Feel free to use this 4-minute video loop at your next mastermind/peer advisory group or team meeting. A big thanks to Vistage UK Chair Bob Battye who supplied most of the images!
When Leon Shapiro and I tackled the subject of how and why formal peer groups for CEOs and business leaders work so well in The Power of Peers, our research revealed two important findings: 1) The Learning-Achieving Cycle common to high performing groups; and, 2) What we called the Five Factors necessary for making the Learning-Achieving reinforcing loop possible.
After conducting nearly 100 self-assessment workshops for peer groups since the book was published, I’ve learned that the Five Factors are more than just components of a condition, they are a system onto themselves. What’s more, this system (with minor modifications) provides insights into what drives high performing teams.
The five factors were originally presented independently (reinforcing one another of course) yet described as if one had little to do with the other. The Five Factors included: 1) Having the right people in the room (people who share common values and a purpose for being in the group, yet who are diverse in their own ways); 2) A Safe and Confidential Environment – a place where one feels safe to be open and vulnerable and where confidentiality is sacrosanct; 3) Valuable interaction – while providing emotional safety is critical, here we talked about the quality of the topics discussed, the discipline of asking great questions, and the tangible outcomes realized by the group members; 4) Accountability – not accountability to the leader of the group, but to the other members – a solemn promise to one another to be present and bring their A games to each and every meeting; 5) Having a smart guide, someone who served as a servant leader of the group and as the steward of the other four factors.
Today, I see the Five Factors not simply as overlapping, but as a system, much like the Learning-Achieving Cycle:
It starts off with having the right people, who come to know each other and trust one another enough to feel safe. This feeling of safety inspires and enables deeper conversations about the kind of serious topics that all too often never happen in the context of our daily lives. As group members grow to care about one another and their respective aspirations, it inspires each of them to bring their A games to every meeting, knowing that their colleagues are prepared to do the same. Their currency with one another lies in this place where everyone helps each other achieve new heights. The smart guide’s role as the servant leader is essentially to serve as the steward of the other four factors by driving this reinforcing loop. He/she makes sure that the group is always populated with people who add value, that the safe environment is never taken for granted, that members come prepared to share their toughest challenges and greatest opportunities, and that a context which allows for a culture of growing group accountability is able to flourish.
So you may be asking the same thing I did: Do these five group factors, presented as a reinforcing loop, apply to teams and offer guidance to team leaders? With some minor adjustments, I believe they do. Here’s how it plays out for teams:
At your company, it’s about more than hiring good people, it’s about securing the right people. This involves understanding the difference between those who succeed at your company and those who don’t – despite their impressive resume and amazing interviewing skills. Having the right people is great, but now you have to get them to work together, which involves getting them to know and trust one another.
Once you have that, you can start looking at how you can help this team achieve higher levels of productivity and commitment to excellence. As a leader, think of tending a garden. Your job is to provide the right amount of water, sunlight, food, etc. to make your garden flourish. If you notice a plant not growing to its potential in one part of the garden, you move it to a better spot. I’ll take the gardener over the command and control leader any day – and so will your employees.
Now that your team is productive and they realize they can achieve a level of excellence that can only be obtained by working together, they drive each other’s level of performance to new heights, making the team as a whole that much stronger. The team leader plays the same role as the smart guide, serving as the steward of the other four factors, continually driving the reinforcing loop.
The best teams I’ve studied from business and in sports have all of these factors firing on all cylinders. Don’t let this throw you for a reinforcing loop! Think about how these factors play into your organizational teams and tell us what you find out!
In 2017, one of the guests on my Year of the Peer podcast (renamed What Anyone Can Do in 2018) was Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute. During our conversation, she told me the more that teachers collaborate with one another outside the classroom, the more effective they can be at building collaborative environments among students inside their classrooms. Countless leaders of CEO and key executive peer groups have said the same holds true in business. Essentially, leaders who do group work are more emotionally and intellectually fit to inspire superior teamwork inside their organizations. Let’s look at why.
To back up a moment, let’s distinguish between group and team. A group is one where people come together to help each other realize their individual goals. A team is a collection of people who collaborate in an effort to achieve a common goal. CEOs connect with other CEOs in groups because they believe that talking with peers who share their common challenges, yet who may come from very different worlds, will help them be better individual leaders and provide them with ideas and insights to help them grow their companies. College athletes, on the other hand, who participate in a team sport, may aspire to win a national championship – a single goal that can only be achieved as a high performing team.
Think of groups as the “gyms” for team leaders. Groups are the perfect training ground for strengthening your leadership muscles, building your business acumen, and fine-tuning your emotional intelligence. My guess is that you wouldn’t consider entering the IRONMAN, running a marathon, or cycling the Tour de France without training for it; yet too many organizational leaders attempt something equally difficult every day they show up to work without having stepped one foot into the gym. You can argue that you can train in other ways. Fair point. You can read books, hire a coach, go to conferences, etc. That said, here’s one thing (among many) you won’t get anywhere else except in a group – it’s called the Learning-Achieving cycle.
The Learning-Achieving Cycle, The Power of Peers (2016)
Dr. Darling-Hammond told me that we learn better when we learn together. When we share our learning with one another and engage in deep conversation about a given concept, it not only helps us understand it more completely, but also provides group members the courage to ACT on that learning. You might read something in a book that on its face seems like a great idea, but you’re unlikely to walk into the office the next day and implement it. Within days, that idea joins the pile of other interesting things you learned that you never acted on. Once you act on your learning (trial and error notwithstanding) and you achieve positive results, it inspires you to want to learn more. This creates a reinforcing loop of learning, sharing, applying, achieving that becomes a force of nature of its own – a force fueled by a leader’s insatiable desire to leverage the group’s intellectual capital for his/her own personal and organizational ROI.
Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, rather than read about it or have someone tell you about it, when you’re part of a group, you actually do it. You stick your hands in the clay, if you will, at each and every group meeting. It’s your practice field for business and personal success. If you want to lead higher performing teams, get yourself to the gym. That said, my one disclaimer is this: You can’t just sign up for a gym membership or even just show up there from time to time to receive any real benefit. But if you dig deep, invest in yourself, and do the work, then you, your group members, and your organizational team(s) will be the big winners for it.
If you have a story about how your peer group helped you get into better shape to be a stronger team leader, share it in the comments! Thanks!
…or maybe just the book trailer! 😉 Enjoy!
Hard to believe that 2017 is winding to a close. To that end, we thank our listeners, our guests, and C-Suite Radio for an amazing Year of the Peer. To wrap-up, Randy and I will talk about some of the major takeaways from Season 1 and look to what’s next for 2018. If you’ve missed a few episodes and you’re up for some holiday binge viewing and listening, please visit leobottary.com and click on PODCAST or look for us on C-Suite Radio. Remember, who you surround yourself with matters, so consider taking time during this holiday season to tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them. We’ll be back in mid-January for Season 2. Until then, have a safe and happy holidays!
We are extremely grateful for the incredible people who agreed to appear as guests on the Year of the Peer during 2017. Here they are in the order they appeared:
Charlene Li, CEO of the Altimeter Group and Best-Selling Author
Rich Karlgaard, Publisher and Global Futurist for Forbes
Lewis Schiff, Founder & Executive Director, The Business Owners Council
JJ Ramberg, Host of Your Business (MSNBC) and Business Owner
Jim Kouzes, Coauthor of The Leadership Challenge and former CEO
Vitaly Golomb, Investor & Global Startup Evangelist, HP Tech Ventures
Rahfeal Gordon, Inspirational Speaker/Author
Etienne & Beverly Wenger-Trayner; Scholars/Authors/Consultants
Laura Goodrich, Co-Founder, GWT Next and author of Seeing Red Cars
Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor Emeritus, Stanford Graduate School; of Education
Leon Shapiro, Coauthor of The Power of Peers and former CEO of Vistage
Bri Seeley & Thais Sky, co-founders of The Amplify Collective
Lolly Daskal, Founder, Lead From Within
Pat Wadors, CHRO LinkedIn
Larry Robertson, Founder Lighthouse Consulting
Sekou Andrews, Poetic Voice
Paul Michelman, MIT Sloan Management Review
Marian Salzman; CEO Havas PR, US
Ryan Foland, Managing Partner, InfluenceTree
Gini Dietrich, CEO Arment-Dietrich
Jeffrey Hayzlett; Chairman, C-Suite Holdings, LLC
Christina Martini; Partner at DLA Piper LLP (US)
Scott Mordell, CEO, YPO
Jimmy LeBlanc/Perry Stagg, Louisiana Department of Corrections
Tim Sanders, former Yahoo! Chief Solutions Officer
Angela Maiers, Founder, Choose2Matter
Miguel Dias, CEO and cofounder of CEOWORLD
Peter Carrington, St. Louis Barge
Simon Alexander Ong, Executive Coach and Mastermind Group Leader
Amazon’s Alexa (yes, Randy and I interviewed Alexa)
Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer, VaynerMedia
Peter Fuller, President, Lived Fused
Trent Sanderson, owner and creator of Team Prep USA
Benji Hyam, Co-founder, Grow & Convert
Cecelia Houser, Principal, Korn Ferry/Hay Group
Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group
Tonia Ries; SVP Edelman, Executive Director, Edelman Square
Robert H. Thompson, author of The Offsite
Brian Mac Mahon, Head Honcho, Expert DOJO
Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage Worldwide
Jeff Hoffman, former CEO of Priceline partner and founder of Colorjar
Peter Shankman, founder of HARO
Dan Hoffman, founder and CEO of Circles
Richard Franzi, Founder and CEO Critical Mass for Business
Dave Peterson, C-founder and Partner at Play Bigger
Christine Comaford, NYT besting selling author and business coach
How’s that for a dream team?!
Dave Peterson is a co-founder and partner at Play Bigger, public speaker and book author. He has spent 20 years helping billion dollar public software companies, tech start-ups, turnarounds, and fast growth pre-IPO companies define and dominate market categories. Dave started his career in marketing agencies in the midwest. Dave served a tour of duty as head of communications at Mercury Interactive, and was CMO for multiple companies. He also co-founded — and eventually mercifully killed — his own start-up called GiveMeTalk! He now designs categories for a living at his advisory firm Play Bigger.
Richard Franzi is the Founder and CEO of Critical Mass for Business, a premium social and peer learning organization for executives who lead firms with annual revenue up to $100 million. Richard’s third book, Killing Cats Leads To Rats: Mitigating The Negative Effects of Unintended Consequences of Business Decisions, will be released in early 2018. He is a business partner with Renaissance Executive Forums, an international advisory board firm founded in 1994. Richard currently chairs CEO Peer Groups® throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. You can learn more by going to CriticalMassForBusiness.com.
Sam Reese brings over 30 years of experience leading and advising senior leaders in complex organizations. As the CEO of Vistage Worldwide, Sam leads the world’s largest CEO membership advisory firm. Vistage members – 21,000 strong in 17 countries – gather in trusted, confidential peer advisory groups where they tackle their toughest challenges and biggest opportunities. Although Sam has been the CEO since 2016, he was a longtime Vistage member when he was with his previous company.
Today’s guest is author, executive coach, and president of Live Fused, Peter Fuller. After launching more than 13 companies, two industry associations, one nonprofit and raising $60 million in the process, Peter chose to radically change the direction of his life. Rather than continuing as a serial entrepreneur, he realized his successes and many failures could help business owners and executives, so he became an executive coach, Vistage Chair, and certified Gestalt therapist. Today, as the author of Start With You and president of Live Fused, he’s a created a powerful program that fully adapts to the professional and personal aspirations of each of his company’s clients. Peter, welcome to the show!
Scott Mordell has been CEO of a number of privately-held organizations. He has served as YPO’s CEO for six years. YPO is the global platform for chief executives to engage, learn and grow. YPO members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact.
Today, YPO empowers more than 25,000 chief executives in more than 130 countries, diversified among industries and types of businesses. Altogether, YPO member-led companies employ more than 15 million people and generate USD6 trillion in annual revenues.
Next week’s guests are Jimmy LeBlanc and Perry Stagg, Louisiana Department of Corrections.