A Simple Idea, but Not a Small One

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.”

He’s right.

 

“And the Oscar Goes To”…The Year of the Peer

The prevailing sentiment of the Year of the Peer was evident in its full splendor at the 2017 Academy Awards, as host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with a monologue, that in part, called for greater civility in our dialogue.  I also loved how the attendees celebrated peers who inspired their careers, as well as the way they applauded each others’ work with what I believed to be a heightened spirit of enthusiasm.  In this Year of the Peer, Hollywood was pitch perfect.

Several of the advertisers followed suit in impressive fashion by sharing messages about the power of love and understanding to the millions of people around the world following the live broadcast.  Here are two of the spots below.  Enjoy and let’s be sure to carry this forward in our own lives in the months and years ahead.

It’s a fitting time to remember the words of Jodie Foster‘s character, Ellie Arroway, in the movie Contact, “I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.”  That it is.

Name-calling and Our Pernicious Public Discourse

When I grew up, kids called each other names for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is they were not particularly equipped to do much else.  That’s how they covered for their own lack of knowledge and insecurities.  Most of us left this childish behavior behind.  Over time, society asked more of us – that we actually had to offer something that didn’t involve name-calling or ad hominem attacks.  We were expected to make our case on the merits in a fashion that inspired thoughtful debate.  Unfortunately, that’s all changed.

In 2016, we were introduced to “Crooked Hillary” and “Dorito Mussolini”.  More recently, U.S. Intelligence veteran Malcom Nance identified Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller as a “Baby Goebbels.”   Grown-ups are now behaving like 8-year-olds, and I’m pretty sure that today’s kids are modeling this behavior more than ever.  After all, it’s not like the name-calling is just coming from crazy Uncle Dave; it’s coming from the mouths of government leaders and political pundits on every media platform.  It’s only a matter of time before we’ll turn on CNN, FOX News or MSNBC to bear witness to a debate that is reduced to the Pee-wee Herman loop, “I know you are, but what am I?”

During the Year of the Peer, we have to expect more of our leaders.  Don’t we?  Check out James Hoggan’s book, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up.  He says, “The most pressing environmental problem we face today is not climate change. It is pollution in the public square, where a smog of adversarial rhetoric, propaganda, and polarization stifles discussion and debate, creating resistance to change and thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems.”

If we’re ever going to turn it around, Hoggan adds, “It is important to recognize that in a time when mistrust and polarization have soared to all-time highs, conversations aimed at injecting information into people in order to cure them of their misunderstanding will fail.”

Have a look at David Biggs’ terrific interview with James Hoggan and consider grabbing a copy of the book.  Maybe if we made it required reading for all leaders, they would actually start to act their own age.

What do you think and how can we fix it?

 

Vitaly M. Golomb: Year Of The Peer Podcast – Accelerated Startup

Vitaly M. Golomb leads global investments at HP Tech Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Silicon Valley’s original startup. He is a serial entrepreneur, a contributing writer to TechCrunch and a consistently top-ranked mentor to a number of startup accelerator programs all over the world. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and travels to over 20 countries each year to consult and guest lecture corporations, associations and universities on entrepreneurship, innovation and design. His book, Accelerated Startup – The New Business School came out end of January and can be ordered at golomb.net/book.

Next week’s guest will be inspirational speaker/author, Rahfeal Gordon.

100 Consecutive Wins – Life in Stage 5!

Moments ago, the #1 ranked University of Connecticut women’s basketball team defeated #6 South Carolina 66-55 for its 100th consecutive victory.  To put this perspective, the team hasn’t lost a game since November 17, 2014.  Last year, their big three, seniors Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck were drafted by the WNBA, number 1, 2 and 3 respectively.  After losing the players who led the Huskies to four consecutive national championships, this would have been a rebuilding year for any other sports program in America – except for UConn.  They’re already 25-0 this season, beating nationally ranked opponents Notre Dame, Baylor, Maryland, Florida State, Ohio State, and now South Carolina, with no one left of the regular season schedule likely to give them a serious challenge until the NCAA tournament.

Why should organizations outside of sports be marveling at the streak and paying close attention to this program?  Let me offer this:

Several years ago, I heard Dave Logan deliver a terrific presentation based on a book he coauthored called Tribal Leadership.  Among other things, he talked about the five stages of culture.  Here are the five stages as I recall them:

Stage 1 – “Life sucks.” Roughly 2% of companies have cultures that represent something akin to a prison gang.  (Scary but, true).

Stage 2 – “My life sucks.” The implication here is that people are likely to believe that your life may be okay, but my life sucks.   (25%) of companies have cultures where people pretty much show up and do just enough to avoid getting fired.  They can’t wait until 5:00 PM – especially on a Friday.

Stage 3 – “I’m great.” (with an implied, “and you’re not.”)  This culture is characterized by an egotistical, command and control style leader who creates dyad relationships with the employees. (49% of organizational cultures fit this description, by the way).

Stage 4 – “We’re great.”  22% of organizations enjoy a team culture that wants to be the best as defined by their competition.  They’re all about being #1 among everyone else in their space.

Stage 5 – “Life is great.”  This is the organizational culture that sets its own standard of excellence.  Think Secretariat at the Belmont.  Logan noted that roughly 2% of organizations experience this rarefied air, but no one lives there for very long.  They typically toggle between stages 4 and 5.

Dave Logan, meet the University of Connecticut women’s basketball program.

UConn players, and the coaching staff who created this culture over the past 30 years, compare themselves to the great UConn teams of the past, not to the teams on their upcoming schedule.   They set their own standard of excellence each and every day at practice and with every possession – offensively and defensively – in every game.  Rather than pay attention to the scoreboard, they honor the work ethic of UConn’s former players and are committed to making the dream of winning a national championship possible for their teammates.  Their accountability culture and support for one another is off the charts.  They will lose a game someday, but as long as they maintain their culture, it won’t happen very often.

This is what living in stage five looks like.  Close your eyes and imagine your organization playing at UConn’s level.  Now open them.  Life is great!  (Or it could be, if you take the power of their example seriously).

Congratulations to UConn for winning 100 consecutive games and for setting a standard of excellence for all of us to follow.

The Peer-to-Peer Paradox

Edelman recently released the 2017 edition of its Edelman Trust Barometer.  It revealed a decline in trust among all four major institutions (business, government, media, and NGOs).  The words “global implosion of trust” were used to described the current state of affairs.

The Findings

Among 10 insights from the study, “a person like yourself  (peer) is as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert.”   As a result, the guidance for today’s organizations is as follows: “The trust crisis demands a new operating model for organizations by which they listen to all stakeholders; provide context on the issues that challenge their lives; engage in dialogue with them; and tap peers, especially employees, to lead communications and advocacy efforts.”  Why?  Because fellow employees are regarded as a more reliable source of information than either the CEO or the senior leadership team.

Contrast that with this finding:  “People are nearly four times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they don’t believe in and don’t regularly listen to those with whom they often disagree.”

The Peer-to-Peer Paradox?

While we may trust our peers more than our institutions or their leaders, it appears we don’t really want to hear from peers who don’t share our worldview.  There are myriad reasons for this, not the least of which are 1) we like to be comfortable, 2) we like to be right, and 3) too many people believe there’s an empirical right or wrong and that life is a zero-sum game.

What we know

1) We learn best when we’re taken out of our comfort zone.

2) Being “right” is highly overrated.  Our need to be right at the expense of considering other ideas, options or possibilities makes us tenacious fighters, but horrible problem solvers.

3) There are often multiple truths (I’m not talking about not alternative facts or fake news), but specific realities that are true for individuals and groups.

Our society’s inability to listen to one another was evident recently as we watched town meetings across the country, where people met to talk (scream at each other) about the Affordable Care Act/Obama Care (yes, they are the same thing), without much intent to even hear, let alone try to understand a different point of view.  Good television, bad result.

What We Should Do

It’s time we stopped making good television and begin engaging in thoughtful and respectful dialogue, where rather than try to prove we’re right, we identify points of agreement, build from there, and focus on actually accomplishing something.  Conflict is healthy, as long as it involves an open and honest exchange of ideas.  It’s how we explore and discover new possibilities.  Conflict is unhealthy when it consists of ad hominem attacks and the desire to be right at another’s expense.  There’s nothing more divisive.

How We Get There

  1. Expand your circle of peers.  A peer is a “person like yourself” not necessarily a person who is exactly like yourself.”  Engage more people who look different from you, have different backgrounds, and see the world differently from the way you do.

2. Practice conversational jiu jitsu.  When someone says something you don’t agree with, don’t bang heads, ask questions.  I’m suggesting you do so NOT to gain an advantage over an adversary, but to seek an advantage for yourself – the one that comes with being a learner rather than a judger – and opens doors for creating mutual understanding and problem solving.

3. Be open to the concept of multiple truths.  A number of years ago, in a powerful demonstration at a Dealing With An Angry Public conference (MIT/Harvard) led by Lawrence Susskind, I learned unequivocally that truth is often in the eye of the beholder.  Once we start seeing the world from another person’s point of view, it expands our own view, and creates a dynamic for achieving a win-win.

In the meantime, as our institutions work to regain the public trust, I hope Edelman keeps shining a bright light on trust and how we can engage our institutions and one another more effectively.  Our very survival depends on it.

 

Millennials: Don’t Judge Them, Learn From Them

In an episode of Inside Quest from October 2016, Simon Sinek discusses millennials in the workplace.  As of today, the 15-minute video been viewed more than 5.4 million times.  In January, he recorded a 9-minute follow-up video called  More on the Millennial Question based on the feedback (positive and negative) that he’s received about his comments back in October.  To his credit, Sinek has also asked for more feedback, so here it is.

Full disclosure, I enjoy Simon Sinek’s work.  I’ve watched his videos, read his book Start with Why, and heard him speak live, where he was terrific.  That said, the more popular he becomes, the greater his reach and the more weight his words carry.  In my opinion, he needs to be more mindful of that.

In both videos, he makes important points about relationships, empathy, and leadership, which is laudable.  The reason the first video got so much traction, however, is not because of the points he made, but because he decided to throw millennials under the bus for a cheap laugh.  Sinek hit on all the stereotypes people have (particularly boomers) about millennials, and he reinforced a narrative that does more harm than good.  Anyone smart enough to come up with the golden circle could have made his points without doing it on the backs of a generation.

By doing this, Simon Sinek sent a bad message – one that makes it okay for leaders to point fingers and make excuses, because we all know how those “entitled” millennials are and how tough they are to “manage.”  Instead, he should have challenged leaders to dig deeper.  That they consider taking a pause to listen and learn for understanding – to be curious.  The more that leaders try to learn and the less they judge, the more likely they will discover the very best attributes of this generation and the individuals who comprise it.  Sinek always talks about how leaders eat last.  That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean the leader should poke fun at the employees in the food line.

Over the past few months I’ve recorded a number of podcasts with young people, all of whom are incredibly impressive.  They are wise beyond their years and doing well for themselves and good for others.  Now, I read their books and listen to their podcasts.  They inspire this baby boomer each and every day.  Meeting them and becoming more familiar with who they are and why they do what they do has been a gift.

On my podcast, you’ll hear from Vitaly M. Golomb (Feb. 16), Rahfeal Gordon (Feb. 23), and Bri Seeley and Thais Sky (March 30).  Vitaly Golomb is an entrepreneur, author, and global start-up evangelist for HP Tech Ventures, where in addition to his job, he is passionate about his work helping entrepreneurs create business models for their ideas.  He started as an intern in Silicon Valley at 13 and just released his first book, Accelerated Startup.

Rahfeal Gordon, who spent part of his childhood homeless, has written 14 books (including Skyscraper) and inspires people of all ages across the world, reminding them that their location is NOT their destination.  I met him last year in Portugal. We remain friends, and I can’t imagine having a more positive force in my life.

Bri Seeley and Thais Sky founded a company in Los Angeles called The Amplify Collective – each own their own company as well. Check out their Be Amplified podcast).  The Amplify Collective is dedicated to helping women come together at their un-networking events so they see one another as more than a title on a business card.  Bri and Thais help women engage on a level of who they are, not simply what they do.  Don’t be surprised if one of their events comes to your city soon.

All of them, each in their own way, are helping people establish the kind of deep, meaningful relationships that Simon Sinek said are so lacking among our young people.  (Deep and meaningful relationships are too few in all generations, by the way).  So if you watch Simon’s videos (or watch them again), I ask you to extract the good messages he has to share, and engage everyone in your life from a place of curiosity rather than judgment.

Image: Mirus Restaurant Solutions

Who Are Your Peeroes?

Like many people here in the U.S. and around the world who watched yesterday’s Super Bowl, I was blown away by New England’s comeback victory.  Down 28-3 in the second half (28-16 with only 6-minutes left to play), the Patriots scored the next 31 points for a 34-28 overtime win.  While the accolades being thrown at Tom Brady are well deserved, make no mistake, it was a team effort.  Just look at all the players on offense and defense who made big plays down the stretch.

Despite the odds, the team continued to believe in each other.  And without that collective belief, a comeback would have been impossible.  Who you surround yourself with matters for sure.  Now having grown up in the Boston area, I was most certainly rooting for the Pats, but I also know what experiencing a tough loss as a fan is all about.  So I appreciate the class with which the Atlanta Falcons team handled such a devastating setback.  It says just as much about their organization as it does New England’s.

I hope the players on both teams see each other as “peeroes” in the same way Teresa Eyet described the people in her life in a 2016 blog post.  In her post, she wrote:

Over and over throughout my life, I heard the recommendation to surround yourself with people who challenge you, who lift you up, who are living the life you want to lead, and are making changes in the world you want to see.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized I needed to pay some real attention to who I was spending my time with.  I guess I was ready to finally see/feel how different I felt when I was around people with grateful hearts, with vision, and those who approached life with their glasses half full.  These are people who build up my energy and my confidence, and I refer to them as my “Peeroes.”

I invite you to read about her peeroes.  Then, reflect on the people in your life.  I believe that if you enlist their support, they can help you accomplish anything and pretty much survive everything.  I hope the Patriots, the Falcons, and all of us for that matter, recognize the special people we surround ourselves with for the super-peeroes they are.  None of us does it alone.  Not even Tom Brady.

 

Introducing the Year of the Peer Newsletter

Today, I launched the Year of the Peer newsletter, Who You Surround Yourself with Matters. Each month, it will offer a snapshot of highlights from the previous month, and provide a preview of what’s next.  If you’re not already a subscriber, simply sign up on the side bar and you won’t miss a single issue!

Suggestions for what you’d like to see featured in the newsletter will only help make it better!

It’s a quick read!  Enjoy and be sure to share it with your peers!

Rich Karlgaard: Year Of The Peer Podcast – 4 Megatrends

Rich Karlgaard is the publisher and global futurist for Forbes magazine.  He writes the biweekly column, Innovation Rules, and serves as a regular panelist on cable news’ most popular business show, Forbes on FOX. He’s an award-winning entrepreneur-turned-publisher, popular keynote speaker, and author of two best-selling books The Soft Edge and Team Genius.  Rich has a unique vantage point on the power of peer-to-peer relationships and the trends driving business and the economy.  He joins us here to share his experiences and four major megatrends that we should all be paying attention to.

Next week’s guest will be Lewis Schiff, Founder and Executive Director, The Business Owners Council!