The Power of Peers

| May 23, 2017

The true value of networking is building trusted relationships amongst peers and creating reciprocity, according to experienced coach and mentor to CEOs, Laurie Newman.

Many CEOs struggle with isolation. They have few people they can turn to for help or counsel. Nearly two thirds of CEOs don’t receive leadership advice from outside their organizations. While CEOs might take continuing education courses, attend conferences or hire coaches to overcome isolation, the best solution is starting or finding a CEO peer advisory group.

“CEOs are faced with a singular reality: There are very few people they can rely upon for impartial advice.”

Why Peer Influence Matters

Peer advantage is power. Power to change, power to manifest your vision, power to win and power to differentiate you from your competitors.

A CEO advisory group provides unique benefits: impartiality, a sense of ownership, shared challenges, empathy and opportunities to continue learning. Peers can raise tough queries and question ideas without worrying about hurting feelings.

Peer influence is pervasive. It affects your self-confidence, accountability, workplace interactions, and more. Your peers can hold you accountable and drive learning. Consider the experience students gain in graduate school, where they often tackle projects in teams. They learn to work together as colleagues rather than competitors. They experience the value of dialogue and trust. They learn the whole is “greater than the sum of its parts.” Learning extends into the workplace. Your peers can be powerful influencers in your group, your firm and the corporate world.

Four Methods of Peer Engagement

People participate in the four basic methods of peer engagement – connect, network, optimize, accelerate – simultaneously and through various methods. Connecting and networking are individual pursuits; optimizing and accelerating are strategic efforts that lead to “peer advantage.”

The group setting is where you’ll be asked the hard questions from people who know what it’s like to sit in the CEO’s chair, are blind to sacred cows and have no tangible self-interest in the outcome. Connecting involves exchanging information – like swapping business cards – introducing yourself, joining a conversation, exploring common interests, sharing material online and participating when you choose to. Networking takes connecting to the next level, when people go beyond exchanging data. They work with others to create opportunities. They select specific, trusted peers who are working toward mutual goals. They collaborate with people they can recommend to others. True networking involves building relationships and creating reciprocity, either implied or stated. Doing for others without expecting something in return creates a strong bond. It shows that you care. Optimizers tend to work in groups or teams toward a collective goal. They build a safe environment that encourages sharing. That means accepting the group structure and the collective goal. Optimizers find that participation is essential, not optional. Accelerators tend to surround themselves with people who share their drive, understand the importance of meeting with peers who have different viewpoints, commit to helping others, appreciate deep discussion, value a safe and confidential environment, and accept that participation and accountability are mandatory.

“Working with a diverse group of CEOs is a way to stop working in your business and start working on your business.”

Peer advantage creates a powerful reinforcing loop of learning, sharing, applying and achieving. To gain these benefits within your advisory group, leverage the Five factors of peer advantage:

  1. Finding the Right People

The members of successful groups come from different industries, but as individuals they share values, beliefs and goals. Regardless of industry, many CEOs share similar challenges in finances, marketing, and more. Your peers can ask tough questions and hold you accountable.

“As the CEO, you may not always be the smartest one in the room, but at the office you’re often treated that way because you are the ultimate decision maker.”

  1. Creating a Safe Environment

Trust amongst peers is paramount as is confidentiality. CEO peer advisory groups become a safe environment built on trust. Members understand that all meetings are under the ‘Vegas Rule’: what happens in the meeting stays in the meeting. Members often discuss sensitive business issues as well as personal matters. With each passing meeting, there’s a little bit of extra trust, an increased willingness to be open and the more people do this, the more trust builds in the group.

  1. Naming a “Smart Guide” or Group Leader

A smart guide steers the group but doesn’t “direct” it. Effective peer advisory groups are a triad, with a smart guide, individual members and the group members holding their relationship together in the middle. The triad model has a better chance of sustainability than a traditional hub-and-spoke model with a leader in the middle. Smart guides push people out of their comfort zones and know how to install some fun as well.

  1. Fostering Valuable Interactions

This means engaging everyone in conversation. CEOs benefit from framing issues in the proper context and discussing them within their peer advisory group, often by way of using an “issue processing protocol”. Think of an hourglass-shaped figure as an issue/opportunity flowchart. The flow starts at the top when someone asks, “How do I…?” This helps a CEO garner specific advice from his or her peers. Group members then ask clarifying questions to drill down on solving the problem. Once the group decides on the core issue, the member restates the initial issue. The CEO thanks the group for their advice and then shares his or her plans or solutions at the next meeting.

  1. Instituting Accountability

Peer advisory groups hold their members accountable for their actions. Many CEOs put off tasks they don’t want to do. Researchers found that 15 main reasons drive procrastination, including “ignorance, skill deficiency, apathy, fixed habits, inertia, frail memory, physical problems” and “appropriate delays.” The last could mean waiting for the right time, needing time to think things over or being distracted by some other opportunity that “will never come again.”

Leading with Peer Advantage

Because a CEO peer advisory group is a safe environment built on trust, many CEOs discuss personal issues with their groups. Individuals might be dealing with a child on drugs, a rocky marriage, a sick relative, a major health issue, and more – all of which can affect their businesses. Peer groups help members identify self-limiting beliefs that hold them back, such as shifting from a need to feel in control to becoming able to trust others and delegate. This process sounds easier than it is because “while the truth may set you free, it will irritate you first.”

Laurie would like to invite you to an exclusive business leaders boardroom breakfast on July 13 in Sydney where you will experience firsthand the techniques used within a TEC peer group session and participate in a mini TEC workshop, covering ‘the seven key skills of successful business leaders.

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Laurie Newman

Laurie Newman works with TEC – the world’s largest CEO peer advisory organisation with over 1100 CEOs in Australia participating in peer groups with the aim of enhancing their businesses and personal lives.