Last week, I offered a framework, or a reinforcing loop if you will, that illustrated why peer groups for business leaders are so effective. This week, I’d like to share the five factors, or five conditions, that are necessary for a group to drive that reinforcing loop. Turns out, you can’t just throw a bunch of people in a room, cross your fingers, and trust that group members will spontaneously engage in the process of learning, sharing, applying and achieving. Because of this, we need to look at the five essential conditions that create the ideal environment for success. They involve:
- Select the right peers/have all the right people in the room. Whether you want to lead a company or run a marathon, it’s essential that you involve people who want to do that (or have done that), and who are committed to helping each other achieve their individual goals within a particular domain, whether it’s business, running, etc.
- Create a safe/confidential environment. Business leaders need to trust that they are in a safe place. This involves working with peers who treat each other respectfully and their being assured that what happens in the room stays in the room. It’s a place for learning rather than judging, and where confidentiality is sacrosanct. In this environment, group members can let their guards down and have real conversations. How many opportunities do you have to do that?
- Foster valuable interaction. While creating emotional safety is necessary, it’s not enough. Intellectually, group members must believe they are engaging in a structured process that helps them solves problems and evaluate opportunities alike. They tend to get to the heart of the matter, instead of wasting time dealing with symptoms and other extraneous issues, and they do so in a way that produces actionable outcomes.
- Be accountable. This involves creating a culture of accountability, where group members hold one another accountable for doing what they say they will do (DWTSTWD) to achieve their goals. This accountability doesn’t come from a place of calling people out; it comes from a place of members believing in each other and truly caring about their respective success.
- Utilize a smart guide. Leadership, servant leadership specifically, drives higher group performance. Whether the group leader is a professional facilitator or a member leading the group on a rotating basis, the responsibilities are essentially the same. Smart guides need to be stewards of conditions 1-4, and like any great coach, maximize the assets in the room and help the group realize its full potential.
The conditions for group success described here are covered in detail in The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success – Part II, The Five Factors for Peer Advantage. Turns out, each of these five conditions are evident (in a slightly different form) in high-performing organizational teams as well. As a CEO or business owner, one of the many ROIs you get when you join a group is that you can take what you learn from working with your peers and bring that peer-to-peer experience back into your organization. It’s what Kouzes and Posner call, “modeling the way!” The Year of the Peer is the perfect time to find a group that’s right for you and give it a try.
Next week, I’ll look at the role of the smart guide in greater detail and share what we learned about leading high performing peer groups and great teams.