Direct Marketing Article
Use Your "Dream Team" to Advance Your Career
By Joelle Jay, Ph.D.
Jeff was a junior vice president at the corporate offices of an investment
firm. He aspired to be the president of one of the company's regional
properties. Even though Jeff was pegged to be a senior leader of the
company, he wanted to be sure he was prepared for every opportunity that
came his way. So he brainstormed a list of leaders he hoped could help him.
Once his list was complete, he sat down with each person, one at a time, and
interviewed them with a short list of questions that would help him grow as
a leader. By doing this, Jeff had created a "dream team" and was taking the
lead in his career. You can do the same.
A dream team is a loose collection of advisors who help you get where you
want to be as a leader. You turn to them because you know that on your path
to success, they are further along than you. Your dream team might include:
• Leaders you admire
• Leaders who have the positions you want to hold
• Leaders who have the skills you want to have
• Leaders who have achieved what you want to achieve
You meet with these people one by one to ask them questions, seek their
guidance, and learn from their experience.
The big difference between your dream team and other "teams" of people you
might call upon, such as a mastermind group, is that you never actually
assemble your dream team in one place. In this way, your dream team is more
like Fantasy Football than a real team. Every member of this group has been
hand-selected because together, they represent the best of everything you
need to be the leader you aspire to be. Once you know who's on the team, you
can draw on them one by one to support you in your success.
Here are the steps to help you assemble the best dream team possible:
1. Choose the "game."
"Choose the game" means get clear on specifically why you want a dream team.
What do you want to learn from meeting with your dream team members? As
always, the answer should be tied to your vision. Perhaps you want to:
• Learn how to generate passive income
• Learn how to enjoy life more without giving up your career
• Learn how to smoothly conduct mergers and acquisitions for business growth
• Learn how to triple my profits
• Learn how to be the kind of leader that balances respect for people and
the results of the business
Notice that in each game, the focus is on learning. On your dream team,
you're the rookie, if only in this one area of your life.
2. Pick the "players."
"Pick the players" means being thoughtful and strategic about who gets on
the team. This is not the time to hang out with good buddies and old
friends; it's a time to branch out and build new relationships with people
from whom you can truly learn. Among the group, it is helpful to have:
• Advocates. Advocates champion you, encourage you, and contribute directly
to your success, perhaps by introducing you to influential people or making
you a part of their team.
• Experts. Experts have information and knowledge you need to be successful.
Instead of learning it all the hard way, experts help you jump to new levels
of awareness by sharing their experience.
• Inspirations. Inspirations are people whose accomplishments make you want
to be better yourself. As you watch a person who inspires you—whether that
person is your most courageous colleague, a person who has risen to the top
of her field, or just someone whose approach to life you admire—you are
moved to a higher level of contribution and achievement.
These roles will often cross. In fact, people who can play more than one
role on your team are often your strongest supporters.
Now notice who is not on this list:
• Friends. Friendship is not a requirement of your dream team. Chances are
you will see your members as friends, and your friends may become members of
your team. But you can also learn from people you hardly know and may not
• Yes-Men and -Women. Do not put people on your dream team who will only
tell you what you want to hear. You already have your own opinions. Your
dream team is meant to supplement (not rubber-stamp) them.
• Your Boss. Just because bosses manage your position doesn't mean they can
help develop your gifts. They may. They may not. You decide.
The diversity of your dream team is essential. Cover as many bases as you
can in terms of gender, age, race, and station in life. Your eyes will be
opened to new perspectives that will enhance your learning. Look, too, for
diversity of "gifts." People who are powerful, political, compassionate,
intelligent, international, local, aggressive, spiritual, and reassuring can
all add special value. So long as there's chemistry, the more wildly diverse
combination of traits you can cover in your dream team, the better. Of
course, you can't get all of that in one person. That's why it's a team.
3. Set the "rules."
The "rules" of your dream team game are how you want to play. If you don't
set up the process in a way you'll enjoy it, you'll be less likely to see it
through. For example, you might look for opportunities for informal
conversation "when the time is right." Or you might prefer a formal
introduction with a letter and a follow-up phone call. Or you might arrange
meetings according to each member's choice (e.g. five minutes in the office
of one, a fifteen-minute phone call with another, a meeting over lunch with
a third). It's a good idea to decide how you want the process to play out so
you put your best foot forward and feel comfortable along the way.
4. Define a "win."
What is the best-case scenario for this dream team? In other words, what
will define a "win?" Are you hoping to develop long-term relationships? Do
you just want a lot of information fast? Do you want complex information and
are willing to talk to as many people as it takes to get there?
This step is important, because it respects the time of the leaders whose
advice you're seeking while also meeting the goals that matter most to you.
If what you want is concrete advice on how to set up a sole proprietorship,
you can get it in a series of short, one-shot interviews. On the other hand,
if you want to become steeped in the culture of high-quality leadership,
you'll want to develop deeper, more substantial relationships with the
people whose work you admire.
5. Get in the game!
"Getting in the game" means approaching the people you admire to be on your
team—asking them to meet with you, talking to them, and applying what you
learn as you work toward your vision. If a meeting with one of your dream
team members turns out to be beneficial, great. Ask them if they would mind
meeting again. If not, fine. Some of these conversations will turn out to be
a waste of time. Others will turn into the kinds of mentorships that last a
Remember, the work you do with your dream team is not pandering or political
maneuvering. There should be nothing in this process that smacks of
manipulation. These are genuine, respectful conversations with people you
admire to request the support you would be willing to give someone who asked
it of you.
Over time, you'll find that your dream team project becomes a practice. You
will make meeting with inspirational leaders and role models a part of your
own personal development, because you will see that you can achieve more,
and faster, when you are supported by a strong and experienced team. With
the help of your dream team, you'll quickly create the personal and
professional life of your dreams.
About the Author:
Dr. Joelle K. Jay, Ph. D., is an executive coach and the senior managing
partner of the leadership development firm, Pillar Consulting. She
strategizes with business leaders to enhance their performance and maximize
business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and
C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of "The
Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership." For a free Sample
Chapter, go to
www.TheInnerEdge.com or email