Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Who is Your Business Lifeguard?

lifeguardHave you noticed the lifeguards at the pool or at the beach? Their job is to be vigilant, watch weather and water conditions, and to save swimmers and surfers who get into trouble.

Around water, some people get into trouble because they are overconfident, too tired, or they are not paying attention to what is going on around them. They get careless and lose sight of land, or they get confused and cannot find a way to safety.

In business we sometimes get into trouble for the same reasons.

Do you have a lifeguard in your career? Do you have groups of people who will help you if you get in over your head? Do you have safety nets that allow you to stretch your abilities?

It is important to try new approaches, ideas, and processes. Some people worry about experimenting with new things because they are afraid of failing. Not experiencing success is a good way of figuring out what doesn’t work. My dad said that you need to learn from the mistakes of others, and that’s true. But we also need to be confident enough to try and, sometimes fail. As an entrepreneur, I’d rather take action and possibly fail than do nothing.

Our business lifeguards help us take risks and try new ideas. They help us identify where the deep water is, and they remind us to take short breaks to necessary.

How do we get lifeguards in business? How do we serve as a lifeguard for others?

1. Create your own board of directors. Assemble a board of thought leaders to brainstorm on business and ideas. Ask people in similar industries or mentors to serve on your personal board of directors. If you make it an easy and enjoyable process, you can become closer to the people you admire and they get to know you, and each other, better as well.

2. Join or form a mastermind group. Mastermind groups are formed for mutual support and business discussion, often with people in the same business or with the same business model. Other mastermind groups bring like-minded people together even though their businesses are completely different.

One of the most important aspects of a mastermind group is to allow everyone to discuss what they need and to provide enough time for feedback from the rest of the group.

When getting a mastermind group together, have an agenda and ask everyone to be prepared to talk about a challenge they are experiencing, a project they are working on, and a resource that would benefit others in the group. Everyone is expected to fully participate and to share ideas and resources freely. 

3. Find trusted peers at work to watch out for each other on projects. Make an effort to strengthen relationships at work and to be sincerely helpful. Use meetings to support each other’s ideas, and support each other publically.

4. Establish friendly relationships with the people you routinely conduct business with, such as your suppliers and customers. Show appreciation for their help for your success. Have a system to and congratulate them on their business accomplishments, and be creative, such as sponsoring a press release or partnering on a commercial.

5. Stay close to your friends and family. Make time for the people who truly matter. Call, text, and show up when difficulties happen. Be a lifeguard for others and watch out for each other. 


  1. Melanie Smithson

    So important Mary! Luckily, I don’t need saving yet, but I sure need my lifeguards cheering me on…

  2. David

    Mary – great post!

    Accountability is so important – keeps us on track, helps us focus, and lends fresh perspective reducing the chance of blind spots.

    Appreciate you!



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