Episode: Why Every Leader Needs Friends

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.

Michael:  And this is Lead to Win, the weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about the value of friendship for a leader.

Megan: This is such an important topic, so don’t tune out. A lack of close relationships can be a real problem for leaders. Every leader needs friends, and today we’re going to talk about why that’s true.

Michael: Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when Larry Wilson, our senior writer, joined us for the New Year’s preview? Well, we got a really great response to that, so we’ve invited Larry back to cohost this conversation today. Welcome, Larry.

Larry Wilson: Hi, guys. Great to be here. All right. Let me ask you a question as we get started here. I’ve been in a couple of leadership positions over the years, and I’ve found it’s sometimes hard for a leader to have friends. Do you really need friends to be an effective leader?

Michael: It would be a lot more efficient if you didn’t.

Megan: That’s true. Well, first of all, yes, you do, but it is hard. This is something I’ve struggled with myself and, honestly, have not always prioritized. In fact, it’s something I’m really focusing on this year in my goals. One of my goals this year was to start or host a small group of other couples from our church. That actually kicked off this past weekend, and it was so interesting. I thought to myself, “Why have I waited so long to do this?” But I had. It turned out the other couples in our group shared that they also had just not been prioritizing intentional relationships.

We all know a lot of people and interact with people all the time, and that’s typical for leaders. We’re having coffee with people or lunch on a regular basis, but we’re not necessarily sharing our lives in a way that allows other people to have insight, to support us, to encourage us, to challenge us, because we’re kind of in a position sometimes of selling or representing the company, things like that, and that’s not the same thing as intentional friendships and relationships.

Michael: I had an interesting follow-on to that. When I became the CEO of Thomas Nelson… It was a large organization, and one of the authors we published there was John Maxwell, leadership expert in his own right. John had become my unofficial mentor, and I really looked to him for advice. The first thing he said to me after I was promoted to that position was, “I just want to talk to you about it being lonely at the top.” He said, “You’ve heard that before, right?”

I thought to myself, “He’s going to tell me I just need to get used to that and it’s going to be okay and whatever.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve heard that.” He said, “Do you think that’s true?” I said, “Well, I’ve certainly heard it a lot. I don’t really have any experience, but I think it’s true.” He said, “Well, it’s not. It’s a decision.” That was the first thing that opened me up to the fact that if I was going to be lonely at the top, that’s because I had decided to be lonely at the top, and I could make a different decision.

Megan: It’s kind of a limiting belief.

Michael: It is kind of a limiting belief. Exactly.

Larry: Well, there’s a study from Harvard Business Review that says this. Let’s see what you think about it. Half of CEOs feel lonely in their role, and of those, 61 percent said it hindered their performance because they felt this sense of loneliness. Does your experience validate that?

Michael: Yeah, I think it does, but I think it’s interesting to explore why. If I had to speculate on why, I would say it’s a couple of things. One is CEOs are very busy, so they don’t have a lot of time for outside friendships, and particularly if they don’t have any boundaries on their life, like if their evenings are taken up with work and their weekends are consumed with work, there’s no margin to pursue anything but work. It’s a world of total work.

The second reason is because they feel like they can’t be vulnerable. In other words, they have to be somehow unassailable, somebody who is as near to perfect as can be, and they want to represent that image. So if they were to kind of let down their hair or let down their guard, then people would disrespect them. It’s a complete myth. It’s totally the opposite of that. The more vulnerable you can be, the more honest you can be… One of the things you’ll find out is that everybody can relate to it.

I’ve asked CEOs before when I speak, “How many of you struggle to sleep in the middle of the night because you really wonder deep inside if you have what it takes?” Without question, almost every hand in the audience goes up. When you’re vulnerable about that, when you can admit that to yourself, you’re going to find people are drawn to you and you have a lot more in common, and that becomes the basis for your friendship.

Larry: Okay, we’re talking about four reasons every leader needs friends. The first reason is friends keep you healthy. Michael, tell us about that.

Michael: The truth is when you’re in leadership isolation can be very dangerous. Left to our own devices, left to our own thinking, we can get paranoid, we can get our perspective distorted, we can lose a sense of self-awareness, and one of the things friends do is bolster all of that. They help us to be more self-aware, because when we say something that’s a faux pas or something that’s inappropriate, a friend can be there to correct us or to correct our perspective.

Or when we feel discouraged or depressed or maybe… I’m not saying this is true of anyone else, but for me, I can lose my perspective, especially in the evenings when I get tired, and all it takes… I can go read one negative Amazon review of one of my books and forget the 475 that are pretty positive and go into a tailspin because I lose my perspective. Friends help us retain our perspective and keep our perspective healthy.

Megan: I also like the fact that friends help us to increase our margin. So often, as leaders, we’re really focused on work, and all we’re doing is work and then whatever happens in the evenings and the weekends with our families. I know that can be a challenge for me. Yesterday, for example, my friend Melody, who works in our office building (not for us, but in the same building), texted me and said, “Hey, do you want to have lunch?”

Normally, that would be easy for me to kind of push off because I have other things to do, but I happened to have a free hour in the middle of the day spontaneously. She is a therapist and has a couple of adopted kids also, so we share that in common. It was just a great break in the middle of the day to do something non-work related and focus on another part of my life that’s not related to business. It was really a gift, and I think that’s what friends can do for us.

Michael: That happened to me too yesterday. I had lunch with our pal Jeff Goins. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we went down to a local restaurant here and had lunch. About an hour into it, he looked at his watch and said, “Do you have to go?” I said, “I really don’t.” So he said, “Good. There’s something else I want to talk to you about.” The thing I noticed was… Talk about healthy. It was a real stress reducer, because we laughed a lot. I was not focused on my work and my problems. I was focused on him and his story and what he’d learned this last year. I felt so relaxed and so good after that meeting.

Larry: Supporting this concept that friends keep you healthy, there was a study done by Harvard Business Review… By the way, I read this in the latest book by Brené Brown Dare to Lead.

Megan: Such a great book.

Larry: Yeah, good book. She reported on this. A team of researchers went into companies that were reporting high levels of exhaustion, and they thought probably it would be because of the pace of work and everybody was just stressed out because there was too much to do. What they found was the employees were exhausted, but it wasn’t because of the pace; it was because they felt lonely.

Michael: I could believe it.

Megan: I remember this study. When I read that book, that was probably the thing that stuck out to me the most, because it’s so counterintuitive. It’s not your natural go-to. If you’re thinking about a study like that, you wouldn’t expect that to be the findings. This is why in our own culture at Michael Hyatt & Company we have a hybrid model of remote and in-person work, because people get lonely. Friendships at work are a huge predictor of satisfaction and longevity and engagement with a company. We felt like the totally remote thing was not satisfying at a human level, and how much truer is that of us as individuals in our whole lives.

Michael: Can I ask you a question, Larry?

Larry: Sure.

Michael: You work remotely. You don’t live here in Nashville with most of the team, but you do come down like for these podcast recordings and next week at our team retreat. You’re at those kinds of events. What is it like for you in terms of friendships? I know you have friends probably outside of work, but how does that work in your psyche?

Larry: Well, I’ve found for a high-level introvert like me, this is the perfect blend, because I have a lot of focused time. I can do deep work for days at a time.

Megan: And you’re doing so much creative work, where you’re writing, so you need that.

Larry: I need silence. I need to be alone. There is enough interaction on video calls, Zoom calls, and Slack that I don’t feel isolated, and then, honestly, these visits to Nashville are the highlight of my month or sometimes twice a month because I get to see you guys and meet up with Nick, our producer, and other friends down here and catch up on life. It’s enough for me, but then I also have plenty of alone time, so it’s the perfect blend. Michael, you mentioned having lunch and a conversation with your friend Jeff. I’m curious. For both of you, what are some of the things you do with friends?

Michael: Well, definitely over meals. Having a meal with a friend, breaking bread together… That’s a really ancient idea and a very common idea, that there is fellowship around a shared meal. So we enjoy that. Almost every time we go out with our best friends it’s usually around a meal. I think there are some other things we could be doing, though, and I’m hoping Megan has some ideas here.

Megan: Well, I think traveling together can be a great thing. There’s something about having that shared experience that you create memories together, which is huge. Attending important days together, weddings, graduations, births of kids, those kinds of things, just showing up for each other. Going on walks together or getting outside together. If you combine movement of some kind that you really enjoy with someone you really enjoy, that can be great.

Worshiping together can also be great. I think, too, just having people in your home and going to the homes of your friends… That is one of those things people do less and less. It’s crazy. There’s something so intimate, and there’s so much connection, and you learn so much about someone by being in their own space. Just having people over for dinner, even if you bring in food from outside, I think is a great thing to do together.

Larry: Okay. The first reason every leader needs friends is that friends keep you healthy. The second reason is friends make you more effective. Megan, is that true?

Megan: I think it is true, because friends often challenge your thinking, especially if you have good diversity in your friendships of age and background and opinion and all those things. They probably see life a little differently than you do, and that’s not only healthy for you, but it makes you more effective as a leader, because you need to consider different perspectives. You need to have well thought-out opinions, and good friends can help you do that.

I also think they help you increase your creativity. One of the things I love about some of my girlfriends… I’ve said before on the show that I’m an Enneagram Four, which means I’m kind of the romantic. I tend to think deeply about things, but I have a couple of really good friends who are Sevens on the Enneagram. Those are the enthusiasts. They’re super fun. When I’m with them, I do things I wouldn’t normally do. One of my girlfriends, Jen, recently had a birthday party, and she had it at a salsa club. Now, I would never… That’s just not my thing, but I loved going.

Michael: That sounds fun.

Megan: It was such a blast. She encourages me to get out there and do things I wouldn’t do. My friend Katy, who’s a blast, is the same way. I think that sparks creativity when you have fun and when you’re with people who are different than you are.

Michael: Yeah, I think that’s true. I can think of times when we’ve met with our friend Ian, for example, and got into a discussion of his business. I think he has benefited from our creativity from an outside perspective. I think it has made him more creative, and I would say the same thing with us. My friendship with him has opened up an entire world, particularly related to the Enneagram and understanding the deep motivations of my own life and when I’m in health and when I’m not healthy. It has made me more effective as a leader, for sure.

Larry: Michael, I’m going to quote from your book Your Best Year Ever. Do you remember this quote in there about Lewis and Tolkien and their friendship?

Michael: I do.

Larry: Tolkien actually credits Lewis with his bringing The Lord of the Rings to publication. He said, “The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.”

Michael: Wow. I can see that. I would not have written my first book if it had not been the influence and the pestering from who was my best friend then, David Dunham. He passed away this last year, a great loss to me and to our family and, obviously, to his family. It was his influence that motivated me to write, because I didn’t think I could do it. He said, “You absolutely can do this.” Even when I was rejected by 29 publishers, he was the guy who said, “Nope. We’re going to stick with this.”

Larry: I have a counterpoint I want to bring up. Megan, you mentioned friends at work, and some of your good friends are people you work with. There was an interesting study of 300 workers in the insurance and restaurant businesses. I don’t know why they picked those two, but they did. These researchers found out that having friends at work significantly increased an employee’s performance, as judged by their supervisor. So they were more effective employees.

But it came at a cost, because they were more likely to be distracted by long conversations and socializing, emotional exhaustion (you take on all the stress of your friends; they bring that into work and dump it on you), and then some stress when there were competitive opportunities and they were going up against a friend. So, is it worth having friends at work if it’s going to be that much trouble?

Megan: Yeah, I think it is. I would say that when you have friends at work they’re more complicated because of those things sometimes, but I think it’s a net game. Certainly there is a cost associated with it. I think that’s true for all relationships. All relationships cost us something because they require an investment, but the return is greater than what we have to invest, and I think that’s the big idea there.

Michael: That’s also where I think we have to look at effectiveness over the long term, not just the short term. If I decide I’m going to swear off my family and not exercise and stay focused on my work, I can be highly effective, highly efficient, but not for long. It’s not sustainable. I think that’s one of the values friendships bring to us. They make our lives more sustainable.

Megan: That’s a great point.

Larry: There have been some famous competitors who were good friends as well. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who were great competitors on the court, also very good friends. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, the German boxer and, of course, the great American heavyweight. They met in the Olympics in 1936 in Berlin, had a very much talked-about bout, because it kind of highlighted the tensions in the world at the time, but they actually became good friends. Kind of an interesting story.

Michael: Yeah, I have a story from that too that’s kind of interesting. About maybe 15 years ago, there was a literary agent in our industry back when I was in the book publishing industry, Rick Christian, who has since become one of my very best friends. Rick had this vision of inviting a bunch of CEOs from different publishing companies to his home in Colorado to spend three or four days together. It was over the Labor Day weekend.

These were people who were my fiercest competitors, people who on the playing field I didn’t have a lot of good to say about, and they probably didn’t have a lot of good to say about me, but when we got together and started entering into our lives… Get this. We met every Labor Day weekend for over 10 years with our spouses, and we never missed. We just had a reunion this last year, and we picked up right where we left off.

The thing that was cool about it is I realized they were a lot like I was, that we had a similar calling, a similar sense of mission, but it also made us competitive in a good way. I would hear some of the things they were doing, and it would spark ideas in my mind, help me to be more creative. I treasure those friendships with that group of five couples as some of my very best friends. The funny thing is we don’t see them except when we get together. We don’t talk to them much in between, but it’s like we pick up exactly where we left off every time.

Larry: The first reason leaders need friends is they keep you healthy. The second reason is they make you more effective. The third reason every leader needs friends is friends keep you from being a [censored]. Can anybody relate to that?

Michael: I laughed out loud when I read that, because it’s true. I would hate to think how insufferable I would be left to my own devices. The truth is Megan is one of the great correctives and Gail is another great corrective to me too. There are things I can say just in a place of being unaware. I don’t mean it in an offensive or inappropriate way, but they’re looking at it from the outside in and will call me on it. That’s a great benefit to me.

Megan: I think the other thing is that your friends are not that impressed with you, necessarily.

Michael: Hopefully.

Megan: If you’re in a public role, they’re not your fans. They’re not your followers on social media. These are people who hopefully are seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of your life that is unfiltered, and they have their own things they are challenged with and are pursuing. So they’re not really that impressed with you, and that’s so healthy.

Your big win that your fans or followers might really care about is not nearly as important as the fact that someone in your life is struggling with an illness or one of your kids is having a hard time. Those are the things your friends care about. Certainly they celebrate with you. I’m not saying that’s not a part of it, but it’s much more multidimensional than that, and they remind you there’s more to life than your successes or failures, so you don’t get too full of yourself or too self-absorbed.

Michael: That’s a great point. How do you invite people or give them permission to offer criticism or to challenge your thinking? Have you found, Larry, or you, Megan, that you have to be overt in giving that permission or do you find that as you grow closer it just kind of organically happens?

Larry: I find that really close friends will call you out without an invitation.

Megan: Yes, totally. I don’t think you have to try very hard. I think that’s just the nature of relationship as it becomes more intimate.

Michael: I’ll tell you what, though. You can shut it down easily if you’re not careful. If you react to it or if you become defensive, you lose one of the most important inputs in your life as a leader, and it’ll drive you further into isolation. You can look at public figures. We won’t mention any, but certain people who are incredibly offensive. You just think, “What a jerk. Doesn’t he have any friends? Doesn’t she have any friends?”

Megan: Right. Nobody is speaking the truth to them. That is really because they’ve cut themselves off from friendship. If you have real friends in your life, it’s not a danger…unless all of your friends are jerks.

Michael: Exactly. That’s the point I was getting to. If you get defensive and shut that down, what will happen, particularly if you’re a leader in an organization or you have social status above your friends who aren’t in your organization, is that people will start packaging the information you get. They’ll quickly learn, even subconsciously, what topics are safe and what topics aren’t safe.

Larry: Do you think there’s such a thing as a yes-friend? You know, people are surrounded by yes-men. Do some people surround themselves by yes-friends?

Megan: I think that’s fake friendship. If you have real friends, that’s probably not a danger, but if you have a public presence with people who are really fans who would like to be your friend but aren’t on an equal footing with you in some way… They kind of start out in a fan sort of role. That’s a danger. Those people may be much more hesitant to be honest with you, but if you’re talking about people who you’re walking through your regular life with, if they’re real friends they’re not going to be yes-friends.

Larry: Do you think this is a greater danger in social media, and do you have real friends who are primarily people you interact with on social media?

Michael: Do we know those people who like me aren’t my friends?

Megan: I don’t really have friends who are only on social media. The people who are my real, day-to-day, in-person friends may follow me on social media, just like I follow them, and we may have some professional connection, but there’s something outside of that. I personally don’t find that very satisfying. It’s fun on a certain level, but don’t confuse that with real in-the-trenches friendship.

Michael: I actually have a rule about it. On Facebook, for example, you get people all the time who are asking to be your friend. I actually have two rules. First, I have to know you in real life, and second, I have to like you.

Megan: I have a third rule.

Michael: What’s your third rule?

Megan: Your political opinions can’t make me crazy, because I don’t want to be mad all the time for no reason.

Michael: I’ll tell you what. That’s true. There are people I know in real life and they’re people I actually like, but they go off the rails on the political thing, and I just go, “I don’t need this.”

Megan: Or other stuff. I just don’t want to be mad without a good point. It’s just not going to go anywhere.

Michael: Well, we could chase a rabbit trail on this, but how do you keep from siloing yourself on an opinion?

Megan: I’m happy to engage with people I disagree with. It’s not about that. It’s just that people ranting on social media usually isn’t going anywhere. It’s not a very effective place to have those conversations, and I just find that I’m a better person if I’m not ticked off all the time.

Michael: Well, and back to the point at hand. I do think if they really are your friends and you’re following them on social media it can enhance a friendship, because there’s no way I can keep track of the myriad things that go on in somebody else’s life, but I always see them posting about things. It informs the conversation so that when we do together… Like when I was with Jeff yesterday, he was commenting on something. I can’t remember what it was now. I said, “Oh yeah! I read about that on social media. I remember you posted that on social media.” So we had more instant rapport and we didn’t have to do a lot of catch-up.

Larry: You’re kind of reinforcing the definition of friendship we set out at the beginning. A friend has to be somebody you actually like to be with.

Michael: It sounds small and obvious, but it’s important.

Larry: The first reason every leader needs friends is friends keep you healthy, the second reason is they make you more effective, and third, friends keep you from being a jerk. The fourth reason is that friends look out for you. Can you talk about how that has been true for you and some of your friendships?

Michael: I can think of my friends Bryan and Shannon Miles, who own BELAY Solutions. They have been enormously helpful as friends, sort of the polishing iron idea in Proverbs 27:17. One of the things Bryan has done is challenged me on some of my basic business assumptions and opened my thinking to new possibilities. He’s also somebody who has introduced me to some of his contacts.

I talked to somebody relatively famous last night who I had no contact with. Bryan was a friend with this person and said, “I think you’d benefit from this relationship. I don’t know where it’s going to go or how, but I think it would be worth having a conversation.” Normally I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t need a bigger network. I don’t need more friends. I just need to double down on the ones I have,” but I kind of did it out of respect for him, and I was so glad I did. I had this amazing conversation with this guy last night. I still don’t know where it’s going to go.

I feel like I have a friend in Bryan who’s looking out for me who doesn’t really have, as we say in the South, a “dog in the hunt.” He’s not driving toward anything. He doesn’t have a motive other than he just loves me and is looking out for me, and I try to do the same thing for him. I introduced him to a couple of my podcaster friends with big audiences. I thought, “He would be a great interviewee for his business.” So he connected, and he told me last night, “It’s amazing. I already have an episode scheduled with both of these people.”

Megan: That’s great. I’ve had the same experience. It’s neat when you care about somebody who is your friend and there’s also some kind of professional overlap or at least something relevant in your life stages. So often our best contacts, our best opportunities come through friendships, somebody introducing you to somebody else, somebody giving you an idea for a project, you doing the same thing. Very often, as friends, we know the answer to somebody’s problem. It’s just one friend away to solve it, and it’s fun to see that happen.

Michael: I just started reading this book that kind of follows on what you were saying, Megan. It’s called The Power of Who. Listen to the subtitle: You Already Know Everyone You Need to Know.

Megan: So true.

Michael: Isn’t that powerful? The subtitle really captured my imagination, so I’m just getting into it.

Megan: The difference between networking and what you can get out of that and friendship is in networking it’s all about “How can I help you and you help me?” It’s kind of transactional in that way, but in friendship it’s like you have somebody who’s your advocate, who’s for you, who wants to see you win, and they’re always looking for opportunities they can connect you with. That’s a great friendship.

Michael: It is. To have somebody you can celebrate your wins with… This is one of the real benefits of our coaching program BusinessAccelerator. People get together with people who are at about the same level of work and life and can celebrate wins with one another. Another interesting thing is people who can defend you against your critics.

Megan: This is huge.

Michael: I honestly don’t like defending myself. I think it makes me look small, and I feel small when I’m doing it. I’d like to think I’m above that, that I could walk away from it. But the times, for example, if somebody is attacking me on social media and maybe I found out late and I didn’t stew over it and obsess about it like I’m prone to do… My friends stepped in and defended me and said, “You have no idea what you’re talking about or who you’re talking about. We know this person.”

It has happened to me recently where I had somebody… Long story, and I won’t get into it, but somebody who was attacking me relentlessly and completely driving an agenda, possibly deranged. I finally gave up on defending myself. I had two of my really good friends, David and Luria, who jumped into the middle of that and defended me. It was very satisfying.

Larry: I think it’s important to remember, then, that “friends look out for you” is a reason to have friends; it’s also a real indicator of what makes a friend. If you have a friend who’s not willing to do that, they may not really be a friend to you.

Michael: I think a marker for that is somebody who will hold what you share with them in strict confidence.

Megan: That’s a great point.

Michael: The people who are my very best friends are people I can talk to like they were a priest. I know it’s not going to go anywhere else. I know they’re going to be fiercely loyal to me, that if they have something to criticize in me they’re going to come to me privately, that they’re not going to gossip behind my back. If somebody does that, they’re automatically not going to be a friend.

Megan: By the way, this is one of the reasons leaders have fewer friends than they really need, because so much of what they need to share in a friendship is confidential or could be compromising or ruinous in some way if other people found out publicly or in their company. I think that’s really prohibitive for people. Trust is huge. You have to have people you know you can trust and who you’re able to share the things that are truly confidential with and know they’re not going to go anywhere, whether that’s personally or professionally.

Michael: Here’s where you have to be careful, though. If you ever have a betrayal, it’s easy for that to sort of calcify into a limiting belief. I’ve seen this happen with leaders, where they had somebody betray their trust, so now they’ve come to the conclusion that they can’t have friends. They went from that isolated experience to a global belief that no one can be trusted.

Larry: One way we could put this is that quality matters as much, maybe more than quantity. Leaders maybe have too few friends, but more important is to have depth of friendship with the friends you have.

Michael: I kind of think it as a series of concentric circles. I have best friends, maybe three or four people I would consider my best friends, and then I have people who are close friends who maybe I see every month or every couple of months, but they’re not as close as my best friends. I wouldn’t call them best friends. Then I have people beyond that (we could probably nuance this to death) who are acquaintances. Then beyond that would be people who are followers or friends or fans, people I only know on social media. I know some things about them, but there has been no interaction outside of social media.

What that helps me to do is know where to prioritize. I can’t prioritize everything or everyone, and if I’m trying to treat all those the same, like every friendship demands that I have lunch with them once a week or text them once a week… I’m all for being intentional about it, but you can’t be available to everybody if you want to be available to people in a way that’s meaningful.

Larry: So, we’ve talked about the reasons every leader needs friends. Many leaders will realize, perhaps listening to this, “Hey, I really don’t have close friends. How do I fix that?”

Megan: Well, there are a few ways. First of all, it starts with a commitment to prioritizing it. For example, I realized the other day that I have fewer friendships with other female executives and business owners than I would like. There are people I know but I’m not close to, necessarily. So I sent my executive assistant Jamie a list of about eight women who live locally who I know but not as well as I’d like to to set up lunches with, and I’m going to intentionally pursue those relationships and initiate with those people on a regular basis. I have a feeling that out of that group will come several close friendships.

The other thing is if you don’t feel like you already know those people, it can be helpful to join some kind of a group. That could be a small group through your church. If you’re looking for more professional friends, it could be, like you were talking about, Dad, a coaching program. A lot of our clients have found their friends in those contexts. We have had the same experience in our own coaching program. I think it starts with taking initiative.

Michael: I think so too. In fact, just listening to you talk I was kind of distilling that down into a series of steps, which I’m wont to do. I would say, first, make the commitment that you’re going to have better friendships. Secondly, I would suggest that you target, literally target a list of individuals, the names of the people you want to pursue.

Thirdly, come up with some kind of activity, sort of like a habit goal, something you’re going to do, like you’re going to have lunch with them or you’re going to invite one couple over from church a week, or whatever it is. Certainly, don’t be more aggressive than you have time for. This can’t become an all-encompassing project, but there has to be space on your calendar for it if it’s going to work. Then the fourth thing I was thinking is what gets scheduled gets done. You have to schedule this time.

Megan: If you’re feeling anxious about this, too… I know some of you guys listening are maybe not as practiced in this, and it creates some anxiety in you, like, “What if they don’t like me?” It kind of goes back to all of those middle-school fears, but as adults we have those same things running through our heads. This is an area where you have to just push out of your comfort zone.

Yeah, anytime you’re getting to know somebody new, unless you’re a super extrovert and you have a lot of confidence in that area, you’re probably going to feel a little uncomfortable, but if you go in being curious about the other person and maybe (this is my introvert hack for meeting people I don’t know) having two or three questions that are leading questions that will help get the conversation started, that can be really helpful.

I think what you’ll find is other people are just like you. They’re looking for relationships. They feel lonely. They would like to have more connection with people they have things in common with who they also like to spend time with. You kind of have to challenge your limiting beliefs and just get out of your comfort zone and do it.

Larry: Today we’ve learned that every leader needs friends. They can keep you healthy, they make you more effective, they keep you from being a jerk sometimes, and they look out for you. Guys, any final thoughts today?

Megan: Well, friendship is critically important, and as a leader, you can’t afford not to prioritize it, but if you’ve held back and don’t feel like you have the friendships you need, I want to challenge you to take action, to schedule coffee with someone you’d like to get to know better or to schedule dinner at your house. Just do it, and do it in the next week. Set yourself a short timeline, because that’s often how we make progress quickly.

Michael: My final thought is that you can lead without friends, but you can’t lead well without friends. You’re going to be a much better leader if you have deep, meaningful friendships. Everything will improve in your leadership. So you have to prioritize it.

Larry: Great thoughts, Michael, and thank you for the opportunity to be here. Thank you, Megan.

Michael: You bet, Larry. Great to have you. And also thanks to you guys for listening to us on Lead to Win. Join us next time when we’re going to reveal the five powerful questions that drive leadership. Until then, lead to win.