to go.

In the divorce context, not only should you be able to answer “Yes” to Dr. Maxwell’s five questions, your most effective Inner Circle will be comprised of people who:

  • Are positive and have a “glass half-full” mentality;
  • Remind you of all the wonderful possibilities the future holds for you;
  • Challenge you to move on, do better and go for your dreams;
  • Refuse to join the pity party and talk smack about your spouse or his/her friends or family;
  • Encourage you to be your better self and take the high road;
  • Are strategic and have years of wisdom and good judgment to offer;
  • Remind you of your value, your God-given talents, and of the contributions you can make to our world; and
  • Are professionals with a proven track record.

Every successful leader appreciates the power of their Inner Circle. Leaders know that their future – their potential – is molded and determined by the influence of those closest to them.

And you’re no different:  You’re a leader for your family, for your kids, for those you work with or those who work for you. You are also your own best leader, and will benefit from a carefully selected Inner Circle.

People slogging through divorce alone are setting themselves up for defeat.  When you choose to enlist a small army of true, healthy supporters and wise advisors, you’re setting yourself (and your family) up for success.

Who’s in your Inner Circle today? Are there changes to be made? Let me know your thoughts below.

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From “A Leader’s Inner Circle” by Dr. John C. Maxwell, 2011 The John Maxwell Company, http://johnmaxwell.com.

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