Publishers Weekly and The Power of Peers

I’m a big admirer of Howard Gardner, who among other things, codified the theory of multiple intelligences in his 1983 book Frames of Mind.  I’ve always enjoyed how he answered his critics and defended his theory without being defensive.  Debates with scholars inspired more conversation about his work, which I would imagine was precisely what he wanted.  These are the kinds of healthy exchanges that drive engagement and promote understanding about new ideas.

In that spirit, I’d like to address a few points Publishers Weekly (PW) raised in its April review of our new book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success (PoP).

PW – “The premise of this book is that CEOs are lonely and isolated and a peer group can help them connect, network, and accelerate their business problem-solving and decision-making. This may be true, but co-authors Shapiro, a former CEO and current board member, and Bottary, a current v-p of a business peer advisory membership organization, point to no research studies directly on point…”

PoP – This is technically correct and also one of the reasons we wrote the book.  While we point to a number of studies that speak to trust, CEO isolation, and other related topics, the literature specific to peer advisory groups for business leaders is scant to say the least.  We hope that’s not the case in 5-10 years.  When you consider what’s available when it comes to the study of leaders and followers, it begs the question as to why there has been so little focus on the people who stand beside us in business.  I’m involved in a study right now that will examine learning outcomes for CEOs who participate in peer advisory groups.  We invite more people to discover the wellspring of research opportunities in this area.

PW – …and offer up examples that more often involve small business owners than CEOs of major corporations.

PoP – While most of the stories in the book come from owners and CEOs of small to mid-sized companies, we also clearly address the point that CEOs of larger companies do participate in peer groups.  The implication that CEOs of larger companies would not likely receive the same value as their counterparts running smaller organizations is unfounded.  CEOs of larger companies simply have different conversations, challenges and opportunities, and the dialogue that ensues during their group meetings reflects that.  Based on our experience and research, that’s the only difference.

PW – “The book abounds in optimistic observations such as ‘Being vulnerable is liberating’ and ‘Our peers… hold us accountable.'”

PoP – It’s a bit of a smart-ass way to make the point, but I can appreciate the desire to add a dash of spice to the review.  If anything, among the hundreds of stories we had at our disposal, we left out those that seemed just to good to be true.  It’s the members who abound with optimism, we just captured their words.

PW – “It makes clear how to create such a group, but isn’t clear enough on why CEOs should want to take part.”

PoP – To address the first clause, let me say, “Excellent and thank you!”  Because that’s exactly what we hoped to do.  As for the second clause, we didn’t presume to tell people what their goals should be.  If you want to run a marathon, surround yourself with other people who want to do (and have done) the same thing.  Cheer each other on, offer training tips, and hold each other accountable for completing your training.  That’s what group members do for each other.  It can help you get across the finish line, whether you want to run a race or run a company (of any size).   Generally speaking, people are really good at setting goals; they’re just not nearly as good at enlisting the support of people who can actually help them achieve those goals.


Thanks to Publishers Weekly for being as engaging, lively, and thought provoking as advertised.  Keep raising issues and inspiring healthy dialogue and debate.  It’s what happens in any peer advisory group meeting worth its salt.  For those of you who’ve read The Power of Peers, I invite you to use the comments section here to ask questions and raise any concerns, doubts, etc. you may have about peer advantage or peer advisory groups for CEOs and business leaders.   While you’re at it, if you’ve never read Howard Gardner, add that to your to do list!  😉







Add Your Favorite Title to the Peer Advantage Library

The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success is based on the simple concepts that who you surround yourself with matters and that peers can help each other in ways they won’t find anywhere else.  Turns out, if you are more selective, strategic and structured about how you engage your peers, there’s no challenge you can’t meet nor any aspiration too lofty to achieve.  The proof can be found in the countless stories of people who have overcome remarkable odds and who’ve shed self-limiting beliefs to achieve amazing success for themselves and their organizations.  Experiencing the power and the benefits of true peer advantage, however, can be greatly enhanced by reading other works that will help you take peer advantage in your life to new heights.

To that end, and with your help (the help of my peers), I’d like create a Peer Advantage Library that includes titles that span beyond The Power of Peers and inspires you to think about the work of some outstanding authors in the context of peer advantage. Some books focus squarely on the peer group experience, while others take a deeper dive into specific aspects of peer advantage (vulnerability and trust for example).  Here are ten thought starters to get the ball rolling:

Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi

True North Groups by Bill George & Doug Baker

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

Conversational Capacity by Craig Weber

Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser

Learning Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Team Genius by Rich Karlgaard

The Wisdom of Walk-Ons by Paul L. Corona

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Cultivating Communities of Practice by Etienne Wenger and Richard McDermott

These amazing books are just the tip of the iceberg.  With your help, we’ll create a robust collection that will help all of us experience the power of peer advantage in all aspects of our lives.  I will create a permanent home for the Peer Advantage Library over the next several weeks!  Join your fellow peers by adding your favorite book(s) in the comments section!  Thank you!


The Communication Triad

Revisiting a regrettable chapter from my junior high school days, albeit painful, provided us with a metaphor for why the receipt of any communication, as intended, is the responsibility of the sender as opposed to the receiver.  Now I understand why this may seem unreasonable to some people.  Maybe the person wasn’t listening or just ignored an important text or email. Things like this happen all the time, right?  So why is that the sender’s fault?  The thing is, it’s not about assigning blame, it’s about accepting  responsibility.  It comes down to verifying and not assuming.  It’s how great leaders assure that they’re not just writing or talking – they’re actually communicating.

That said, most of us can use help in that area.  So working in teams of three versus teams of two (triads instead of dyads) can provide added assurance that everyone is on the same page.  In the book Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, they note the power of triads in communication.  For example, if one person is talking to another, and it becomes apparent that the two people are not on the same page, the third member of the group can be extremely effective at clearing up misunderstandings.   It can work the same way in a larger group, where you have a leader, a member, and the group itself serving as the third leg of the stool.  It’s how the highest performing CEO peer advisory groups engage each other during each and every meeting.

In our book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success (which will be officially released on 3/22), we offer this concept as just one small example of what it can mean when we accept responsibility for our success, surround ourselves with the right people, and reap the benefits of what we call peer advantage.  Communicating with one another more effectively is just the tip of the iceberg.   I invite you to pick up three copies – one for you and two more for the other members of your triad!

Peer Advantage & Communication

To realize peer advantage – the outcome of being more selective, strategic, and structured about how you engage your peers – effective communication is essential.  One ground rule that I learned in a most unfortunate way, back in the ninth grade, is that when you send someone a message (verbally or in writing), you are also responsible for the receipt of the message by your audience as intended. I didn’t learn this important lesson in a classroom or working for the school newspaper.  I learned it during a track meet, and as you’ll discover soon enough, you’ll see why I’ve never forgotten it.

To make a long story short, I was on the track team for that one year.  I typically ran the mile, but at the last meet of the season, I was also asked to fill-in as the third leg on our undefeated one-mile relay team.  No problem I thought.  I had practiced this many times and was looking forward to contributing however I could.  I ran the third leg, starting slightly back in second place. By the time I was ready to pass the baton, I had taken the lead. Our anchor leg was the fastest kid in the city. No way we could lose. As I was passing the baton, I felt a brief moment of excitement, until of course the baton hit the ground. So much for our undefeated season.  

I was devastated, and I don’t think the members of that relay team have spoken to me since.  After the race, I was searching for answers as to how this may have happened.  Turns out, the coach wasn’t bashful about offering me some clarity, stating in no uncertain terms that it was my fault.  “You should never let go of the baton until you’re certain the receiver has grasped it,” he said.

It’s hard to miss the relevance to communication.  Like it or not, the responsibility lies with those delivering the message, not those receiving it. You can’t just say, “it was in the e-mail” or “sure, it’s right there in paragraph 8.”  If you want to experience true peer advantage, you have to accept the responsibility that comes with it.  You should never let go of the baton until you know that the recipients have received the message. It’s only at that point you can relax and let them run with it.

Next week, I’ll cover how the concept of triads in peer advisory groups offers true peer advantage when it comes to effective communication.  Among other things, employing triads will provide extra insurance that will help you avoid what happened to me.