Join Us for the Year of the Peer


Plan on subscribing to the podcast by all means, yet it’s my hope that you’ll join the movement!  In 40 days, the Year of the Peer begins, and on January 12th, Charlene Li will join us as our first podcast guest.  Who you surround yourself with matters and in today’s world, this has never been more relevant.  Have a look at the following five-minute video describing our podcast, which will be available here and on YouTube (video) and on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play, etc. (audio).

Click here to subscribe and invite your peers to join you for the Year of the Peer.  Enjoy!

Reflecting On The Company You Keep

I was visiting a neighbor recently and there was a man in his mid-to-late 80s, who happened to be at the house as well.  During the course of conversation, he started to quiz me about my book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success, which I coauthored with Leon Shapiro.  He asked some incredibly good questions.  I loved his curiosity and offered him a copy, which he graciously accepted.  In return, he jotted down a quote in Italian (see graphic above), which essentially means: “Tell me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

While it’s strikingly similar to the English expression, “You’re known by the company you keep,” I found the translation of the Italian especially powerful.  There’s something more pointed about the idea that the people with whom I surround myself reveals something larger about who I am as a person.  I can only hope so because about a week or so later, I spent an incredible day in San Francisco with two people whom I not only admire and respect, but also really like.

André Eidskrem and Karen Floyd were kind enough to treat me to a taste of Europe with visits to the Royal Norwegian Consul General, Hilde Janne Skorpen and Spain Tech Center Director, Christian Prada.  Again, I marveled at the insightful questions and the immediate grasp of two things:  1) Who we surround yourself with matters; and 2) we don’t pay nearly enough attention to number 1.  Whether you’re a CEO of a Norwegian company, founder of a Spanish tech start-up, or just trying to spread the word about the power of peers and peer advantage.  We’re all far more effective when we surround ourselves with great people – people who will support us when we ask, challenge us when we need it, and provide a perspective that offers a new way of thinking or a new way forward.

As I reflect on the past year, I think about all the amazing people I’ve met who have already made my life richer.   I hope the company I keep, as the Italian expression suggests, is the truest reflection of who I am as a person.  Next time you look in the mirror, rather than look at your reflection, turn around and take stock of the people in your life.  Make this the reflection that matters most and it will change your life for the better.




Jonathan and Cultural Legacy

Meet Jonathan the Husky, the mascot for the University of Connecticut.  He’s an enduring and evolving symbol, named in honor of the last colonel and the first governor of the “Constitution State.”  There’s a costumed version and an actual canine.  I’ll leave it to you to guess which one is standing with me in this photo taken at last night’s game – an exhibition between the 2016-2017 edition of the UCONN women’s basketball team and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).

My interest in attending the game was to see firsthand how a team that lost its top three players, who also happened to be the top three picks in the WNBA draft, would reassemble itself for this upcoming season.  With the leaders of last year’s team gone, who would step up this year?   While it’s way too early to tell, it may turn out that there’s no natural go-to player, so much as they play as a jazz ensemble that features a different solo performer each and every night.  (A scary thought if you’re tasked with preparing to play them).

You might also argue (as I do) that last year’s stars Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson may have graduated, but they are ever present.  The peer-to-peer culture that these players learned from those who came before them, lives on in the team who stepped on the floor last night.   They played with an energy, excitement and athleticism that showcased their own personality, and yet at the same time, they were strengthened by the cultural legacy that makes Connecticut uniquely Connecticut.  Turns out, UCONN received a pre-season AP ranking of #3 in the country.  Rebuilding year?  Doesn’t look like it.

Last night’s game score was 111-39.  Buckle-up for the 2016-2017 installment of UCONN women’s basketball.  Join Jonathan and me for as many games as you can!

How's This For Optimizing?

In The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership Growth & Success, we outline four ways we typically engage others.  We connect, network, optimize and accelerate.  We defined optimize in terms of what happens when peers work together toward a common goal – when they chase perfection in the pursuit of excellence.  During my recent trip to Washington, DC and the National Gallery of Art, I never thought I’d discover one of the most remarkable examples of optimizing I could have ever imagined.

The sculpture pictured above is commonly referred to as “The Veiled Nun.”  Until I got close enough to realize otherwise, it looks as if an actual veil is draped over the marble statute.  It’s absolutely breathtaking.  I immediately looked for the plaque that I assumed would identify who sculpted this masterpiece and it read, “Italian.”  How could this be?  How could no one know who crafted this masterful work?  So I thought I’d look into it when I returned home.  Turns out, the story behind “The Veiled Nun” is every bit as amazing as the piece itself.

Purchased in March 1863 in Rome by William Wilson Corcoran [1798-1888], it was gifted to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1873, and later acquired by the National Gallery of Art (2014).  Until recently, it was assumed that it was the work of Giuseppe Croff.  Experts have since concurred that it was actually created in a commercial workshop in Rome, making it unlikely we will ever know the name of the carver(s).  Here’s where it gets interesting, as Lisa Strong, then Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, tells the story:

It is a little known fact that sculpture in this period was produced by a designer (the artist who signs the piece) and a craftsman who actually carved the piece in marble. The artist would have designed the sculpture in plaster or wax and then submitted that model to the workshop for production. Studio labor was specialized, so there would have been one craftsman to select and rough out the block of marble and to confirm there were no flaws in the stone. Next, another craftsman used a mechanism called a pointing device to drill into the block and match the contours of the plaster model. Yet another craftsman carved the face, followed by specialists in hair, eyes, etc. and a final artisan who polished the surface. This commercial production system was the same whether a workshop was producing a signed piece of sculpture under an artist’s supervision or a copy of an antique or eighteenth century design.

Strong goes on to say:

Once Corcoran returned to Washington, D.C. and put The Veiled Nun on display in his home, it received only an occasional mention from visitors. Likewise, its exhibition in the first Corcoran building (now the Renwick) in a niche of the rotunda, elicited little comment. This is perhaps because The Veiled Nun would have been a fairly familiar subject for Victorian audiences who were accustomed to virtuoso sculptural techniques. It was only in the early twentieth century, long after the taste for realistic sculpture had changed and the market for veiled busts had evaporated that the public began to take note. By 1969, when Readers Digest approached the Corcoran with a request for its audience’s favorite piece, The Veiled Nun was an easy answer. It was firmly entrenched as the one of Washington’s most beloved artworks and it remains among its most popular today.

As it should.  I’ll never forget the first moment I saw it or the story of how it was crafted.  It has raised the bar for me forever when it comes to what a group of peers, committed to a common goal, is capable of achieving.  The people who created “The Veiled Nun” didn’t just chase perfection, they caught it.  I share this story with you, so you can share it with your team.  Enjoy!  (Be sure to see it for yourself during your next visit to our nation’s capital).

Image: GW Corcoran School of the Arts

Big Papi, Pedro, the Power of Peers & the Postseason!

I think a lot of Red Sox fans would agree that without the heroics of David Ortiz (Big Papi), the story going into this year’s postseason might have focused on the prospect of a match-up between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs and which team might finally break their respective curse.  What fewer people may realize (outside of New England) is that if not for some heavy lobbying by Pedro Martinez after Ortiz was released by the Minnesota Twins at the end of the 2002 season, Ortiz not only wouldn’t have joined the Red Sox, but may have found it difficult to get a job with any team in major league baseball at that time.

In a piece by ESPN last month, Ortiz and his agent described the situation this way:

ORTIZ: So now you see all these guys signing, and I’ve got nothing. I didn’t think I wasn’t going to play, but I was preparing to just go to winter ball and hope something came up. So I went to winter ball and had a good winter, but I didn’t have anything.

FERNANDO CUZA, AGENT TO DAVID ORTIZ: David was calling me five times a day. He was nervous as s—. I’ll never forget being in that coffee shop with him at the Sheraton in Santo Domingo [capital of the Dominican Republic]. That face.

Every day that went by, you could see it. He was saying, “I’m young. I have no other skills but to play baseball, but nobody wants me. What am I going to do? How am I going to provide for my family?” I told him if you get the chance, you’re gonna be a son of a bitch. You’re gonna tear it up. I didn’t think his career was over, because he was a great hitter.

DESPITE HIS AGENT’S words, Ortiz was in a full panic by January. Spring training was six weeks away, and he had no job. There were no offers, no workouts, no invites. The Red Sox now had Jeremy Giambi, Zuleta and Hillenbrand on the roster. Then came an intervention from an unlikely source — perhaps the greatest Sox pitcher of all time.

A Boston Globe article last week provided then Red Sox President Larry Lucchino’s account of the call from Pedro:

“[Martinez] called me after the Twins cut David and said, ‘I’m not calling about my contract. I just want to call you directly and make a suggestion.’ I said, ‘Yeah, go.’ He said, ‘David Ortiz is out there. He just got released. It baffles me as to why he was released. But he’s really a good guy, No. 1, and he can really hit, No. 2, so it would mean a lot if you can give him a chance to make the Red Sox.’

“It was that call that set in motion the events that led us to signing David Ortiz.”

When the Twins cut Ortiz, his agent, Fern Cuza, sent faxes to every team informing them of Ortiz’s availability. No team showed meaningful initial interest. Ortiz believes Martinez changed that.

When the Red Sox organization and its fans paid tribute to Big Papi on the final day of the regular season at Fenway Park, Ortiz publicly thanked Pedro Martinez for being the guy he credits for making it all possible.  If the power of peers could rid Boston of the Curse of the Bambino, then imagine how it could impact your life.

As we prepare for the Year of the Peer, here are two things you can do today that will have an immediate impact on your life and the life of someone else:  1) Think of a peer that helped you at some point in your life.  Call, email, text, create a video or pen a handwritten note and thank them!  You’ll make their day and you’ll feel pretty good, too! 2) Think of a peer who could either benefit from your encouragement or expertise (or both) and let them know that whatever it is they are trying to achieve in life, that you are in their corner.  Show them you believe in them and if you think you can help by making a “Pedro-call,” don’t ask, just do it.

Simple acts.  Big impact.  The power of peers.  Go Red Sox!


Why NPS & Our Peers Matter More Than Ever

A company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) may matter more today than when it first came on the scene in 2003 – not the score so much as the behavior it inspires.  Here’s why:

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer  revealed that “respondents are increasingly reliant on a ‘person like yourself’, who, along with a regular employee, are significantly more trusted than a CEO or government official. On social networking and content-sharing sites, respondents are far more trusting of family and friends (78 percent) than a CEO (49 percent).”

Richard Edelman said, “We must get beyond ‘The Grand Illusion’ that the mass will continue to follow the elites.  This ‘Illusion’ was predicated on the belief that the informed publics have access to superior information, their interests are interconnected and that becoming ‘an elite’ was open to all who work hard. But the democratization of information, high-profile revelations of greed and misbehavior, coupled with rising income inequality, have squashed those beliefs. The trust of the mass population can no longer be taken for granted.”

As trust in institutions erodes – when 92% of people trust their peers over branded content (The Shelf) – then people will continue to turn to their peers in increasingly high numbers.  This is where a company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) enters the picture.

Here’s a quick refresher on NPS: It is the brainchild of Bain & Company partner Fred Reichheld.  Reichheld created NPS as an answer to conventional, often lengthy customer satisfaction surveys that were largely ineffective.  A company’s NPS is determined by obtaining the answer to what’s now regarded as The Ultimate Question:

On a zero to ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a friend or colleague?

Respondents are placed in one of three categories: promoters, passives, or detractors. Customers identified as promoters, who answer the question with a nine or ten, are far more likely than passives or detractors to be ambassadors (or even evangelists) for a product or service.

Today, because people trust their peers far more than institutions, seeing NPS only as another customer satisfaction metric would be missing the boat – the same one we’re all in, by the way.  Companies that understand how to use it, see the score as a verb rather than a noun.  Doing so serves to encourage reinforcing behaviors and a culture that inspires and creates even more promoters.   The more friends and family members who graduate from passives to promoters, the more likely sales of that company’s product or service go up.  Pretty simple really.  It’s how (and why) the power of peers matters now more than ever.




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

The ANJE Advantage

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the ANJE – Associação Nacional de Jovens Empresários (National Association of Young Entrepreneurs) is an association based in Portugal that promotes entrepreneurship by establishing new development paradigms in business and encouraging less conservative attitudes regarding risk, making it easier for early stage companies to access capital.

Part of the ANJE’s charge is to promote professional training for its associates and young entrepreneurs and to encourage a robust exchange of information and experiences.  Last week, the ANJE was generous enough to invite me to Porto to deliver a master class on (Success in Business [and Life]: Who You Surround Yourself With Matters), mentor several entrepreneurs, and participate in a two-hour peer advisory group session led by Miguel Dias, CEO of CEO World, based in Porto.

What an experience!  The energy, enthusiasm, and intellect evident among the more than 200 attendees was palpable.  It reminded me of what I experienced in Chicago at 1871, when I participated in a panel discussion there earlier this year.  There’s just nothing quite like an environment fueled by entrepreneurs and leaders of early stage companies armed both with the ideas and the ability to bring those ideas to life!   The atmosphere of collaboration and sharing was magical.

Personally, I could not have been surrounded by a group of finer people.  I learned so much!  Porto is an incredible city.  The people set the standard for hospitality through the shear warmth of their embrace.  To top it off, we celebrated together on Wednesday evening when Portugal defeated Poland in the quarterfinals of the EUFA European Football Championships, as we watched a nail-biting round of penalty kicks that would eventually secure Portugal’s victory!

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the two other master class speakers, both of whom inspired and enlightened me and the audience – Rafheal Gordon and Ryan Foland.  Looking for some amazing presenters for your next event?  Check these guys out!

Who you surround yourself with DOES matter.  Peer advantage is the ANJE advantage!  Make it yours, too!