Building Your Inner Circle in the Military

Every Army leader, whether enlisted or officer, needs an inner circle of their own.  The purpose of today’s post is to explain what that is, how it works, what you should know, and how you can do it!

I define an inner circle as a small, select group of people that work together to help each other succeed.  Some people might call this the “good ole’ boy system” and others might call it your “network.”  Regardless of what you call it, you need an inner circle of your own.

Why Do You Need An Inner Circle?

You need an inner circle for a variety of reasons.  The biggest reason to have an inner circle of your own is to have a group of people who look out for you and help you in your career.  Let’s keep it real for a moment.  All people have people they know, like and trust, and they do their best to naturally look out for these folks.  In my career, I had my own inner circle, and I know you do, too.

You want an inner circle so you can learn about opportunities, so you can find mentors, and excel your career.  You also want an inner circle so you can do these same things for others!  It’s about giving and getting.  It should never be just about you.

How Do You Build Your Inner Circle?

Let me start by telling you that it won’t happen by accident.  You have to be proactive and strategic with your inner circle.  You should make a list of people you know in the military who are influential and successful.  Think of the movers and shakers in your unit and outside of your unit.

Your objective is to form strategic alliances with some of these people.  What does that mean?  It means that you initiate a professional relationship with them built upon trust and mutual respect.

You try to help them.  You show an interest in them as a peer or superior.    You ask them if they would mentor you.  You go out of your way to showcase your talents and skills when you are around them.  You mentor and help the people lower ranking than you.

Please do not confuse any of this with kissing butt.  There is no need to do that.  But, there is a big need to form certain relationships with the right people if you want a really successful military career (especially in the Army Reserves and National Guard).  We both know that’s true.

Once you meet people that you want to invite into your inner circle, your goal is to BUILD the relationship with them.  Once again, I am not talking inappropriate relationships here.  I’m talking working, professional WORK relationships.

Your objective is to get to know them.  Take them out for lunch. Send them a personal note.  Do something to help them.  And whatever you do, stay in touch with them!  This process takes time and effort, but it is time well spent.

Who Should Be In Your Inner Circle?

So, who should be in your inner circle?  I suggest you make a goal to have 5-10 people in your inner circle, minimum.  Ideally, you want one or two peers, one or two people who outrank you, one officer or NCO counterpart, one retiree and one person lower ranking than you.  That is a good starting point.  Please keep in mind you don’t have to find all of these people right away.  Make it a point to build your inner circle within a 12 month time frame.  In addition, you should always be adding people to your inner circle!

What to Do With Your Inner Circle?

So, what should do you do with your inner circle?  As a starting point, you want to help them.  Offer them assistance whenever possible.  Share advice with them.  See if they need assistance.  Mentor the people you outrank.  Help your peers.  And see what you can do to help your superiors in your inner circle.  And the best thing you can do is INTRODUCE them to each other!

This all boils down to sowing and reaping.  Your goal is to help each other in a personal/professional way.

As a quick disclaimer, I am not telling you to discriminate against people who are not in your inner circle, nor am I telling you to play favorites.

Instead, I’m just telling you from personal experience that MOST people I know have an inner circle.  You want to have yours, too! I learned a long time ago that having a good network is vital to career success.  The same holds true in the military.  Build your network, build good relationships, provide value and help each other succeed.  That’s what it’s all about.

What are your thoughts about building your own inner circle?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “Building Your Inner Circle in the Military”

  1. A team, or inner circle, can be a critical help in your success as a service member. It's great to have friends, but you also need have some professional friends as well. Someone who shares your goals, but maybe has a slightly different idea of how to get there or maybe just different experiences or talents.

    You are going to have friends and you are going to have colleagues, but the inner circle refers to someone who is both and that should be a small and important group in your advancement as a service member. Ultimately, nobody is as concerned with your career as you are, but it's nice to have some allies on the journey.

    1. I think it’s wise to have an inner circle. Even in the Army, it’s good to know people. And it’s good to have a small group of people who naturally look out for each other and help each other. Just my two cents.

  2. I believe that it is always a good idea to have an inner circle. Call it what you want: your BFF’s, your close friends, your team, whatever you want. It is human nature to seek out those that we feel comfortable, and it is responsible to choose those people wisely. These do not have to just be people that might advance your career. They can be people that you help more than the other way around. But especially in the military, where your very life may depend upon the inner circle that you choose, I agree that you should cultivate and tend those important relationships.

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