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This business coaching lesson will teach you how to grow your inner circle.

Results-Focused Training, Tools, and Workshops from Expert Business Coaches.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Powerful Moves To Grow Your Business: 10. Grow your inner circle.
  • Notable Quotable: "Take extra good care of the primary people in your career. Help them grow. Acknowledge them often. They'll become even better resources for you."
  • Lesson Nugget: The quality of your team will serve as the ultimate limiting factor and throttle for your business.
  • Notable Quotable : "If you want your team to be world-class, you can only afford to have world-class participants in the team."
  • Jargonization Translation: Inner Circle - The closest contacts are the people through whom you achieve your major results.
  • Lesson Nugget: The quality of your relationships will determine the level of flexibility and service others will deliver to you.

-All right, Jim. Today we are talking about growing your inner circle. And this is one of the power moves that you say--

-Oh, this is big.

- --if we can do this, this will lead to growth for our company this year.



-Absolutely. I'm excited about this. This is going to be intense. I'm excited because I'm going to unpack or I'll read a notable quotable, quote from you, and you unpack it for us and give us some specific action steps.

-Will do.

-Here's what you say here in your book. You say, Take extra good care of the primary people in your career. Help them grow. Acknowledge them often. They'll become even better resources for you.

-Absolutely. So you can only do so much by yourself. If you don't have administrative helpers to do a lot of the paper and the detailed follow through, if you don't have technicians to fulfill the orders and fix the equipment and install the technology and things like that, if you don't have online people that are capable of delivering all the things that make it so whenever you make a sale, if you don't have a supportive family, if you don't have people around you that believe in you, then you're going to be limited by the absence of those things.

So you ought to intentionally put those things in place. If, for example, your family's not supportive, then you need to figure out ways to cause your family to want to be more supportive. Not worry about it, but work on it and work toward that. If your co-workers are not capable in certain areas, then find those capabilities. Get software, get apps, get solutions, get tools, get information.

Find ways to equip all of these resources around you to be better resources for you because the more capable your team is, the more capable you are. Think of it this way. You want to win the Super Bowl, your football team. You're the quarterback. How many other players do you really need?

-None. I'm fine.

-Yeah. I'm thinking all of them, right? The ones on the bench and the ones on the field, because you've got to have your replacements, right? And they've got to be ready to step in right now.

-That's good.

-So if you want to win the Super Bowl, where are you going to find your players? High school? Sand lot? Go get soccer players and convert them? Basketball players?

-That's good.

-Where are you going to get them? You're going to get them from college football teams at the top of the game. Not the bottom of the game, not the neighborhood teams, but the teams where the people are really developing the discipline to be world class performers. Because if you want your team to be world class, you can only afford to have world class participants in the team.

-I think I'm starting to understand this. I want you to define for me, if you will, what you mean by the inner circle. Are these people that work with you? Are these people that refer you business? What are we talking about when we're talking about the closest contacts to you?

-The closest contacts are the people through whom you achieve your major results. Meaning most of your results, not just biggest, but the people through whom you get your work accomplished.

-Can you give me examples of what those would be?

-Well, for me, I have no employees. So you say, well, you've got no inner circle. Excuse me?

No, I definitely have an inner circle. I've got people I collaborate with on my books and my products. I've got people that do the fulfillment. Like the other day, I got an order for hundreds of copies of "Relationship Selling" for an upcoming speaking engagement. They wanted everyone in the audience to have one. Well, I contacted the folks at Marquis in Perimeter in Canada which is a printing company. They print my "Relationship Selling" book.

It matters that they are good at what they do. Because if they're not good at what they do and I don't have a good relationship with them, I can't get the books in time and deliver the books in quality and quantity to fulfill that need. And I miss that sale.

-So you take particularly good care of them. This is a great example.


-Because you know that if they are doing their job better and better and the relationship's strong, it leads to a better business plan.

-And if they say, I've so much enjoyed working with him, then they're more likely to approve credit if I need it for an order if I didn't have the cash at that time. They're more likely to adjust a delivery date to kind of take a few extra minutes that day instead of saying, well, I'm sorry, but we close at 5:00. So the better my relationship is with my delivery team, the better capable I am of serving my customer.

Because it wasn't about me selling books, it was about hundreds of people being able to take these books home, feel like they got a piece of that experience they could take home, and a lot of times I'll autograph the book to personalize it for someone, and that makes it even more special. But they get the value that comes from learning what's in that book and having a reference tool. So that's the purpose of all this, and I can't do that alone. And that's just one thing.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Notable Quotable: "Your inner circle is the primary team of people that you couldn't live without if you had to get results in the next month or so."
  • Action Step: Identify five to eight people to be part of your inner circle that will help you perform at your highest level.
  • Lesson Nugget: Continue your education outside of your job so that you will advance inside your job.


-What about the people that help me with my travel? What about my colleagues, who are very close colleagues, and we compare notes, hey how did you do-- who'd you work through to get your visa for traveling to China? Who designed your website? That's such a cool feature on your website. What kind of software are you using?

So I've got colleagues that are in my inner circle that I collaborate with. Also colleagues like my former partner, Tony Alessandra, my best friend. I'll call Tony and say hey, this is what I'm doing with Caleb. Does that look like a good deal to you? Is there anything I'm not seeing here? And Tony might say, well have you thought about such and such? Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Caleb's going to love that and that will double my profit. Whoa!

-So let--

-So he's part of my inner circle.

-OK. So help me a better understand this. I know we've got a Thriver, an avid watcher of Thrive and applier of the principles here. They've got a window business.


-So let's say, I don't know exactly how many employees they have, but let's say they got a team of 15 or so employees, OK?

JIM CATHCART: Full and part time.

-Yeah. How do we decide who is in our inner circle?

-Well, your inner circle is the primary team of people that you pretty much couldn't live without if you had to get results in the next month or so.

CALEB TAYLOR: Because it's almost tempting to-- when you start telling me that this person helps this one-- it's almost like everyone--

-Everyone's on my team.


-I've got 166 people on my team.

-So how do we keep from getting to that point? I mean, how do we limit it?

-Even the Super Bowl team has probably five to a maximum of eight people on the entire team that really determine whether that team gets to the Super Bowl or not. Think about that. Because it really is, like, basketball you look at a Kobe Bryant, or a Magic Johnson, or a Shaquille O'Neal, or Michael Jordan, LeBron James. The people like that are the game changers, the definers, that much talent.

-You can't play football with five people, you need the team. But those are the-- OK that's how you differentiate.

-And everybody needs to get it, that those are the game changers. And so what they do needs to support that person being at their absolute best so that what they're doing, it if it's not at their best, at least it's helping this person be at their best because they're the game changer.

CALEB TAYLOR: Wow. That is good.

-It's kind of like in an infantry unit, you really want to protect the guy that's got the automatic weapon and has your back. Right? Take care of that guy, because he's going to take care of everybody.

-That's good. This is good. I love this. So once we identify who our inner circle is, those top kind of--

JIM CATHCART: And it's five to eight. It's almost never more than eight people.


-And it's typically five to eight people. Some people say, I don't have anybody, I really don't, or I've got two. Chances are good you've got a minimum of three, no matter what level you're at.

What about me when I was a government clerk making just an hourly wage working for the Housing Authority in charge of nothing. Who was my success team? And also my workload was practically zero. Who was my success team?

My success team was the guy who was my boss and he was dysfunctional because he didn't need me and therefore he didn't interact with me very much, and he wasn't excited about his job and therefore he didn't cause me be very excited about my job. So right now I got a season losing team.

I've got also my wife on my team. Perfect. She loved me, cared about me, wanted to support me in every way she could and so that's awesome. So I've got that at home and I've got that on tap if I need to call her for encouragement, or support, or whatever. Right?

I had a guy at the headquarters office of the Housing Authority who believed in me, Jim McKennon, and so I could call him for advice or answers and that made him almost a mentor. And that was pretty much it. I had some friends, but my friends weren't aspiring to succeed.

-But those were the specific people that you said, you know what I'm going to reach out to them and make sure that I'm treating them extra well because that's where my success is going to come from.

-And I joined the JCs, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, so that I could get involved in society and pay my civic dues for being a citizen. I wanted to do something nice for the community. So I joined the JCs chapter and I got really active, and it became my primary source of meaning and satisfaction because my job was so unfulfilling at first. At first.

But as I learned the skills in the JCs by doing all these projects for the community, I had a whole new inner circle and they were all eager success seekers, like me. They wanted to grow, wanted to learn, wanted to improve so we fed each other's growth and it started showing up back on the job for me.

CALEB TAYLOR: Man, that's awesome.

-And then it got recognized by the people at the home office, headquarters office, and I got promoted. So what I was doing that was off the job was paying off on the job and that led me to a position where people outside of that housing authority saw me and said he's an impressive guy wonder if we could use him on our team? I got another job that led to my entire career.

-Just started moving up.

-To my entire career.

-I love that.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Action Step: Choose to improve or replace incompetent employees on your team.
  • Action Step: Look at the people on your team and determine if they have the right mix of skills.
  • Action Step: Look for talented individuals with the skills you need to fill the gaps on your team.
  • Action Step : Look at each team member's talent and determine how they contribute best to your team.
  • Lesson Nugget: If you don't proactively audit your team, you will reactively have to put out fires when you can least afford it.


-OK. So now I understand what that inner circle looks like, you have to find it, that makes sense, you need five to eight. How do I now treat--

-Not need five to eight, you probably have five to eight.

-OK. Try to identify five to eight. Try to identify, that's good clarification. So now what do I do? So if I--

-Well I'm going to go to the board.

-Go on up there. What do we do now with this?

-Real world pictures from actual people.


-So this is you, right here in the center. I usually make you an acorn so let's give this thing a cap here, make an acorn out of it and give it a stem. So that hideous looking thing is you, right? So that's you.

-Now then, you have a whole series of people around you, in this case eight, who represent your inner circle. These are the people that when you get something done some of them are involved almost every time. So you have a connection with each of these people. That green line from you to them represents your relationship with that person. There are several factors here.

-When you think about it, any team-- it's capabilities is a reflection of the qualities that each part brings to the table. OK. So if this person 's not qualified, and this person's not qualified, and this person's not qualified to be on the team and they're all kind of dragging the team down, then this team, even if these are exceptionally qualified people, will be diminished by the presence of these that are dragging weight.

-So what do you need to do? Well you need to either cut them loose and replace them, or improve them. A lot of times that could just be encouragement, it could be a better relationship with them, it could be any number things, but you've got to get them from dysfunctional to functional and then they can become a contributor.

-So the first thing you look at is look at the mix of people. Do I have high talented people? Do I have low talented people? What's the mix here?

CALEB: So that's the first action item?

-Yeah, first action item. What's the mix of people? Do I have the right mix? Is there anyone here in the group that's good with money? If there's not, you're not going to have much money. So you better have somebody, or some several bodys on the team that are good with, and concerned about, and eager to generate money, and manage it better. How about people that are good with sales? How about people are good with administration, or technical follow through, or organization and systems. So whatever this team needs depends on the goals you have and where you work, and what you're trying to do. But you look at the team and say is this the right mix? Do I have the right mix? If it's not, go shopping.

-Go shopping meaning, go looking for new talent to bring into the team. Well I don't have any money. Don't worry about money, go look for talent. Find people with whom with you can connect, and maybe there's somebody out here and you don't know this person yet, but you can get a little bit of a connection going, maybe a tentative connection and part time they can contribute to your team. So they're in the outer circle but at least are contributors and they're filling a void that exists in the inner circle. Does that make sense?

-OK. So next thing, is you look at the talent, or the skill, or the knowledge, so we'll just call it talent, that each individual brings. So you look at this person right here and you say, OK, what is the talent that this person contributes to this team? What's this person good at? What's this person knowledgeable about? What's this person got a knack for doing? What effect does this person have that's worth having in the team?

-Is this person a great encourager, makes everybody else feel better and more capable? Is this person a great informer that seems to be always exploring new information, comes in and says, hey, guess what I discovered. So there are lots of ways people contribute to a team. So just figure out what does this person bring, what does this person bring, and do that all the way around the circle. So this a lot of homework that you can do over a period of time. But just take it a one piece at a time.

-What is the impact of analyzing the talent of each team member? Why does that matter?

-It's an inventory. So it gives you an inventory of what's there that could be leveraged.


-OK. And if you don't do that inventory then you don't know that this is your go to guy in a crisis, and that this is your go to guy for systems, and this is your go to guy for checking accuracy-- great proofreader, great background checker, that kind of thing, et cetera.

-So I want to make sure I get these action items correct. You're saying the first thing that we're going to do is we're going to analyze the overall mix of the team members that we have, and then the second thing is-- is it an action item for us then to go shopping for new contributors to the team after--

-No. First we've got to assess the existing talent. Then we go shopping.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 4
  • Action Steps: 1. Assess the individual talent of your team. 2. Look at the overall mixture of your team members together. 3. Always be looking for talented individuals that can contribute to your team.
  • Notable Quotable: "The better each person can contribute to the needs of the team, the more focused the team is on the goals you want to achieve."


-OK, so the first action item is the overall--

-Actually these probably ought to be reversed. OK, so we ought to assess the talent first and then look at the mix.

-I love it. I love it. So we're changing it up. Action item one is assess the individual talent of the team, and then step two is to look at the overall mixture of your team members together.


-OK and then, if necessary, three. Is it an if necessary, or is it always be shopping?

-Always, always, always, always be shopping. You ought to be a talent magnet. You ought to be-- everywhere you go, be looking for talent. Just say, did you notice last night that restaurant how attentive that guy was to all the customers? We need people like that. Get his name.

CALEB: Everywhere you go.

-Everywhere you go. May not be that that person will ever work for you, or you'll even hire anybody, but if you start noticing people like that and getting to know them and staying in communication casually over time, then when the opportunity does arrive you've got the ability to act on it. You can say, I know somebody that's good at that. And if he's not our guy, he or she can refer me to someone who is. Yeah.

-I love it. So that third one-- so we've got the first one is the talent, second one is the mixture, third is always be shopping.


-Now tell me this, if we're focusing on our inner circle like this. I buy into it, I hear what you're saying, I want to do it, I'm going to start identifying who my team is. What kind of impact could this have practically on my business, if we're talking about really growing my business. I mean, what kind of impact could this have?

-Well, it could multiply your capabilities many fold.

-Have you see this happen before?

-Oh totally. We could use world examples or individual examples, pick a business, we could fabricate an example, but the reality is the better each person can contribute to the needs of the team, the more focused the team itself is on the goals that you're hoping to achieve, the more compatible the team members are with each other, the more you have unrestricted flow of talent and ability straight to the outcomes that you want to accomplish. Wow.

-What's the biggest problem in business? People. What's the biggest problem with people? Waste. What do you mean? Unused talent. Missed expectations. Bad communication. Sabotaging each other without intending to, and sometime with intending to.

-Yeah. That's deep. This is the truth that you're rolling out right here.

-How much money does it save you if you're good with people? How much time does it save you? You don't have to do problem solving. You don't have to go, hey I'm sorry I hurt your feelings the other day because you don't do that because you've already figured out how to work together that well. So that means this relationship between you and them is the thing you can control. You can't control them. You can control you, but you can control you along the lines of this relationship, and that means all of this person's talent is now flowing to the goal instead of only a fraction.

-I love this. OK so now, I guess this might be in closing, but I want to hear your final thoughts here if the Thriver watching is saying, I'm going to do this now. This is good. I'm going to start really being intentional about my inner circle--

-Do it on paper. Do it in writing.

-Put it in writing.

-Draw a silly thing like this and put the initials of each of your people on there. So you've got all of the people identified as to who they actually are, and get real, and tell the truth, and write down the details on there, and what talent does this person bring.

-And get input from other people if you're working truly as a team, get other people to say, oh something else that he's good at, or something that she's good at, or something that he's not good at, whatever. You start identifying the gaps and again identifying the strengths, and in this kind of a people inventory-- skill inventory I guess, it tells you how much talent you could bring to the table if you really were to get into the big leagues. If you really did have a humongous opportunity or just a visionary goal. How how good could you really be. So you know what's there.

-And then you say OK, this person's worth, let's say 73.6% on a scale of 100%. I have no idea what that relates to, but I'm making up a measure that we could use. So that's what the person's got to bring to the table. What am I getting currently? 25% OK, 25% instead of 73%. What can I do to get more from the 73%? Improve the relationship.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 5
  • Lesson Nugget: Relationships are a two-way street. If you help your inner circle become better, you will get more value from them.
  • Lesson Nugget: You can change the value of your inner circle by coaching them up.


-So if I improve the relationship, which is a whole separate discussion by the way, if I improve my relationship, my working relationship with that person. Now let's assume for a moment I'm getting all 73.6% of value from that person. Wow! So how do I further enhance this value? That's easy, make it 93%. How do you do that? Training, coaching, collaboration, information. Just increase their skill, their knowledge, their ability, their confidence, help make them a better person and a better professional, and then they've got more to bring to the table. As long as your relationship is really solid then that 93.6% is now flowing to you. So you're getting 20 points more from just one of the people.

-It's worth that extra investment.

-And this one's bringing in 37%, and this one's bringing in in 58%, and this one's bringing in 25%, and this one's bringing in 90%, wow, this one's bringing in 66%, and this one's bringing in 18%, oops, and this one's bringing in 59%, OK. So you can add all those numbers up, if this were some form of measure that actually was credible. Then you could add those numbers up and say, OK, we're getting collectively an average of-- and I'm going to pull this number of the air instead of doing the math-- we're getting collectively an average 59.7% from our people.

-How do we increase this number? Increase that number. Increase that number. Increase that number. All the way around, so that each person gets the training they need, the support and encouragement they need. In this case 18%, maybe be the new job somewhere else that they need. Get them off the team.

-What's unique about this, is one of your examples of your inner circle back when you were working in the government housing job, was your wife. I don't think people even realize this, but you might be able to say, OK what could I do to better utilize this-- because clearly she's your partner, clearly she feeds and encourages you--

-I needed to support and encourage her, and tell her 100% of the truth so that she could be there for me in a way that mattered.

-That's it. That's huge. But I don't think people typically think of, even your wife, or your spouse, being somebody that should be in your inner circle on your list. But they contribute to your productivity.

-When you think about it, what made my wife valuable to me was the fact that she loved me and I loved her, and that we trusted each other completely. Put that in a work context it's not love so much as it is a respect and enjoyment of each other's working relationship, and trust. Both of those are manageable. You can increase them intentionally over time.

-There are things you can do, that's the happy news. There are things you can do to change any of these numbers, and to build more trust. In which case you're improving that relationship, and that relationship, and that relationship, and that relationship, and you're canceling that relationship, and you're doubling down on the ones that are really paying off for you, and now then all of a sudden-- and by the way, this becomes your rock, this 90% person here. That one and this one over here become the two rocks that you're really building on, and they become sort of A players, they're your Michael Jordans.


-And so now then you've got a team with three power players in it, and what do you do with that? Well first off, you look for ways to multiply these. If you're already training, and supporting, and encouraging, and collaborating, to the extent you can, that's cool. But what did you do find another one of those? Does this one I have that possibility? Maybe you need to bring that one in. Maybe you need to get this one out, because some people should not be encouraged to stay in our life.

CALEB: Always be shopping, right.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 6
  • Action Step: Be intentional about the creation, cultivation, and mix of the relationships you invest in.


-Poisonous people just need not apply.

CALEB TAYLOR: Right. This is so good. This is huge.

JIM CATHCART: Yeah, and then the beauty of all this is it's you becoming intentional about your relationships. You taking the inner circle of the people that you must get your results through-- at least for now-- seriously enough that you're helping them be better. They're helping you be better.

You even look at how they relate to each other, right? Around the circle? Because if there's a disconnect, like there would be here with number 18%, right? Then you've got a great team that works well together and collaborates and all that until this person's part is called on. And then everything draws to a stop. It's like the person who was successful-- I think we talked about it previously-- all of a sudden things fall apart because of that person.


-So, you've got to eliminate the poison, and you've got it work on the rest of it to increase the nutrients.

CALEB TAYLOR: OK. This is good. And this is, I feel like-- first of all, I love the board. Would you look at this?

-Thank you.

-Look at this right now.

-What a mess I've created.

-No, this is amazing.

-Success mess.

-Success mess. What do you say, though, as we're finishing up here, to this Thriver, just as words of encouragement, as they're starting to the first time ever maybe be really intentional about their inner circle and spending extra time and care on those people that can increase their productivity. What would do you say that Thriver now that's like, I'm going to try this. It's new. It's kind of weird. What do I do?

-All of us have relationships. All of us. And a lot of those relationships are just kind of superficial and not much to them. But all of us would benefit from being more intentional about the relationships we cultivate. So, look at everyone you know. Just make a list of everybody you know well enough to give them a phone call, or to hang out with them or have lunch, or whatever.

Just make a list of everybody you can think of. I mean, everybody. Business, personal, church, society, sports, whatever. Everybody you can think of. Just write them all down. Get a huge sheet of paper and just dump all of them on there. And then say, OK, which ones do I really know compared to the others? And you isolate those. And that becomes your kind of main working circle.


-And then you say, in that, who's the inner circle? Who are the ones that if I've got to get something big done, those are the ones I really need for the moment? OK? Then you start asking, should I invest in that? Should I invest in this person? Is this a person that belongs on the inner circle team?

If so, I need to really cultivate that intentionally and intelligently. And as you take charge of growing your relationships intentionally, wow! Your life starts unfolding in bigger ways than everybody else because most people don't get intentional about their relationships. They accumulate relationships.

-That's good.

-They manage relationships, but they're not intentional about the creation, cultivation, and mix.

-This is huge. And when you say you're-- we're wrapping up here. But you say that these are the relationships that I'm going to invest in. Kind of go above and beyond. Take extra good care of it, as you said in your book. We've got multiple networking episodes to give you specific ideas of what that looks like. Be sure to watch those as well. But this is huge. It's clear this can be a game changer. Thank you for these specific action items, Jim.

-Badda bing--

-I love it.

- --badda boom.



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