Sekou Andrews is an elementary schoolteacher turned actor, musician, national poetry slam champion, entrepreneur, and now the world’s leading Poetic Voice. On any given day, Sekou may deliver an original talk for international marketing executives, give a keynote speech at a leadership conference, or perform pieces for Barack Obama in Oprah’s backyard. His work has been featured on such diverse national media outlets as ABC World News, MSNBC, HBO, Good Morning America, Showtime, MTV and BET. Sekou does more than inspire us with his story; he inspires us with our story. You can learn more about Sekou at http://sekouandrews.com and http://rockstarspeakersecrets.com.
Here’s an excerpt from The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success that explains why who surround yourself matters, no matter where you live or what language you speak.
“In 1976, anthropologist Edward T. Hall created a framework for examining cultures across a spectrum of what he called high-context and low-context communication. Think of a high-context culture as a tightly knit group of insiders. Here, there’s a higher level of mutual understanding and, more often than not, less need for specific explanation when communicating complex ideas. In a low-context culture, cultural norms can be more divergent, and conveying anything complex requires more specific explanation.
“High-context cultures tend to be more collectivist, cooperative, and team oriented, and they hold a deep respect for history and tradition. These cultures are more commonly found in Asia and the Middle East. Lower-context cultures tend to be more competitive, individualistic, and task oriented, with a future orientation and a larger appetite for change. Switzerland, Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. are considered lower-context cultures.
“Richard Dool, a former CEO, Fortune 500 executive, and professor at (now Rutgers University), supports Hall’s findings, explaining that, based on his experience, the dynamics in Germany, the UK, and France are all very different, but they’re all still Western or lower context. ‘They’re more individualistic than others. Now, if you look at the higher-context cultures like India, Japan, and China, they are all very different as well, but peer influence, peer respect, and peer relationships are a common theme. And I would argue they matter even more,’ Dool said.
“This concept of peer respect and peer support is deeply ingrained in high-context cultures— much more so than in the U.S. The degree and the manifestation of peer support and the way it is leveraged can be very different, but the concepts and the foundation are the same no matter where you live in the world.”
Food for thought as we celebrate the Year of the Peer!
Larry Robertson is an innovation advisor – a rare combination of many parts that quilt together into a greater whole. He’s the author of two award-winning books – The Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity and A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress. He’s also the founder of two ventures: Lighthouse Consulting, a firm that for 25 years has guided entrepreneurs and leaders, and a non-profit focused on creativity. These things and more make him a widely sought after expert in the areas creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership. A quick listen to him ‘live’ in this podcast and in other appearances will immediately show you why.
Pat Wadors is the Chief Human Resources Officer at LinkedIn. Since 2013, in addition to hiring, retaining and inspiring top talent, Pat is responsible for all employee-related HR programs, including compensation and benefits, and performance management. She came to LinkedIn from Plantronics, where she was Senior Vice President of Human Resources. From August 2011 until August 2012, Pat also served as the HR Executive Advisor to Twitter. Previously, Pat held senior leadership positions at Yahoo!, Align Technologies, Applied Materials, Merck Pharmaceutical, Viacom International, and Calvin Klein Cosmetics. She holds a BS in Business Administration from Ramapo College, with a major in Human Resources Management and a minor in Psychology.
Lolly Daskal is a best-selling author and one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program serves as a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance their performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies and in the world. Lolly’s proprietary insights are the subject of her new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness.
Next week’s guest, LinkedIn Chief Human Resources Officer, Pat Wadors.
C-Suite Radio Chairman, Jeffrey Hayzlett recently welcomed Year of the Peer with Leo Bottary to the C-Suite Radio family, “Leo leads conversations about leadership, collaboration, and our future, that you just won’t get anywhere else. If you’re a leader of any organization at any level, or you want to be one someday, this show is for you.”
I couldn’t be happier than to share this journey with C-Suite Radio! For 50 weeks, I’ve committed to invite some of the best minds in the world to share their insights, stories, and recommendations about how we can work together more effectively – to seek common ground and see one another for our special gifts rather than our differences. I am so appreciative of the guests who appeared on the show in Q1. Here’s the guest lineup for Q2!
April 6 Lolly Daskal, Founder, Lead From Within
13 Pat Wadors, CHRO LinkedIn
20 Larry Robertson, Founder Lighthouse Consulting
27 Sekou Andrews, Poetic Voice
May 4 Paul Michelman, MIT Sloan Management Review
11 Marian Salzman, CEO Havas PR, US
18 Ryan Foland, Managing Partner, InfluenceTree
25 Gini Dietrich, CEO Arment-Dietrich
8 Jeffrey Hayzlett, Chairman, C-Suite Holdings, LLC
15 Christina L. Martini, Partner at DLA Piper LLP (US)
22 Scott Mordell, CEO, YPO
29 Jimmy LeBlanc/Perry Stagg, Louisiana Department of Corrections
This podcast is one of several initiatives designed to encourage leaders everywhere to collaborate more effectively. Enjoy!
About C-Suite Radio:
C-Suite Radio is the premier source of the world’s leading business podcasts for C-Suite leaders and business executives, featuring shows covering a range of topics, including sales, marketing, leadership, social media, finance, and management. C-Suite radio features premium content from top thought leaders, designed to increase knowledge, deepen understanding, and build skills to enhance readers’ personal and professional lives. Visit C-Suite Radio online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, visit http://www.c-
Friday night, I was on a Delta flight from JFK to San Diego, where I took advantage of the free satellite tv to watch the women’s college basketball semi-final games from the Final Four in Dallas. I was especially interested in the second game between Mississippi State and the University of Connecticut. UConn has become even more famous this year for having won 111 consecutive basketball games. And after losing three seniors, who were the top three picks in the WNBA last year, this would have been a rebuilding year for any other program in America; yet, UConn was back to the Final Four – streak intact and on the doorstep of winning its fifth straight national title.
While I enjoyed the streak as much as any UConn fan, I was far more impressed by the team culture that makes such a streak possible – one that doesn’t measure itself against its opponents so much as set its own standard of excellence. One that inspires a relentless commitment to getting better each and every day. I’m not sure when it started, but the hashtag #AndCounting took on a life of its own once UConn broke its own record (90) for consecutive NCAA basketball wins (men or women), and with each win thereafter, it was always noted, for example, as 100 #AndCounting, etc.
The prevailing thinking across the country, and especially for UConn fans, was that this team showed no signs of losing, and if they didn’t lose this year, everything points to their being even better next year. ESPN’s Kara Lawson speculated that because of this, 200 consecutive wins wasn’t out of the question. But as head coach Geno Auriemma warned everyone time and time again, all streaks come to an end. Unfortunately for UConn, it ended on Friday night with a buzzer beater in overtime.
The winning streak and program’s 11 national championships are great headlines, but they aren’t the story. The story and the lessons the coaching staff and these young women have to teach all of us lie in the team’s culture. The streak that I believe matters most to the coaching staff, and should matter most to the players, is the number of consecutive days they add to perpetuating a winning culture and honoring the players who came before them. In fairness, during many interviews I watched throughout the season, the players talked about this quite a bit. They don’t focus on the result; they focus on what makes the result possible.
To that end, I’ve created a new UConn streak. Let’s call it the UConn culture streak. I’ll mark its beginning as January 31, 1990 – the day the UConn women’s basketball team played its first game at the then new Gampel Pavilion. The following year, the team would advance to its first Final Four, and in 1995, go on to win its first national championship. The rest is history. As of today, its culture streak is 9,923 days #AndCounting. Congratulations to UConn on a wonderful season and for showing all of us what commitment to excellence and teamwork is all about.
Our guests today are Bri Seeley and Thaís Sky, founders of The Amplify Collective, based in Los Angeles. As life coaches, writers, speakers, and entrepreneurs, they founded the company because even after Bri had lived in LA for 4 years and after Thaís had been there for a year, they were struggling to make authentic connections in the city while working to get their businesses off the ground. Desperate for the connection of an authentic, tight-knit community of women, Bri and Thaís created a sisterhood for themselves and countless others -—not to trade business cards and false platitudes, but to communicate, collaborate, and support one another on a deeper level.
Next week’s guest: Renowned leadership coach and best-selling author, Lolly Daskal.
If you’re trying to get your entire body wet, staying in the shallow end of the pool isn’t going to get the job done, no matter how long you stand there. Nor will showing up to participate in your CEO or executive peer advisory group without being completely open and willing to be vulnerable about issues pertaining to your life and your business. If you go into it halfway, you’ll never realize the full benefits that come with being a group member.
Since late last year, I’ve been conducting workshops with peer advisory groups across the country, working with CEOs, small business owners, and other senior leaders. During these workshops, I essentially facilitate a group self-evaluation using the five factors from The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success. From there, we develop an action plan for driving even higher group performance. (I also encourage the group members to facilitate a very similar exercise with the teams back at their companies).
The five factors or conditions we found to be common to high performing groups and teams include: 1) selecting the right people, 2) having an environment of mutual respect and trust (one that makes personal vulnerability possible), 3) fostering valuable group/team interaction, 4) inspiring a belief in the power of peer-to-peer accountability, and 5) having servant leadership that cultivates the other four factors.
When it comes to peer advisory groups, members typically score “the group” high when it comes to creating and sustaining an environment of mutual respect and trust. They understand that without it, nothing else in possible. What some members admit, however, in a moment of self-reflection, is that just because the water is warm and inviting, doesn’t mean they aren’t more comfortable in the shallow end of the pool.
For those members, I would say three things:
1) Cut yourself a break. At least you’re in the pool. At least you’re part of a peer advisory group and on the path toward going deeper.
2) Growing as a leader and as a person involves stepping outside your comfort zone once in awhile.
3) Take it one step at a time. Challenge yourself to reveal a little bit more of who you are during each and every meeting. Follow the lead of those who are more comfortable talking about sensitive issues and see the value they receive from having deep exchanges versus surface ones. Notice how much easier it is to identify the root cause of a challenge when someone is being completely open in describing it.
Stand alone in the shallow end and you’re far more likely to drown there than if you go to the deep end. Why? Because your members are in the deep end waiting for you, and they would never let that happen.
Later this week, I look forward to having my coauthor Leon Shapiro join me as my guest on the Year of the Peer Podcast with Leo Bottary, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success. When I think back to how much we were anticipating the release of the book, it’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed.
Leon will share much of what he’s experienced over the past 12 months during our upcoming conversation. For me, it’s been the learning experience of a lifetime. I’ve enjoyed the privilege of speaking to business leaders, scholars, and students, both here in the U.S. and abroad, sharing key concepts from the book and being fascinated by countless stories that people, from all walks of life, have shared with me about the power of peer in their lives. No matter where we live, none of us achieves anything entirely on our own.
In the end, we wrote the book because when you look at the positive difference peers and peer groups have made in the lives of CEOs and business leaders all across the world and then realize how few of them avail themselves of this powerful resource, it’s hard to square.
How could something that is so simple and works so well, be so underutilized? In a world where, all too often, we don’t give peer influence a second thought, what if we did? What if we could transform peer influence into peer advantage by simply being more selective, strategic and structured about how we engage those around us? The good news is we don’t have to guess. We know what happens, and I believe if more people reached out to one another more positively and purposefully more often, the world would be a better place.
That’s what makes every minute I spend writing a blog post, preparing for a podcast interview, or speaking to a live audience so worthwhile. Who we surround ourselves with matters. With a little effort, we can make it matter even more.
It’s not unlike the premise of Drew Dudley’s famous TED Talk, where he described leadership, not as an ominous concept, but as making a difference in the lives of those around us, one person at a time. He closed by saying, “It’s a simple idea, but I don’t think it’s a small one.”