Peer Advantage & The Opposite Strategy

Remember the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza employed his “opposite strategy?”  Meaning, if he did the opposite of what he thought he should do, life would work out better. Earlier this week, I talked about the four ways we engage our peers.  We typically connect, network, optimize, and accelerate – in pretty much that order.  CEOs, however, should adopt Costanza’s “opposite strategy.”

While most business leaders, generally speaking, connect more than they network. They also tend to network more than they optimize and optimize more than they accelerate.  (And for most, they don’t accelerate at all).  CEOs, whose time is extremely valuable, should take a page from George and invest their peer engagement activities in the opposite order.  CEOs should accelerate first, then optimize, network, and connect.

Why? Because CEOs should invest their time, where they get the most value.  It’s essential that they get out of their company and industry silos to engage in rich conversations with a diverse group of fellow CEOs who truly empathize with the magnitude of their responsibility.  Ask any high-performing CEO in a group.  Your peers will broaden and deepen your knowledge and help you lead your organization more effectively.

Next, optimize. Take what you learn from your CEO group— your ideas and your understanding about how high-performing groups collaborate—and show your people how to lead groups that optimize inside your organization. Networking involves purposeful interaction with select individuals who can help you and your organization grow. What you gain from accelerating and optimizing will help you be an even more purposeful and more successful networker. Finally, stay connected. Connecting will help extend your reach and provide you with an additional knowledge channel for both intentional and collateral learning.

If it’s good enough for George Costanza… I’m just sayin’!

*Image from screenrant.com

Carol Tometsko's Greatest Discovery

Using our new PEER method for telling peer advantage stories, read Carol Tometsko’s story and consider sharing yours using the same outline and maximum of 500 words.  This story is fewer than 400 words!  To review the guidelines for submitting stories, click here!

Preface

Carol Tometsko is the Chief Executive Officer and President of Litron Laboratories, which she co-founded in 1976 with her late husband Dr. Andrew M. Tometsko.   Starting this company was her husband’s dream.  Fast forward eighteen years, and their company, Litron Laboratories, was still in business, largely because they were extremely successful in obtaining government grants.  Then, in 1994 when Carol was at the airport, she received a call that Andrew had passed away.  She went back to the lab to find two employees who were as grief stricken as she was, and it was in that moment that she decided to continue to run the business. At this point in her life, Carol was still wearing a scientist’s hat and was not necessarily a business person, and while she considered hiring outside leadership to take the helm, she did not.

Expectation

In 1997, Tom Merkel, a personal friend of Carol’s, suggested she join a Vistage CEO peer advisory group. In 1995, Litron began developing and selling genetic toxicology kits, but Carol understood that she couldn’t build a company based on that approach alone.  Carol said, “We had to get involved in new areas, in exploring new genetic toxicology areas.  That’s where we were sort of stumped.”  She was looking for a group of CEOs she could talk to about her business.

Experience

Little did she know the impact the group would have on what would become the re-imagining of her company. Carol said that it was her group members who taught her the word “collaboration.”   Up until that time, her world pitted scientist against scientist in a race for who would arrive at the answer first, so she found the idea expressed by her fellow CEOs of collaborating with other scientists somewhat frightening (because of her prior university experience) but an intriguing idea for scaling the business.   It took CEOs outside of her industry sector to help her see this.

Results

Under Carol’s leadership, Litron has transformed from an organization once dependent on government grants into an international technology company, which as of 2015, provided support to laboratories in 37 countries.  Carol did so by stepping outside her company (and the world of science) to make one of her greatest discoveries – the value of peer advantage.  Carol is still a member of her group today.

Tell Us Your Peer Advantage Story

Tell us how peer advantage worked for you by submitting your story to leobottary.com, using the PEER method.  Give us the background we need in the Preface.  Tell us about your Expectations, either when you joined your group or when you brought an issue or new opportunity to your group and then share your actual Experience.  (For example, you may have planned to ask your peers for their thoughts on your choosing between solution A & B, only to discover you had more options than you realized).  Then reveal the Results – it’s that simple.

Feel free to identify your group as a (for example) CEO World Mastermind Group, Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Forum, Renaissance Executive Forum, The Alternative Board (TAB), Tiger 21, True North GroupVistage Group, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) Forum, etc.   As a member, sharing your story for this site means you’re granting me permission to post and promote it publicly.  If you lead a group and wish to submit a member story, I will assume you’ve received the member’s permission or that you’ve used pseudonyms to ensure confidentiality.  Either way, please indicate that with your submission or it will not be eligible for posting.

I’ll be adding stories myself as well, so if you’re a group leader or group member, tell us how you experienced peer advantage by completing the form below or by emailing your story to me directly at leo@leobottary.com.  Stories should be 500 words max!  (The story below contains fewer than 400 words).

Here’s a sample story for your review.

Now It’s Your Turn!

 

Peer Advantage – An Obvious Choice

Will peer advantage gain traction?  Can it be as common to the business lexicon someday as Emotional Intelligence is today?   The short answer is “yes.”  Why?  Because CEOs need peer advantage every bit as much as the cavemen needed the wheel.  In a recent conversation with Miguel Dias, Founder and CEO of CEO World, he reminded me of the cartoon of the cavemen ignoring their peer’s offer to make their lives easier.  While this cartoon is a “slightly altered” version of the original, it illustrates an important point.

It’s what every CEO peer advisory group leader must feel like when he or she reaches out to a CEO with a solution to a problem that too many CEOs don’t realize they have.   And if most CEOs took just a minute from being “too busy,” they could be reminded that who you surround yourself with matters and, because it matters, CEOs and business leaders can help each other in ways they just won’t find anywhere else.   In this fast-changing, complex world of ours, none of us should try to go it alone.

In the book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success, Vistage Chair Bob Dabic said that participating openly in a peer advisory group involves fighting off a caveman mentality and its 10,000 years of human conditioning.  Today, too few people avail themselves of the myriad benefits of enlisting the support of their peers.  Fortunately, the wheel became an everyday part of our lives.  Sooner rather than later, so will peer advantage.

Taking Peer Advantage On The Road

When I discovered this image of the hitchhiker, I saw it as a metaphor for my new venture to take peer advantage on the road.  It’s a twist on the African proverb, I guess: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you’ll get there faster if someone gives you a ride.”   None of us does it alone, and unless we all give each other a lift from time to time, we’re not likely to get very far and we certainly won’t get there fast.

Peer advantage is what CEOs and business leaders experience when they are more selective, strategic, and structured about how they engage their peers.  It works because who you surround yourself with matters and, because of this, CEOs and business leaders can help each other in ways they just won’t find anywhere else.  Despite how well it works though, not nearly enough of them engage their peers effectively.  In a 2013 study at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the data revealed that nearly two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive outside leadership advice.  It also says that nearly all want it.  So let’s show them how to get it!

On August 7th, I announced the expansion of the thought leadership initiative I started during my six-year tenure at Vistage Worldwide.   My plan is to share “the boundless benefits of peer advantage” with business leaders across the globe.  Why?  Because of the difference I’ve seen it make in the lives of countless CEOs and business owners and, in turn, how they have helped their employees, families, and communities in the process.  I simply want to call attention to what is undeniably effective and share it with the millions of leaders who are currently going it alone.

To do that, I’m going to need lots of rides along the way, and I’ll need you to give others a lift as well so we can spread the word together and reap the rewards peer advantage affords our society.  Thanks to all of you who have hired me as a speaker, read my blog posts, listened to my podcasts, and shared the power of peer advantage on social media.  There’s much more work to do.  If you get a moment, have a look at the complete announcement and let me know what you think!   As always, thanks for reading.  Ideas welcome!

*Image from Huffingtonpost.com

 

 

The Learning Leadership Ensemble

Back on May 8th, I posted a review of Jim Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s new book, Learning Leadership.   I not only highly recommend the book for anyone who is a student of leadership (which is most of us I imagine), but also because I appreciate the bright light the authors shined on the value of engaging the support of others.   This is where peer advantage meets learning leadership.

It’s been my experience that there’s no silver bullet to becoming a great leader nor to achieving greatness at anything for that matter.  It typically involves an ensemble of activities and the generous support of others.  The authors’ ensemble for learning leadership involves believing in yourself, aspiring to excel, challenging yourself, engaging support and practicing deliberately.  Engaging support is where they see life as a team sport, stating that no one who has ever been great at anything achieved it alone.  Here’s how Kouzes and Posner opened Part V of their book Learning Leadership:

“You can’t learn to become the best leader all by yourself.  The top performers in every endeavor, including leaders, all seek out support, advice, and the counsel of others. That has a lot do with why they turn out to be the most successful.” 

Kouzes and Posner also go so far as to suggest that you form your own personal board of directors – 4 to 7 people who have diverse skills sets – who care about your success, provide you the advice you need, and help you meet the tough challenges and achieve the lofty goals you’ve identified for yourself and your organization.   Based on personal experience, this is a winning strategy that is both easy and effective, yet too few people do it.

The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success, which I coauthored with Leon Shapiro, explores the value of engaging the support of others, while recognizing that it’s just one instrument in the learning leadership ensemble.  Since writing the book, I’ve been speaking throughout the U.S. and abroad, playing my small part by touting the value of engaging the support of others.  I invite you to join Kouzes and Posner in their lifelong quest to develop more and better leaders throughout the world – only together will we be successful.

*Photo from http://alvinband.squarespace.com/overview-1-1-2/

Where One23 Meets Peer Advantage

We all have a story, but few people can leverage its narrative as Rahfeal Gordon has done so brilliantly in the 2nd edition of his riveting book One23.  In it, Rahfeal reveals a chronicle of hardship that delivers a promise of hope.  After sharing his deeply personal story, he also gives back to us, as others gave to him, by sharing 23 powerful strategies and a daily approach for how we can all find value in ourselves no matter where we came from.  Among them is enlisting the help of others.

As you’ll discover in the book, Rahfeal understood that everyone had something to teach him.  He received active and passive lessons from people from all walks of life.  By always paying attention, he apprehended the good from the good, and the good from the bad, and used what he learned to create personal clarity about the kind of man he wanted to be.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Rahfeal, and I will tell you that the man matches the narrative.  He’s every bit as thoughtful, positive, curious, inspiring, and generous as the account of his life reveals.  What’s most obvious is that Rahfeal understands the importance of surrounding himself with good people – people who lift him up, people who he can learn from, and people who hold him accountable to his lofty goals and his dream of making the world better than he found it.

Rahfeal does this by seeing the emptiness in the glass half-full as opportunity.  It’s a little like the story of the two shoe salesmen, who upon their return from a business trip to a village in India, each shared their assessment of the market potential.  The first salesman concluded, “Bad news.  No one was wearing shoes there.”  The second exclaimed, “Great news!  No one was wearing shoes there!”

While it’s easy to chuckle at the first salesman’s perspective, it’s far more common than you think. Earlier in my PR career, one of my clients was a 75+ year-old regional engineering firm. Everyone in the firm openly thought of themselves, and the company as a whole, as stodgy and resistant to change. (They practically wore it as a badge of honor).  My task was to update the messaging the leadership was using to communicate to the marketplace, which essentially reflected how they saw themselves.  This meant that my initial task was to convince the leaders to see themselves differently first.

In reading a book on the history of the firm, I discovered one story after the next where the company faced seemingly insurmountable odds only to reinvent itself, no matter what the market threw in its way.  The firm always figured out how to change its business to stay in business.  The history didn’t say stodginess, it screamed agility!  Only after the leadership saw it this way could they communicate their new message convincingly to the market.

You want to learn how to take your story (no matter how tough it’s been) and change the narrative?  To use your past to create a new foundation for a brighter future?  Read Rahfeal’s book and surround yourself with the kind of people who will help you see in you, what you may not see in yourself, and keep them close by.  It’s where One23 meets peer advantage.

To learn more about Rahfeal Gordon and read more of his books, visit his website at rahgor.com

Shaping the Odds!

Karen Floyd, SymmetryPR,  suggested I take a look at a thoughtful piece she wrote about peer advantage from a recent talk I gave at the ANJE Conference (pictured above).  Even more importantly from my perspective, she asked me to explore a new peer-to-peer community called Shaping the Odds.  At her request, I joined the community and look forward to working with my peers in this forum over the coming months.

Karen briefly described Shaping the Odds as a place that provides a warmer user experience than LinkedIn, while overcoming what some entrepreneurs believe to be the often too personal bent of Facebook.  (I was immediately intrigued).  At first glance. it delivers a perfect balance for entrepreneurs who believe in paying it forward and who wish to participate in a peer-to-peer community where expertise, mentorship, contacts, etc. can be shared among business leaders at all levels.  Over time, I can see it providing a wellspring of business and personal stories that will be invaluable for entrepreneurs and company leaders alike.

For more information on Shaping the Odds vision, check out what its founder, André Eidskrem has to say!  A community is only as strong as its members.  Shape the odds in your favor and theirs by giving it a try!

Want to go far? Go together.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  It’s among my favorite quotes, and the one we used to open our new book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success.   Turns out, I actually experienced this phenomenon firsthand on my recent trip to Porto, Portugal.  Let me explain.

Miguel Dias, CEO of CEO World was kind enough invite me to deliver a master class and participate as a mentor and as a member of a peer group at the ANJE Conference last month.  Prior to my leaving for the trip, Miguel asked me if I wanted to join him and a few of the other speakers for a morning run in Porto.  I thought, “What a great idea!”  Later, I learned that the other speakers accepted Miguel’s invitation with equal enthusiasm.  We all met in the hotel lobby early on Wednesday morning, well before the heat of the day would have made our run even more challenging.  Next thing you know, we were off and running – literally.

Now you may be asking yourself the question we should have asked before we embarked on this self-propelled excursion.  How far are we going?  Since none of us asked, we just kept running – from the Crowne Plaza hotel, through a lovely park which led us to the ocean, and then south along the ocean – a scenic tour of a beautiful section of Porto.  (And a run that up to this point was predominantly downhill).   It was at this time (about 7k or nearly 4.5 miles in), where we stopped for a quick selfie (pictured above left to right): Ryan Foland, Rahfeal Gordon, Miguel Dias, and yours truly  (the older guy at the end looking more exhausted than the other three).

As we were collecting ourselves, we learned two things: 1) We had to run back the same way we came (no shortcut to the hotel) and 2) because what goes down must come up, the remainder of our run would be primarily uphill.  Together, we ran to the hotel balancing a positive attitude with the familiar peer-to peer axiom “misery loves company.”

While you may regard this story as pretty unremarkable, consider this: Miguel invited us to run with him without knowing any of our running backgrounds or current fitness levels.  If he had, Miguel would have known that it’s been at least five years since either me, Ryan or Rahfeal have run anywhere close to that distance.

In talking with Ryan and Rahfeal upon our return to the hotel, we compared notes and agreed on three important points: 1) We all assumed (with a capital A) that it was unlikely that we would run any farther than 5-8 kilometers or 3-5 miles. 2) If we had been told that we were heading out for a run nearly twice that distance, we wouldn’t have even attempted it. 3) We ran farther than we could have ever predicted and much farther than any of us would have gone if left to our own devices.

It’s a fitting metaphor for the power of the group, whether you happen to be on a running tour or you’re running a company.  It offers all the proof I need that if you want to go far, you need the kind of people around you who will help you make that possible.  Who you surround yourself with matters, and on that summer morning in Porto, I could not have been surrounded by a finer group of people.

By the way, the quote we used to end the book, another African proverb, was “I am because you are.”

 

 

 

 

Class Clowns and Peer Advantage

During a recent appearance on Real Talk San Diego 1700 AM ESPN, I spoke with hosts Chase Peckham and Brian Blackburn about a range of subjects related to the power of peers and what I call peer advantage, particularly when it comes to high-performing sports teams – most notably The University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team.

We also touched on how early it all starts.  In this clip, we discussed class clowns and why the power of maintaining order in the classroom does not rest solely with the teacher; it actually rests with the group.  Here’s a brief video segment.  If you’d like to listen to the interview in its entirety, please do and let me know what you think!