In the wake of Tiger’s win at The Masters, we talk about the value of the people who surround us and how, together, we can do things we would never otherwise achieve.
Great question. One I’ve been asked many times.
In Joe Henderson’s 1976 book The Long Run Solution, he suggested that becoming truly accomplished at running (or at anything, for that matter) doesn’t typically require us to perform superhuman feats. We don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Success doesn’t ask us to do what no one else can do. All too often, success and happiness find those who have the discipline to do the everyday things, the things anyone can do that most of us never will.
To keep it in Joe Henderson terms, let’s say you want to run a marathon. Until the 1980s, and well before IRONMAN competitions and ultra-marathons were part of the public consciousness, marathon running was considered extreme. It wasn’t something most people would even attempt. Only a freak, or someone who lacked any other mode of transportation, would choose to run 26.2 miles. With the advent of Team in Training, which has raised more than $1 billion for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since 1988, marathon training programs for the average person became more prevalent.
In 1994, Oprah Winfrey showed the world that if you surround yourself with the right people and follow a training program, you, too, could run a marathon. (She also lost seventy-two pounds). The real challenge, of course, is sticking to the strict regimen required to get you ready for race day. Those of you who have done it know that the race is the easy part, relative to what it takes to prepare for it—sixteen to twenty-four weeks (depending on the program) of the daily discipline to do what anyone can do on a given day.
The wonderful part is that when you do the things anyone can do every day for four to five months, you can accomplish something almost no one can do. That’s the magic. The task is no different, whether you want to be an artist, a scholar, or a business leader. The question is: Are you willing to do the things anyone can do on a daily basis to achieve what you want in life? Because most people aren’t willing, doing what anyone can do puts you a step ahead of the rest.
How Can We Do Things Anyone Can Do More Often?
Surround Ourselves With the Right People.
Wanting something is one thing. Being committed to doing what it takes to make it happen is quite another. Left to our own devices, we all too often don’t do the work—or we don’t do it over a sustained period of time. We might get off to a good start, but we eventually succumb to whatever rationale we can conjure that explains why we stopped.
Even the most disciplined among us can benefit from involving our friends, family members, and colleagues in helping us achieve our goals. While we all know that no successful person in the history of the world ever accomplished anything totally by him- or herself, we see self-help as by-your-self-help. As a result, we view our goals as solitary pursuits, and we don’t do the things anyone can do nearly often enough. This is why we fall short.
One thing we can do is seek out people who can play a positive role in our success and enlist their support. When we invite others to be our partners in success, they tend to help us do all those things anyone can. And when we do, we give ourselves the best chance to achieve our goals whatever they may be. That’s why doing what anyone can do help you HUGE!
*Includes excerpts from the book, What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth.
What’s are today’s emerging leaders to do? Who do they learn from and how will they prepare themselves to lead their organizations in the coming years. Leo and Randy talk about what serving our next generation of leaders will entail.
Click here to watch/listen to our Year Of The Peer conversation with Jim Kouzes and hear what he says about learning leadership!
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!
When you receive feedback (positive or negative), see it as the gift that it is. Use it as fuel for reflection and continuous improvement. Anyone who is great at anything is a product of people who were generous enough to provide them feedback along their learning journey. We believed the message to be so important, we’re posting it a day early! Enjoy!
Leo stops down in Kenilworth, England, as he nears the end of a two-week swing leading workshops for Vistage Groups in the UK. In this podcast, Randy talks with Leo about what he’s learned and explores the implications for building higher performing teams in our organizations.
Hard to imagine a holiday that more clearly illustrates the importance of the friends and family who comprise our circle. Take time today to thank the people who have made a difference in your life and consider how you will give more of yourself to others next year! Enjoy!
According to a 2016 University of Scranton study, 92% of people who declare a new year’s resolution fail at it. Left to our own devices, we get off to an enthusiastic start, yet too often fail to achieve what we state we want for ourselves. What we know from studying formal peer groups is that when we surround ourselves with people you will encourage us, provide their expertise and advice, and help us hold ourselves accountable, we can achieve heights we never imagined possible. By understanding why and how the people who surround us matter, we can do better!
Why does this matter? Because achieving personal goals and being in a position to contribute positively to the lives of others (at home and at work) requires us to be our at our personal best. The airline safety instructions pertaining to the proper way to use your oxygen mask in the event the plane loses cabin pressure serves as the perfect metaphor – apply the mask on yourself first before attempting to help others. Being at your best FIRST, is better for you and everyone around you.
Last month, Taylor & Francis Publishing released my second book, What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself With the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity & Personal Growth. (Illustrations by @RyanFoland).
Since Amazon Reviews can be very helpful to a book’s overall success, I am asking you to consider posting a short review. As I often joke, “If you like the book, feel free to contribute a review. If you don’t, you don’t have to do anything!” 😉 I invite you to join Jim Kouzes (Coauthor, The Leadership Challenge), Rich Karlgaard (Publisher, Forbes), JJ Ramberg (Host of MSNBC’s Your Business), etc. in your support. Click here to read their comments and write your own review!
To digress for a moment, let me share where the title comes from. In his 1976 book The Long Run Solution, Joe Henderson suggested that becoming truly accomplished at running (or at anything, for that matter) doesn’t typically require us to perform superhuman feats. Success doesn’t ask us to do what no one else can do. All too often, success and happiness find those who have the discipline to do the everyday things, the things anyone can do that most of us never will. I believe all of us can surround ourselves with people who can lift us up, and when we do, we will be inspired to do the things anyone can do far more often.
1) With your busy schedule, if you’re not inclined to read the whole book, please message me, and I’ll send you a sample chapter and you can write your review based on the basic content and concept. Upon posting your review, provide me with your mailing address and, as my thank you, I will send you a hardcover copy for yourself or to give as a gift to a friend or family member.
2) If you buy a copy of the book, or have purchased one already, please post your review and send me your mailing info, and I’ll send you a copy to give as a gift.
Finally, if you’re among those who contributed your ideas for a book title, please message me, so I can deliver on providing you your free book as promised.
Write your review by October 15th and you’ll receive two books!! Thank you!!!