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!

MLK Day and the “Global Implosion of Trust”

Like many of you this morning, I woke up reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what his leadership meant to the civil rights movement and our understanding of the efficacy of non-violent protest.   As we celebrate the man, the movement, and the progress we’ve made as a society, we can’t forget how much work there is still left to be done.

To that end, I just read the sobering results of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.  According to the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert, “For 17 years the Edelman Trust Barometer has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and NGOs. This year was the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four of these institutions. In almost two-thirds of the 28 countries we surveyed, the general population did not trust the four institutions to ‘do what is right’ — the average level of trust in all four institutions combined was below 50%.”

We cited the 2015 results of the Edelman Trust Barometer in our book, The Power of Peers, How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success.   I’ve always regarded it as an important study, and if you follow the evolution of trust as measured by Edelman since 2001, it paints a clear picture of how we got here and why the Year of the Peer movement is so important.

Among 10 insights from the study, I point you to #7 (Peers Highly Credible)  “For the first time, ‘a person like yourself’ is as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert (all three at 60%).”  And to #10 (With the People)  “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.”

One of the most disturbing facts, which we’ve touched on in this blog, is that too many people have stopped listening.  In #6 (Media Echo Chamber), we learn that “People are nearly four times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they don’t believe in; don’t regularly listen to those with whom they often disagree (53%); and are more likely to believe search engines (59%) over human editors (41%).

In my recent podcast with Charlene Li,  she said that it will take leaders to move from what she described as the “bully pulpit” on social media back to our having true dialogue and conversations again.   So with Dr. King’s powerful example in mind, let’s use the 2017 results as a peer-to-peer call to action to restore trust both here in the U.S. and around the world by having the courage to trust first – to listen more than talk, to learn rather than judge, and to allow the “content of our character” to shine more brightly.

Charlene Li: Year Of The Peer Podcast – Engaging Our Peers and Why It Matters

Joining me as my first guest on the weekly podcast The Year of the Peer with Leo Bottary is Charlene Li.

Charlene is the Founder and CEO of Altimeter Group and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell, which was named one of the best business books in 2008. Her latest book “The Engaged Leader” was published in March 2015.

Charlene shares her peer-to-peer experiences at Harvard Business School, Forrester, YPO, and most recently at Prophet.  She also offers her perspective about the evolution of how we engage one another in the digital world and talks about why it’s so important for today’s leaders.  Watch our interview here or listen to this podcast on iTunes, GooglePlay or any of your favorite podcast platforms.

Next week’s guest will be Rich Karlgaard, Publisher and Global Futurist for Forbes!

Beware of Geeks Bearing Tips

I first wrote about “tips posts” in 2011, but I thought that as we start the Year of the Peer, it’s a topic worth revisiting.  The title, of course, is a play on the line, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts” which comes from the story of Troy and how the Greeks used a wooden horse to trick their way into the city.  Sophocles described it as, “foes’ gifts are no gifts; profit they bring none.”

For me, “tips posts” are no different.  They should come with a warning label.  While I don’t believe everyone who writes an article or blog post that offers 5 tips for this or 10 ways to accomplish something else is necessarily a geek or one’s enemy, I would suggest, however, that we consume such articles with caution.  They typically address symptoms rather than underlying causes.  And because they rarely provide the necessary background or root principles that lay beneath them, we’re left with one-liners that, while entertaining, will never by themselves help us transform our behavior in any meaningful way.  For that, we have to go deeper.

Can they be helpful from time to time?  Sure.  Do I read these articles just like everyone else?  Absolutely.  Heck, I’ve written a few, although I try to avoid it.  Let’s face it, any post or article that promises a simple, numerically organized way to address a timely, complex issue can be hard to resist.   That’s why writers write them and readers read them.  It’s link candy.  I’m just suggesting that a steady diet of these posts without something more can be bad for you.

So what are we to do?  Two things:  1) Next time, you read a really good “tips” article, engage the writer in the comments section and ask for a deeper dive.  Most of the people who write these posts really know what they’re talking about and are more than happy to share what they know.   The better you understand the advice, the more likely you will be to adopt it.  2) Read more posts that take you on a more meaningful journey.  Click on headlines that don’t give away what the piece is all about.  Explore more often and you’ll discover more frequently.   Your peers have a lot to offer you!

By balancing our “tips” fascination with a deeper dive into underlying causes and the mindset that drives our basic assumptions, we stand a good chance of converting short-term tips to life-long best practices.

How about this for a post?
Five Ways To Convert Short-term Tips To Life-long Best Practices!


Start the Year of the Peer With a Promise & 3 Words

Happy New Year and welcome to the Year of the Peer!  This is the year , starting today, when we’re going to challenge ourselves to listen more than we talk, read more than we write, learn rather than judge, and operate from a spirit of generosity and sharing that will enrich our own lives as well as the lives of those closest to us.  Let’s make it a year where dialogue trumps debate, where compromise is not regarded as a four-letter word, and where we think abundance rather than scarcity.  The world only operates as a zero-sum game if we allow it.  Let’s not.

It’s a year for meeting new people, distancing ourselves from the individuals in our lives who drag us down, re-kindling old relationships that have atrophied over time, and advancing our engagement with peers who support us and can help us be our very best selves.

Forget about new year’s resolutions.  What are your goals for 2017?   What promises are you prepared to make to yourself during the coming year?  And more importantly, who are the people in your life who will help you keep those promises?   The promise I’m making to myself is to complete by dissertation during 2017.  Anyone who is willing to share their wisdom, encouragement, and experience in this area will be greeted with open arms!  (Thank you in advance!)

If you’re looking for another device to help you get started, Chris Brogan has been advocating identifying 3 words to live by for a given year, since 2006.  I’m going to borrow my three words from the book we released earlier this year titled The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success.  (A handy Year of the Peer manual by the way if you haven’t read it).   My three words are network, optimize, and accelerate. In a nutshell, it means I’m going to be more selective and purposeful about the people who surround me in my life; I will pursue perfection in the pursuit of excellence more often, and I will seek out relationships with more people who have completely different backgrounds from my own in an effort to expand my world view.

What promise(s) are you prepared to make to yourself in 2017?  What three words will guide you?  How will you contribute to making the Year of the Peer the best year ever?   Share your thoughts and insights on your favorite social media platforms using the hashtag #yearofthepeer.  Let the games begin!

*Don’t forget to join me and my producer Randy Cantrell, starting January 12th for the first of 50 weekly podcasts dedicated to the Year of the Peer!   My first guest will be Altimeter Group CEO and best-selling author Charlene Li.


Check Out Our Lineup for the Year of the Peer Podcast!

As promised, for 50 weeks during 2017, I’ll bring some of the best minds and most fascinating people in the world to the program.  They will share their insights, stories, and recommendations about effective collaboration, leadership, accountability, vulnerability, and much more. We’ll talk about what’s next and look at how, together, we can prepare for a future most of us can barely imagine.

It all starts on January 12th with Charlene Li, and I’ll invite guests to the program from all walks of life each and every week throughout the Year of the Peer.  If there’s a guest you’d like me to invite to the show, I welcome your suggestions!  For both the cause and the podcast to be a success, it will take all of us, so I encourage you to share this post with your peers and get involved!

Subscribe today and don’t miss a single episode!  Here’s our lineup for Q1:

January 12th, Charlene Li, CEO of the Altimeter Group and Best-Selling Author
January 19th, Rich Karlgaard, Publisher and Global Futurist for Forbes
January 26th, Lewis Schiff, Founder & Executive Director, The Business Owners Council
February 2th, JJ Ramberg, Host of Your Business (MSNBC) and Business Owner
February 9th, Jim Kouzes, Coauthor of The Leadership Challenge and former CEO
February 16th, Vitaly Golomb, Investor & Global Startup Evangelist, HP Tech Ventures
February 23rd, Rahfeal Gordon, Inspirational Speaker/Author
March 2nd, Etienne & Beverly Wenger-Trayner, Scholars/Authors/Consultants
March 9th, Laura Goodrich, Co-Founder, GWT Next and author of Seeing Red Cars
March 16th, Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor Emeritus, Stanford Graduate School of Education
March 23rd, Leon Shapiro, Coauthor of The Power of Peers and former CEO
March 30th, Bri Seeley & Thais Sky, co-founders of The Amplify Collective

Who you surround yourself with matters!  Who’s surrounding you?  See you in 2017! #yearofthepeer

Are You Living By High Standards or Lofty Expectations?

I got a jump-start on the Year of the Peer today (the day after Christmas), as I participated in my CEO World online group meeting, where we reflected on 2016 and talked about our goals for 2017.  Sharing my goals out loud with a group of my peers helps me hold myself accountable to what I want to achieve in life.  Rather than make a New Year’s resolution I’m likely to break, I make a promise to myself that I’m far more inclined to keep, not only because I expressed it to my peers, but also because these are the people who will be there for me next year and who will help me do what I said I want to do.  And I’ll be there for them as well.

During our group meeting, I was asked, “What did you learn last year?”  I immediately thought about what Rahfeal Gordon said to me when we recorded his podcast last week (which will post February 23rd).  Rahfeal said that he lives his life by living up to high standards as opposed measuring success or failure against his or others’ lofty expectations.   I feel as if I’ve approached my work on peer advantage and the Year of the Peer with that in mind – in part because I’m not sure what to expect! 😉   Yet, I couldn’t help appreciate the manner in which Rahfeal articulated it for me in such a powerful and simple way.  He taught me how to express this idea more clearly to others.

If there’s anything the audiences at events, readers of this blog, or listeners to my podcast can do for the cause (and me) next year, other than to spread the word, lend a helping hand to your peers, and contribute your own thoughts and ideas to the dialogue, it’s to hold me to a high standard of delivering peer-to-peer value.  With that, I would appreciate anything you have to share with me on that front, and I promise you that I’ll work to be better each and every day.  (There, I said it out loud!)

With a great deal of help, I hope that, together, we can inspire a new consciousness about what peer advantage can mean for all of us if we just put our minds to it.   If we embrace the concept “who you surround yourself with matters” just a little more tightly, I think we’re in for a prosperous 2017.

Happy New Year everyone!  #yearofthepeer