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Peer Advantage – A Matter of Perspective

I’ve come across a number of blog posts over the past several months that describe joining a peer advisory group for business leaders as “not inexpensive” or “not cheap.”  As if to imply that cost is an obstacle to joining.  I also heard a story recently about a CEO who was being recognized for ten years of membership in his CEO peer advisory group.  The member (we’ll call him John) accepted his ten year plaque and joked that it cost him well over a hundred thousand dollars in dues.  John quickly acknowledged, however, that it was an investment that earned him millions in increased sales and profits, and that he’s become a better CEO and today enjoys a healthier work-life balance.  It’s why John is embarking on his second decade of membership.

If you’ve ever climbed to the top of a step ladder and looked down, you probably noticed that the ground appeared to be a lot farther away than you expected and that the view is quite different at the top.   Similarly, if you’ve never been part of a CEO peer advisory group, it’s hard to imagine the quality of the experience and what it could mean for you unless you take a look for yourself.   Peer influence is something we intuitively understand; peer advantage (the result of being more selective, strategic and structured in how we engage our peers) is almost unfathomable unless you change your perspective.

It makes perfect sense that non-members tend to see joining a group as an added cost – one that involves money and time – without knowing if they’ll be any return on their investment.    Yet from the perspective of peer advisory group members who have made the investments and have the luxury of reflecting (even basking) on the exponential return(s), the view is far different.  I’ve heard CEOs credit their group for everything from helping them exponentially grow their companies and guiding them in making key strategic decisions to saving their marriages and putting balance back in their lives.

Doris Kearns Goodwin tells a story of attending a seminar led by famed developmental psychologist Erik Erikson.  According to Goodwin, Erikson said, “The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love, and play.  And that to pursue one realm to the disregard of the others is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age. Whereas to pursue all three with equal dedication is to make possible a life full not only with achievement, but with serenity.”

I can’t think of a more eloquent description of what so many CEOs and business leaders have expressed about what experiencing peer advantage has meant to them.   As the non-member evaluates joining a group from a place of it being “not inexpensive” or “not cheap,” the peer advisory group member holds a priceless gem that continues to increase in value.   It’s all a matter of perspective.

Creed and Your Conversational Capacity

It’s funny how some of our biggest aha moments can come to us in the most unexpected places if we’re paying attention. For me, one of these aha moments came during a movie trailer prior to the start of the latest installment of the Bond series, SPECTRE.   For those of you who are familiar with the ROCKY movies (which I would imagine is pretty much everyone), Sylvester Stallone brings us CREED.  It’s the story of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis and the role Rocky plays as his eventual trainer. In the last clip of the trailer, Rocky and Adonis are standing in front of a mirror wall. Adonis has his gloves on and hands up. As they stare into the mirror, Rocky says, “See this guy here. That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever gonna have to face. I believe that’s true in the ring, and I think that’s true in life.”

Now flash back two days, where I attended a four-hour workshop led by author and principal of The Weber Consulting Group, Craig Weber.   Craig led a brilliant session on improving our conversational capacity, based on his 2013 book, Conversational Capacity: The Secret to Building Successful Teams That Perform When the Pressure is On. The core principle at work here is that if you’re ever going to be an effective communicator; if you’re ever going to be successful at having uncomfortable conversations; and if you’re ever going to create an environment where your team can talk openly and honestly without being defensive or trying to win an argument at another person’s expense, you have to keep your ego in check each and every day.   Because when it comes to building your conversational capacity, in business and in life, your toughest opponent is you.

What made Craig’s session so effective is that he not only gave us the mindset, but also imparted the skill sets necessary for expanding our conversational capacity and improving our ability to operate in what he calls the “sweet spot.”   I encourage you to read his book for two reasons –one of them unabashedly selfish. 1) I believe you’ll find the content to be incredibly valuable both inside the ring (business) and in life (personal relationships). 2) The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, & Success, which I co-authored with Leon Shapiro, will hit the shelves in March, 2016.   Since our book covers why our peers are so crucial to our success and happiness, I can’t think of a better complementary text – because you’ll never truly realize the full value of your peer relationships unless you possess the conversational capacity to do so.

I hope you read both books, get out to a movie once in awhile, and be on the lookout for your next aha moment!

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