John C. Maxwell: Why You Need to Surround Yourself With Like-Valued People

UPDATED: May 24, 2024
PUBLISHED: September 21, 2015
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In his new book, Intentional Living (Center Street Press, October 2015), John C. Maxwell explores the concept of acheiving success with intention. He says no one climbs a mountain without preparation, hard work and a crystal-clear picture of what it’ll take to survive the trek and reach the top of the mountain. The same in life, no one achieves success by accident. It’s with daily focused attention—and intention that we achieve all that we can. In this adaptation from his new book, Maxwell shares how to find people to join you on your path to signficance and describes in detail what 12 unique traits to look for in those partners:

Recently I met with 18 Latin American men and women who collectively lead 45 million to 50 million people. Impressive! But in spite of their successes, none were reaching their leadership potential.

My goal was to help them catapult to the next level of impact. I began by asking, “How can you increase your influence?”

They tossed out numerous ideas—all legitimate ones—but every answer would have yielded only a modest increase in their effectiveness. This was a sophisticated group of achievers, yet they had all missed the key issue.

“Partnerships,” I said, finally.

The room fell silent. It wasn’t what they were expecting to hear, but they got it immediately.

Having the right partners will help you gain momentum and realize your vision. The moment you partner with somebody, you can access new resources: the other person’s knowledge, experience, influence and potential. When you are already achieving at a highly effective level, you don’t gain a great increase by improving yourself because you can grow only a certain amount. Instead, you gain it by partnering or connecting with other capable people who bring something different to the table.

But here’s the key: You can’t partner with just anyone and expect to multiply your dreams of making a difference. You must be highly intentional. To be effective, make alliances with like-valued people. If you aren’t connecting and partnering with people who share your dreams and values, you can’t make those partnerships work.

Early in my career, I had no clear picture of whom I was looking for, and as a result, I hired some people who weren’t the right fit. Because the picture of the kind of people I needed wasn’t clear to me, I allowed others to paint the picture for me. Invariably, they painted their pictures. Then I discovered that the pictures they painted of themselves had been greatly enhanced. They were like the glamour shots people take and then doctor in Photoshop. They weren’t authentic, and they didn’t fit into my team.

How do I compensate for this now? I build in a 10 percent exaggeration factor.

The importance of that 10 percent became clear to me on the golf course. See, most golfers will exaggerate their skills. Unless they’re sandbagging to try to win a bet, they typically overstate their abilities. Their proudest moment is on the first tee when they share their golf handicap. Then after all the big talk, they hit the ball, and their true game shows up.

A golfer often makes the same mistake on his approach shot to the green. He checks the yardage and then selects a club based on how far the ball will go if he hits a perfect, crisp shot—something he does only once or twice per round. Every so often, he can hit the 8-iron 150 yards with a pure swing. But the other 90 percent of swings, he hits it 135 yards. Still, the ball is lying at 150 yards, so he hits the 8-iron and comes up short.

When I select a club for a shot, I subtract 10 percent of my distance from a perfect shot. I may hit a couple of 100 percent perfect shots during a round, but I will hit dozens of shots at 90 percent.

Best Choices

Let’s get off the golf course and back into the leadership context.

When seeking partners, don’t choose people based on what they say they can do or based on what they did once. Choose based on their regular behaviors. That’s how you know what they really value.

Too often our choices are made by what we think we could or should do rather than what we usually do. We are all human, so we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But we also need to be realistic. We need to have a picture of what we’re shooting for.

Picking the right partners is crucial to taking our lives to the next level. It is a key practice in intentional living. But we can pick the right partners only if we know what matters to us. In just a second I’ll offer a quick guide to help you assess your personal values, which will in turn help you pick the right partners. (Read more about this kind of deliberate life-design in my new book, Intentional Living, published by Center Street Press.)

What Are Your Values?

To find like-valued people, you need to know what you’re looking for. Think about the values most important to you for making a difference in the lives of others. As a starting point, I look for people who embody these 12 qualities:

1.      Thinks about others first.

2.      Thinks bigger than self.

3.      Has a passion that’s contagious.

4.      Offers complementary skills.

5.      Is great at support.

6.      Possesses a can-do spirit.

7.      Has an expanded influence.

8.      Holds an activist mindset.

9.      Is a proven ladder builder.

10.   Stands out from the crowd.

11.   Creates teamwork.

12.   Makes a difference.

Which of those is important to you? Put a check mark by them. What additional qualities or characteristics not listed are important to you? Write them down. This becomes your starting list for finding like-valued people.

Remember: Great partnerships make you better than you are. They multiply your values, enable you to do what you do best, allow you to help others do their best, give you more time, help you fulfill the desires of your heart, and compound your vision and effort. 

Do you realize how close you are to being extraordinary? Find out what 7 things you can do to get started on an incredible life for yourself. 

John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.