In The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success, we stated that business leaders tend to engage their peers in four major ways. They connect, network, optimize, and accelerate. To connect is to literally make connections. This involves meeting new people (online or in-person), extending our reach, and even seeking advice from “peers” with whom we share a common interest. For example, if you want to read a book, you might check with others who’ve already read it to see what they think. You may not know any of them individually, but you’ll consider the prevailing sentiment of the group as a powerful data point. So much so that, according to The Shelf, 92% of consumers trust this source of info over branded content!
When we network, it’s typically more selective and purposeful. It’s when we reach out to specific individuals who can either help us get a job, find a business partner, secure financing for our next venture, etc. – or who knows someone who can! There’s no quid pro quo necessarily, but there is certainly an expectation of reciprocity in the event that the person who is helping you today needs your assistance in the future.
Great teams optimize. It’s about people working together, chasing perfection in the pursuit of excellence, to achieve a common goal – usually during a more concentrated period of time – a basketball season, perhaps (pick your favorite sport). Individuals may be asked to sacrifice their personal goals to achieve an overall team objective. You’ll forgo being the leading scorer and help make everyone around you better, thus increasing the team’s chances for success.
Finally, there’s accelerate. This is what top CEOs and business owners do when they step outside their company and industry sector to grow as leaders, think strategically about their business, and focus on its long-term future. By working with their peers, they participate in an exercise of “empathetic accountability.” CEOs work with peers who understand what’s like to make decisions that impact an entire organization and industry – people who know exactly what it’s like to sit in the CEO’s chair.
We engage our peers just this way and pretty much in exactly this order. None of us does it alone. That said, most leaders never experience what it means to accelerate and experience peer advantage. They engage in the first three only. In my next post, I’ll talk about why ALL CEOs should accelerate and why THEIR peer engagement puzzle comes together a bit differently.