Search Results for: The Power Of Peers

Helping People Find Smarter Rooms: The Power Of Peers (300)

Let’s start with a press release that came out on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. It could be found at Yahoo! Finance, among other places. Since this is a podcast permit me to share it with you. It’s not terribly long.

Leo Bottary Announces the Launch of Peernovation

July 16, 2019

New company will help business leaders learn from one another more effectively and develop higher performing teams in the workplace

After a decade of research, two books, and the successful completion of more than 100 peer group self-assessment workshops for business leaders in North America and EuropeLeo Bottary has announced the launch of Peernovation, LLC. Leveraging Bottary’s work in group dynamics, Peernovation will address two major challenges for companies today: 1) The lack of ROI for employee learning and development programs; and, 2) the problem of alignment and employee engagement when implementing strategic initiatives. Bottary, who will serve as managing partner, will be joined by peer advantage group facilitator and podcaster, Randy Cantrell.  Cantrell will lead online mastermind groups for start-ups and scale-ups, utilizing an exciting purpose-built scalable peer learning platform called Circles.<

“We learn and work better when we do it together,” Bottary said.  “My work with peer groups over the past 10 years has shown time and time again that when great people bring their ‘A games’ to a properly run group, there’s no challenge too big or opportunity too daunting.  This includes receiving real ROI from the *$360 billion organizations spent on learning and development in 2018 and improving on the paltry **10% success rate associated with the successful implementation of organizational strategic initiatives.  Peers and innovation are hand in glove.

“Peernovation will also assist organizations that assemble and facilitate peer groups for business leaders by helping members maximize their collaborative experiences to achieve more impactful outcomes.  Bottary added, “When business leaders participate in high performing peer groups, they tend to be more adept at understanding the power of peers and creating more collaborative environments at their companies.”

Leo Bottary is a sought-after thought leader on peer advantage, an emerging discipline dedicated to strategically engaging peers to realize your business and life goals. A popular author, keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, he also serves as an adjunct professor for Rutgers University.  Bottary’s first book, which he coauthored with former Vistage CEO Leon Shapiro, is titled The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership Growth & Success (2016).  His latest book, What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growthwas released in September, 2018.

Randy Cantrell leverages over two decades of CEO experience into coaching and advising CEOs and entrepreneurs. A longtime podcaster, he is also launching peer advisory groups serving small business owners at



I’m now a few weeks away from launching the first group of The Peer Advantage by Bula Network.

Lessons in Reinvention

The trifecta of business building is always in play for commercial enterprises:

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

Non-profit enterprises, including city governments, have a slight different trifecta they’re aiming to hit. Depending on the organization the first two can be pretty interchangeable.

  1. Provide extraordinary value
  2. Get and manage funding
  3. Not going crazy in the process

For the past years since leaving the C-Suite, I’ve devoted myself first to consulting, which quickly morphed into coaching. Consulting is mostly “I do it for you” while coaching is “let me help you figure out how to best do it yourself.” I hated consulting. I’ve loved coaching.

Four years or so ago my life changed. I was introduced to something I had never experienced. Fact is, I had limited exposure to it. Vistage is responsible for the insight and I’ll always be thankful to them for the formal introduction. A recruiter reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in becoming a Vistage Chair, facilitating CEO peer groups here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. A local Vistage Chair, Ed Burke, had nominated me. Thanks, Ed! If you’re a CEO in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and interested in joining Vistage, connect with Ed. Tell him I sent you.

I knew Ed left his own CEO role and had become a Vistage Chair, but I didn’t know what that meant. Or even what it was. But when the recruiter contacted me I decided to dive in to learn more.

Eventually, I found myself flying to San Diego to attend a week-long training/vetting session. It was interesting, if not sometimes intimidating. I’d never experienced group stuff much. Team stuff? You bet. I’ve spent my life assembling and leading teams.

A team exists to accomplish a common goal.

A group exists to help each individual person accomplish their own goal.

I was rather fascinated by it all. At this point I was waist deep in executive and leadership coaching. The focus was predominately “soft skills stuff.” As one CEO said to me, “I don’t know why soft skills are so hard.” But for many people, they are. I’m ideally suited for it. Thankfully, it’s a strong suit for me. Don’t ask about my weak suits because this podcast would take way too long if we went down that rabbit hole. 😉

At the end of the week in San Diego Vistage offered me an opportunity and I accepted it. A few months later I attended the second training session, again flying to San Diego (this is all done on your own dime, by the way; Vistage Chairs are self-employed). By the time a number of months had passed a few things were clear to me. One, I wasn’t right for this and two, the timing wasn’t right.

I’m too much of a renegade. I’m a lifelong problem-solver and the fine folks at Vistage may have made a mistake in taking me on. 😀 Truthfully, fit is everything and thankfully I saw it, came to terms with it and respectfully bowed out. Recommending Ed Burke and Vistage proves it was a perfectly happy parting. That was 4 years ago.

I was in love with the whole GROUP thing. The value of others wasn’t new to me, but leveraging it with such intentionality was. I started reading and studying it more. I was convinced I’d be in this space. I had no idea what form it might take. I mostly devoted myself to becoming a student. L.U.G. was in full play. I was LEARNING hoping to increase my UNDERSTANDING so I could grow.

I won’t bore you with all the books I read, but two books caught my attention right away.

The Power Of Peers by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary

The Power of Peers by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary

Leon was the sitting CEO of Vistage. Leo was a VP at Vistage. I didn’t know either of them at the time.

The Power Of The Other by Dr. Henry Cloud

I’ve been a longtime fan of Dr. Cloud, but don’t know him personally. I have tried repeatedly to get him on a podcast, but so far no luck! Maybe one day.

About the time I left Vistage turns out Leo Bottary had left to begin a career of public speaking on all the research he had done on the power of professional peer groups. Wanting to learn more myself I had an epiphany. Why not connect with Leo to have him teach me what he had spent years learning? So I did. But I wanted to bring him value because he had no clue who I was.

I didn’t see much publicity for the book, The Power Of Peers. I had intentionally looked for interviews with either of the authors. I stumbled across one interview with Leo. As a longtime podcaster, I knew this topic – the power of the collective – had legs. I wanted to help evangelize the opportunity, especially for top-level business leaders. My thought was, “This guy should start a podcast. I can help him do it.”

Fast forward a few months and that’s exactly what happened. Leo named the podcast, The Year Of The Peer. I produced it and served all the behind-the-scenes roles. We started it in January 2017. Charlene Li was the first guest.

Leo was quickly becoming more than a mentor/teacher. We became friends. Life tossed both of us some personal curveballs and we grew confident in sharing, supporting and encouraging each other. We started the podcast to spread the word and engage in meaningful conversations. There was no business plan. We’re both capitalists, but the purpose wasn’t centered on making money.

At some point, Leo realized he had the makings of a new book, based on all these conversations we were having with people. Time and time again people were acknowledging that their performance and accomplishments had been greatly impacted by the influence, support and encouragement of others.

Leo remembered a quote from a running coach and columnist from the ’70s – Joe Henderson – who remarked that champions mostly do the things anyone can do. The difference? They do them when others don’t. Or won’t. That became the working title – and eventually the published title of the book.

Leo graciously invited me to join him to make the conversations on the podcast more robust. Not sure I have fully delivered on that objective, but I was happy to accept. We were putting in lots of time and effort, but again – no business model, no business plan. We were simply devoted to getting the word out about how we can all benefit from being more intentional in who we surround ourselves with.

A year or so ago we started having casual conversations about how we could structure a business offering so we could broaden and deepen the impact we were having. I had long told Leo that I felt ideally wired to lead a group of CEOs or SMB owners. My heart was more bent toward the small business owner. And I didn’t care about the dollar revenue or headcount. I cared about how close the owner was to the work. I was (and still am) attracted to business owners who are flattered by the label, OPERATOR. Leo encouraged me to do it. I began to get my head wrapped around it.

I didn’t want to do a full-day meeting. And I didn’t want to do an “in-person” group. I’ve lived in the Internet age since it began. I’m an odd duck in that I’m tech-savvy and I’ve been producing online content since 1997. Well, to be fair. My odd because I’m old and have those skills. 😉

I wanted to do a virtual group because I know the time constraints of being a true OPERATOR. My lifelong fanatism is on customers! I wasn’t thinking of what I wanted. I was thinking of what my potential customers would NEED. High value provided as efficiently as possible. Thanks to technology, it’s not just possible. It’s easy.

I set about to tease the idea. The Grow Great Daily Brief was my platform where I shared daily snippets of insight, experience and wisdom. I’ve operated businesses since I was in my early 20’s. I was never trying to tell you what to do. I was doing what I love to do most – just trying to provoke you to think more deeply about things so you can figure it out for yourself. I’m here to help.

The podcast was weekly, but I wanted to produce content more regularly and make the episode shorter. The branding was GROW GREAT. Mostly because it was quick, easy to remember and captured what I was trying to do myself and what I wanted to encourage you to do. Grow great!

All the while I was battling what coaches worldwide battle. The first two legs of the trifecta. In my experience, the people most gifted at coaching aren’t necessarily ideally wired to get customers. I’ve got sales DNA but when you’re selling such a personal – and personalized – service it’s not like peddling a product. And I’m NOT transactional in the least! Never have been.

The second leg of the trifecta is where I shine best. It’s hard when you really have to simultaneously have to serve AND then go acquire new clients. No, it’s not hard. It’s exhausting! 😀 For a guy like me. Which means that third leg of the trifecta is so far away you can possibly see how you’ll ever hit that.

I’ve had one foot in the past (and present) and one in the future. One foot was in the traditional executive/leadership coaching I was doing and one foot was in the effort to build the first group of THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I had both feet and my brain fully committed to THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network. But I was still juggling the traditional coaching business.

I told Leo that I wanted to lead these groups and limit my coaching ONLY to members of THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network. But it wasn’t (and isn’t yet) my reality. It will be though.

Such are the grinds of redefining or reinventing yourself or your business. But it’s the exciting opportunity of being a solopreneur. The negative is, there’s no place to hide. And it’s insanely lonely, which is a large driver for the new effort. To help SMB owners overcome or better manage their own loneliness. Every single SMB owner knows the feeling. So when I sit there as the leader of THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network, I’m part of the group. I’m right there with every other member. I know the struggles, the opportunities, the constraints, and the loneliness.

The Darkness Before The Dawn

Since the beginning of the year, I feel like I’ve been straddling a fence, but knowing which side of the fence I wanted to be on. Just unable to get there fast enough.

SMB owners know the feeling. We have to operate on a patient that can’t be put to sleep. The patient is up and walking around. Late last week I had my once-every-five-years fun. A colonoscopy. They’re not bad. If you don’t have them done with some regularity, I’d encourage you to change your mind. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. My maternal grandfather died when I was 16 or so. He was only 66. But it was a different time. Real men didn’t go to the doctor. They just died. It wasn’t a good practice to prove manhood.

At any rate, they put you to sleep when you have a colonoscopy. Imagine trying to do such a procedure on a patient that refused to lay down, much less to be put to sleep — and that’ll give you some idea of what we as business people experience when we try to fix a problem or take advantage of an opportunity in our businesses. That’s exactly my problem.

Things had to get dark before I’d willingly walk toward the light. Boy, did I feel like walking toward the light more often than not. 😉

Leo nudged me. That’s what friends are for. “Set a date,” he said. Immediately, I said, “Okay.” Well, I kinda sorta did. I said “first part of August.” That’s okay!

And I hit PAUSE on the Grow Great Daily Brief. I already knew I wanted to refocus the podcast toward the whole peer advantage space. But I was bashful to go for it. I reached out to two podcasting buddies hoping to have them help me. One replied. The other didn’t. And it was fine because I knew what I wanted (and needed) to do. I emailed my buddies these questions that I asked them to help me wrestle with.

a. If this podcast were like a party that I was hosting, who would I most want to attend?

I mostly want to evangelize and promote the high value of leveraging the power of others. I want to be a voice speaking out against the smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome. Instead, I want to encourage people to learn, understand and grow by enlisting the help from others. It’s all about the power of the collective. I want to attract anybody who is interested in doing this, and finding ways to do it more effectively.

b. If this podcast were like a party that I was hosting, what would I most want the theme to be?

The answer to this is about the same answer I gave to question number one.

c. Who do I most want to work with – translation, who do I most want to attract?

I only want to work with members of THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network. Yes, I want to attract people who might be interested in seizing that advantage, but I want to attract anybody who wants to take advantage of a peer group. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Vistage group, YPO, EO or any other group. I just want people to consider giving themselves the opportunity.

d. How can I provide the most value to that group of people?

I can promote the work others are doing in the space. There’s PLENTY of opportunities. And my offer isn’t for everybody. I want to bring the insights and experiences of people with all these other peer advisory companies – and individuals – and shine a bright light on them. I want to share what I’ve learned and am still learning in how we can have groups inside our organizations that can help us soar to new levels of achievement. Group learning can apply to all of us who are willing to embrace it. I want to be THE spotlight operator shining the light on it.

e. What content would provide me the most joy and the audience the most value?

The answer to the previous question applies.

f. Where is the gap in the market for these things? Translation: where is my best opportunity?

Other than my work with Leo at our podcast currently titled, WHAT ANYONE CAN DO – I don’t see anybody doing anything. Not consistently in the podcasting space.

g. What do I most want this podcast to be known for?

Simply put, THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network is the only side of the fence I want to occupy for the rest of my life. This is work centered on legacy and significance. Business advice is a dime a dozen. Really a dime per many dozens. Everybody is an expert. I’ve never played that game. I’m like you. I’m bent on learning, understanding and growing. We both have a lot still to figure out, but we can sure serve each other by sharing what we’ve already figured out. And we can share the context, too. What worked for me may not work for you. But hearing about it might help you. I know hearing your experiences and insights will help me.

Time To Be ReBorn

I make no apologies for being a Christian. The great thing about being a Christian is a fresh start. The common word is “reborn.” Everybody at some point in their life craves a fresh start. But even fresh starts can be scary.

The Grow Great Daily Brief is no more. To be reborn you have to say good-bye to something so you can say hello to something new. That also explains why I’m starting with episode 300. The 300 series is a new iteration of the podcast. Same feed. Same podcast subscription. No need for you to do anything different. Just keep listening (I hope).

The Peer Advantage not only serves the brand banner for the entirety of my work, but it serves to accurately illustrate what I want to preach.


Here’s the plan:

Each week I’ll bring you an episode. Daily is great and I enjoyed it, but I want to devote more time the real work. And I simply have to say, “No” so I can say, “Yes.”

I may randomly bring you more than one episode. But I’m going to work hard to bring you one episode weekly with really good, high-value content. I also plan to bring some interviews – something I’ve never done on my solo podcasts before. People who are involved in the peer advisory space, people who are benefiting from being part of a group, people with group learning know-how and whatever else might bring value to those of us interested in how to make groups more powerful and effective in improving higher human performance.

The focus will remain consistent. It’s about the power of others. The power of the collective. That all of us together are way smarter than any single one of us. You can help me with a pithy tagline. Shoot me a message via the contact page with your ideas. For now, I’m using “Helping You Leverage The Power Of Others.”

The Peer Advantage by Bula Network

I’m looking to launch group one within 30 days. I’m still looking diligently for just 7 SMB owners bold, brave and vulnerable enough to see the value. The details are at If anything I’ve said resonates with you – or you know somebody with whom it might resonate – then please go apply today. The application doesn’t guarantee anything other than a phone call so we can discover together whether this is an ideal fit for both of us.

Don’t worry. The sign off won’t change and the web address won’t either. You’ll still be able to find everything by going to


Be well. Do good. Grow great!


A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Interview with co-author Leo Bottary) #5014

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Interview with co-author Leo Bottary) #5014

Today, we wrap up this series of our chapter-by-chapter audio summary of the book THE POWER OF PEERS with a conversation recorded with co-author Leo Bottary. The interview was recorded using a video conferencing platform and the video is available at YouTube (or obviously here below).

Leo Bottary on THE PEER ADVANTAGE podcastIn the conversation we talk to Leo to get a sense of who he is and how he came to be interested in peer advantage. We also discuss some insights he’s gained over the last 18 months or so since the book was published. Leo also tells us a bit about the new book he’s working on, due to be published in the Spring of 2018. It’s a conversation that I hope brings you some insights on why you may want to consider embracing the peer advantage into your life and your business.

The interview starts at about 2:30 minutes into the show and it ends around the 40 minute mark.

At Leo’s new podcast – YEAR OF THE PEER – we’ve encountered some terrific guests from varied backgrounds and fields of accomplishment. In each case, we’ve found our guests at that podcast to be gracious and giving. None of them silo’d themselves toward success. They each encountered mentors and guides along the way. Your success – and mine and everybody else’s – is going to largely depend on the people we allow into our lives. Some of those entrances will happen organically. Some, by way of sheer serendipity. But to think that our lives are left to mere random chance is delusional at worst, naive at best.

Leo’s podcast tagline is, “Who you surround yourself with matters.” The noun is YOU. The verb is surround. It’s purposeful. Intentional. We live in one of the greatest eras ever. We can quickly and easily find and connect with people who we think may be able to help us – and people we may be able to help. It’s our fault if we don’t seize those opportunities. I’ll go you one better – it’s our fault if we don’t create those opportunities because they’re all around us.

As Leo and I talked you likely got a sense of how our humanity is at the crux of the peer advantage. That’s because it’s true. Leo is no more defined solely as a co-author of a book, THE POWER OF PEERS, as he’s only defined as the host of a podcast, YEAR OF THE PEER. He’s a husband. A father. Now, a grandfather. Those are just 3 roles that he and I share. We’re both Baby Boomers. Yet we’re as different in many ways because he was born in one part of the country, me in another. Our careers paths are nothing alike. But in spite of whatever differences may separate us, we choose to surround ourselves with people that include each other because there’s mutual benefits as we’ve discovered our own peer advantage.

It was a very intentional, purposeful connection. Leo didn’t know me at all. Except for his name on the front of the book, I didn’t know him at all. It may seem to you as a bold step, but to me it was so non-threatening that I had no reservations in reaching out to him about helping him create his own podcast. I only share that to inspire you to not wait. Don’t delay in reaching out to people you think may be able to join your pursuits. And people who have a pursuit you may find worth joining – like I did with Leo.

It wasn’t about me. It was about the pursuit of finding out more and being part of this movement. The Peer Advantage.

Leo popped on my radar as I saw him appear on a few shows where the interviews were available online. I looked and couldn’t find any platform where Leo was the host. He was always the guest. I saw an opportunity that he may or may not have ever seen. I’ve been podcasting and participating in new media for many years. I had something to offer him, something that wasn’t beyond his capabilities to learn, but something I could do where he wouldn’t have to learn it. He just needed to get to know me so we could develop some mutual trust.

There are the first two elements of peer advantage contained in the book: 1) select the right people (I selected Leo and he selected me in return when he said “yes”) and 2) create a safe environment (Leo had to develop trust in me and I in him; we did and you can see the results for yourself over at YEAR OF THE PEER podcast). Trust came more easily because I began my conversation with Leo by telling him upfront what I expected from this relationship. Better yet, I told him what I didn’t expect. Money, glory, fame. Those were not my goals. My goal, I told him, was guilt by association and my desire to be closer to this movement because I so firmly believe in it. The peer advantage is that important to me. So important, I told Leo, that I want to make it my life’s work for whatever time I have left on the planet. It’s my encore career. The stuff I want to do now that I have over 35 years behind me of running and operating businesses.

Leo and I hold each other accountable in this relationship. From finding guests for his podcasts, to communicating with them and following up…all the way up to doing the voiceover work and editing the videos, then posting them in all the right places — I have my part to play in serving Leo and the cause. He shoulders his responsibilities to serve our listeners and viewers by trying his best to bring out the most in valuable conversations with each guest. We debrief our work and help each other try to achieve better results next time, always believing (dare I say knowing) we can do better. Always.

That dissatisfaction of today’s work drives us to make his podcast better. It drives me to make this podcast better. Listeners will judge it, just as every business is judged solely by the market. The world doesn’t care what Leo and I think. The world determines if we provide value or not. It’s up to us to do our best and keep learning. It doesn’t mean the existing work isn’t good. It just means we believe our best work is still in front of us. And there’s two more elements of peer advantage talked about in the book: foster valuable interaction and be accountable.

The only remaining element is a smart guide, a leader who knows how to facilitate so growth can happen. I’d argue that Leo and I have that, too. He’s in charge of YEAR OF THE PEER, but I’m very much a co-pilot. He’s mostly the smart guide in this, but sometimes I need to fill that role. We both recognize and bow appropriately to the duties as circumstances warrant because we know the objective – to do the best work of our lives. And we’re already two fairly accomplished guys who have more history than future. But we both know, understand and feel a sense of responsibility to the message – the truth we preach.

Leo and I will both unhesitatingly tell you we’re still very much a work in progress in figuring things out. Individually and together. But speaking only for myself, I know this – without Leo Bottary being part of the circle of influencers in my life, I’m not where I am today – or with the hope of being where I want to go. THE PEER ADVANTAGE podcast and my intended work of forming two charter groups of 7 small business owners from around the United States would not be possible without my having had the courage to reach out to Leo and his boldness in saying yes.

So I’ll wrap this up by urging you to be brave. Be bold. Courage often looks like humility. And it absolutely looks like vulnerability. It’s a chance because you don’t know the outcome. You know what you hope and expect, but you have no guarantees except one – do nothing and you’ll be losing some of the potential greatest rewards ever.

I wish for you and your business or organization all the best. Thanks for listening and paying attention.

P.S. If you’d like me to send you a link where you can download a zip file of every episode in this series, including today’s show — just give me your email address in that opt-in box at the bottom of this post. I’ll have that FREE gift available by mid-August, 2017.

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Thank you!

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 11) #5013

We’re at the end. Today is chapter 11, The Power Of Peer Advantage.

Over the last 10 episodes of the podcast we’ve been taking a look – chapter-by-chapter – at the book, THE POWER OF PEERS by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary. This final chapter ties it all together and discusses the power we can access when we join forces with others, namely with peers.

The chapter opens with the story of Don Guild, a pharmacist in Southern California who opened a small drugstore with his dad in 1961. Don opened a new store every year until he had 13 locations. In 1969 he joined a CEO peer advisory group where all the members were working to grow their own businesses.

Don had historically struggled because he was trained as a pharmacist, but he hated being a pharmacist. By 1982 CVS was descending on Southern California. That prompted Don to think it might be time to get out. A year later CVS contacted Don about buying his 13 stores. Then Thrifty Drug called him because they were looking to expand. Both companies wanted to open many stores in the region quickly. Don consulted his CEO group about how to go about selling his business.

In 1984 he prepared an operating statement and a balance sheet so he could present them to the group for review. Based on the number, Don planned to sell his company for about $10 million. One member of the CEO group was running a public company. He and other members of the group reminded Don that his suitors had interest in his company for strategic reasons. His company had a good bottom line, but these companies weren’t looking at his business because of that. It was market position they wanted. The group told Don he should double his asking price.

Don describes the face-to-face meeting with the CEO and COO of Thrifty Drug. They asked him what he wanted for the business. He gave the number his group had encouraged. The CEO reached across the table to shake his hand and tell him they had a deal. In a flash, Don realized his group had helped him get millions more than he’d have gotten without their feedback.

Don deeply trusted his group. That’s why he sought and accepted their advice. He had put his financial welfare into their hands and won. Don experienced the power of peer advantage.

That’s what accountability looked like for Don. Specifically, it looked like $10 million. Accountability isn’t a negative. Don is still a member of his group 47 years later. He’s well into his 80’s, but he primarily lives in Hawaii where he surfs and enjoys life. Each month he flies to Southern California to attend his group meeting and has no plans to quit anytime soon.

What Accounts For The Magic Of Peer Advantage?

Peer advantage isn’t an individual activity. It’s a group thing. It’s possible when you bring great people together who want to pursue excellence. The book has talked about such groups as the Blue Angels, the Navy Seals and the UCONN women’s basketball team. They understand what it means to optimize performance. They chase perfection knowing there’s really no such thing.

CEO peer advisory groups are clear examples of what’s possible when people are committed to accelerating their growth. It means stepping outside their company and industry to see beyond the limits of their own perspective. The Japanese proverb is a fitting reminder of the power and truth: “None of us are as smart as all of us.”

Why go it alone if you don’t have to?

Each of the 5 factors of peer advantage stands on its own. Each is important. There’s no magic in a single factor, or even in a combination of a few of them. They’re an ensemble, working together to create the magic. But the authors reveal there are 2 other ingredients to the magic they discovered while writing the book: the power of the triad, and the people.

Back in chapter 6 they wrote of the power of the triad when they described how the group leader isn’t at the center of the hub, but how the group itself is the power, where the individual member, the leader and the group form this triad.

Experience and spontaneity create extraordinary moments of kindness, wisdom, creative genius and understanding plus a whole lot more. Culture and other things can foster success, but at the end of the day, it’s the individual people and how they perform that makes the difference.

Through all their research the authors discovered that the 5 factors and the strength of the triad created the conditions for success…yet success came down to someone in the group making a play. Somebody asked the right question. Somebody offered a new perspective. Somebody listened with empathy. That’s what happens when you put great players in the right environment. Magic happens and makes peer advantage possible.

What Peer Advantage Feels Like

The chapter goes on to describe what a physical group meeting looks like. Members file into a room around 8am, grab some coffee and begin to exchange pleasantries to catch up with each other. Individual conversations fade as the group settles into place. The leader kicks off the meeting by having everybody take a turn to report on how they feel personally and professionally. Each member is invited to update the group on any developments since their last meeting. This check-in keeps everybody informed, but also serves to help identify issues or opportunities they may want to explore for deeper discussion.

Within the first 20 minutes it’s clear that this isn’t an ordinary get together. It’s a deeper engagement with higher involvement, candor and accountability. Some CEO groups invite speaker that the group finds interesting. Other groups meet for a specific period of time — a half day, a full day. After the check-in they may begin immediately to process issues facing specific members.

Things start to gel. You can feel it. Taste it. The context is different than usual conversation. When you’re in the middle of the conversation about a member’s issue and the complexity of the issue is becoming increasingly clear, you realize the power of the moment as members attempt to untangle things. It’s quiet when it needs to. Noisy when appropriate. Everybody is in the moment. Members are present, listening and looking. An epiphany is coming and you sense things are about to shift.

Maybe it doesn’t happen in a single instance, but rather in a compounding effect over the course of the conversation. After a period of time – 30 minutes, 45, 60 – the member with the issue has been given time to think. The leader asks, “What have you heard and what’s resonating with you?” And they’ll respond.

Lightbulb moments happen.

The authors cite a book entitled THE THIRD OPINION. The author of that book talks about trust falling into 3 buckets.

  1. We trust people personally because we get to know who they are as a person. We trust friends and colleagues whom we get to know socially.
  2. We trust people for their subject-matter expertise. We trust a pilot we’ve never met to fly us safely to our destination.
  3. We trust people who have our backs, to not have a personal agenda and use something against us. This is structural trust.

It’s easy to see how a CEO peer advisory group incorporates the triad to provide trust on all 3 levels.

The Journey From Peer Influence To Peer Advantage

One purpose of the book, according to the authors, was to introduce the reader to an option for learning and growing personally and professionally. An option that you may not be accessing as a CEO or business owner. Maybe because you didn’t know about it. Maybe because you didn’t think you had enough time to participate. Or maybe because you’re not sure what group to join or how to start your own. Or it could be, you’ve learned about peer groups and concluded they’re not right for you.

Whatever the case, welcome to the majority. Fewer than 1 percent of CEOs participate in a CEO peer advisory group, but the most high performing CEOs who are members of a group say their experience has lifted their organizations and changed their lives. The authors say they wanted to provide a closer look in hopes that the 99 percent might give it a try.

For CEOs, tapping into peer influence can be great for two reasons: the number of people who have sat where you now sit are few and far between plus in spite of your organizational structure certain initiatives will fail. You can tap into peer influence or be a victim of it.

Peer influence impacts all of us. That’s why it can be valuable to understand how people typically engage their peers and for what purpose. We connect with peers in person or online. We connect to review, gather and exchange information and to extend our reach personally and professionally. We’re not necessarily selective when we connect, but we tend to trust the prevailing sentiment of the community.

We network online or in person (at conferences, local business or social events). We tend to be more selective and purposeful here. Connecting and networking are individual efforts and are the most common ways we reach out to peers.

We optimize when we work together in teams to bring a high level of excellence toward achieving a common goal. CEOs and business owners accelerate their business and leadership when they’re members of a peer advisory group working together on an ongoing basis.

The book ends with a brief summary of the 5 factors necessary to create the conditions for peer advantage:

Select the right peers – it involves more than surrounding yourself with the right people…you need to be surrounded by people well suited to share and understand your pursuits.

Create a safe environment – deep conversations about critical intellectual and emotional issues require an environment where it’s safe to share, be vulnerable (judgment free) and where confidentiality is sacred. What happens in the meeting stays in the meeting.

Utilize a smart guide – leaders who learn to serve the groups they lead by acting as an equal part of the group triad.

Foster valuable interaction – a group culture that values safety and confidentiality. Where conversations happen by design, not by accident.

Be accountable – a place where group members don’t tell each other what to do, but where they tell each other what they plan to do. A place where individual members own their own solutions.

Peer advantage is power. The power to change, to manifest your vision, to win and to differentiate you from your competitors. Perhaps the biggest win, the greatest gift of peer advantage, is freedom. Freedom to live and love your life as you choose.

I hope you enjoyed this short series – an audio summary, chapter-by-chapter – of THE POWER OF PEERS. In our next episode we’ll bring on Leo Bottary, co-author of this book to discuss more about him and the power of peer advantage.

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

Chapter 10 is entitled, The 20/20 Vision Advantage.

We’ve rounded the final quarter pole of the book, THE POWER OF PEERS by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary. By now we’ve come to understand how powerfully true the subtitle of the book is, “How the company you keep drives leadership, growth and success.” The authors have provided numerous examples proving the validity of that statement. You’d think more CEOs and business owners would avail themselves of the opportunity to surround themselves with their peers so they could experience THE PEER ADVANTAGE. But as Keith Ferrazzi and others have noted, these relationships don’t just come about naturally. They’re formed with intention and purpose. I suppose that’s one reason they can be rare, mostly finding their way into the lives of the very best of the best. Just another reason why you should give serious thought to joining their ranks.

And it’s a chief reason why Bula Network is now forming the first two charter groups of THE PEER ADVANTAGE, exclusively for U.S. based small business owners. THE PEER ADVANTAGE is an online peer advisory group comprised of 7 small business owners from around America who come together twice a month for 2 hours each time – that’s a total of just 4 hours monthly – expressly to grow their businesses and their lives as business owners. This isn’t kumbaya kind of stuff. It’s real-life, real-time business building where we can come together to discuss our biggest issues and opportunities. Quite simply, it’s about us joining forces to put in the work to take your business to new heights of achievement and success.

Chapter 10 begins with a quotation from former MIT Engineering School dean Gordon Brown. “To be a teacher is to be a prophet. We are not preparing children for the world we have lived in, but for a future we can barely imagine.” The same could be said of CEOs and business owners as we try to build and prepare our companies for the future.

Broadening your view and expanding your perspective can be accomplished when your peers bring it into a view unlike anybody else in your life. When we exchange experiences and ideas from peers who occupy different spaces, different industries – we can more easily make application to our own circumstances. Your peers can help you more easily evaluate your challenges, take advantage of your opportunities and chart a course for your future. That’s how peer advantage provides a vision advantage. It helps you not only prepare for the future, but shape it.

In 2008 the recession had a serious impact on many businesses. The authors talk about one CEO of a jewelry designer and consultant with jewelry in more than 2000 stores nationwide. Luxury and accessories were hard hit by the downturn. The CEO responded quickly by focusing her designs on a fashion-forward appeal. She was part of a CEO peer advisory group. They encouraged her to travel and maintain a trade show presence in spite of the investment. That steady persistence secured Macy’s as a new client in Q3 of 2011. In 2012 she increased her business 40%.

During this troubling time her CEO group worked as a functioning council ready and able to help her steer her company successfully. She not only met the challenges, but she created opportunities. All at the urging of her CEO group who were seeking her best interests. She was able to see more clearly with the help of other CEOs in her group. It prevented her from being blind-sided or short-sighted.

Looking back, we can see what happened to the economy in 2008, but there were business owners and CEOs who saw it coming. They didn’t know exactly what was coming or how deeply it would impact business, but they could see a storm coming. So they responded and prepared, thanks to the foresight provided by their peer advantage group.

In 2006 there were a number of CEOs in Atlanta who were part of a group. Part of their collective work involved following an economist with a solid reputation for tracking the global economy. Signs of a banking crisis began to appear on the horizon and one of the CEOs in the group, a banker himself, agreed that it was just a matter of time when people would be scrambling. The group knew a correction was coming and figured it might come by late 2008 or early 2009. Other members of the group were seeing signs in their own industries. All this resulted in the group sticking together to prepare and help each other.

The banker in the group led them through a series of exercises to prepare. Each company was credit line dependent so they were all able to keep their current financing or get new financing thanks to these exercises.

The group members also knew that when the crunch hit members might be tempted to cut the investment of being in the group. They all agreed it would not be a good time to leave the group, simply to save a few bucks a month. They agreed they’d stick together no matter what. Today, every CEO is in place in the group and in their company. Each member is thriving.

Planning and preparation are important. As the German military saying goes, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” There are always unknowns. Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” You may not be able to predict, but you can – and must – plan.

Sailboat racers will tell you that no two races are the same. Too many variables are in place – like wind, weather, equipment, competitors and more. Sailboat racers say that to win, you have to get your head out of the boat. It helps to pay attention to the instruments, but it only matters relative to the other boats in the race. Working with a diverse group of CEOs or business owners is a way to get your head out of the boat, to stop working in the weeds of your business — and to start working seriously on growing your business.

Business owners and CEOs are challenged to future-proof their businesses. Agility is the advantage. Peer advantage provides that.

CEOs and owners are advised to consider factors from the customer’s perspective rather than thinking in terms of macro trends, income, sales and profit ratios. How do customers see their own situation? How are they making their decisions? The more we can become acquainted with customers in other spaces, the more objective we can be and the more likely we’ll be to spot trends that can guide us in our own decision-making.

That distance from our own situation allows us to be more objective. We’ll be better able to see trends we may not have otherwise seen. Working with peers outside our industry provides us that vision.

The authors liken looking at macro data to driving our car forward while looking in the rearview mirror. The past is the past. It may not provide much guidance on the present or the future. Gone are the days of undisrupted industry. So now we all must think like a futurist.

Sheryl Connelly is the corporate futurist for Ford Motor Company. “Blue jeans have been around for roughly 150 years,” she says. “In the early 1900’s if I tried to walk into a fine hotel wearing blue jeans, I wouldn’t get past the front door. Jeans were worn by laborers. They were low cost and highly utilitarian. Today, they are high fashion. They are common in many office environments, and I could wear them at just about any fine restaurant. What changed in the last 100 years were our values, attitudes and behaviors. This is what CEOs need to pay attention to.”

She suggests that the SWOT analysis remains valuable today. The problem is that the SWOT tool is extremely limiting. Connelly suggest the problem is you don’t own your strengths, your customers do. They’re the ones who determine where you’re strong. And they’re fickle. Another way the SWOT is limiting is CEOs can be blindsided by competition. Often unlikely competition. Think Blockbuster and Kodak. Their failure to respond didn’t end well.

Rather than a SWOT analysis, look inward, broaden your view and focus on what you can’t control that could impact your business. Stay on top of trends, technology advances, economic drivers, environmental concerns and political dynamics. Then consider what Ms. Connelly describes as wild card events, such as 9/11 or the 2013 earthquake in Japan. Those events have an immediate impact and have to be considered in real-time.

One approach is to exhaust the “what if?” questions. Take a look at your business from 10,000 feet. Ask all the questions about things beyond your control. And employ scenario planning. Look at your assumptions and question them. CEOs and owners who have the peer advantage are surrounded by others who will help them do that. They can uncover each other’s blind spots and help each other see things more clearly.

The chapter then dives into a number of examples where CEOs and owners were able to seize opportunities. It’s not just about dealing with problems. Improved vision helps us spot opportunities, too. There are solid stories of groups that helped each other see and examine opportunities that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The final part of the chapter shows how peer advantage can improve vision to allow members to see things more globally. We’re all prone to silo ourselves. We occupy our space, our industry. We run with folks who also operate in our space. It can restrict our point of view and narrow our field of vision. But through peer advantage we can truly see and understand how all the different sectors of industry interface with one another and how connected we all really are.

The chapter’s summary reminds us of how our parents hoisted us up on their shoulders to give us a better view when we were too small to see clearly. That elevated height enabled us to see. In a peer advisory group we stand on the shoulders of our peers who help us see better than we ever could by ourselves. They lift us up so we can get a better view.

The trust and mutual respect you share in such a group give you permission to challenge one another’s assumptions, see opportunities where others may just see problems, exchange ideas that may be common place in one industry, but unheard of in another.

A peer group meeting is a place where you can think like a futurist and plan for the best or worst with agility. The peer advantage can help you work on the right things. The chapter ends with this sentence, “Now you just have to find the right peers with whom you can share your aspirations.”

I hope THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network can provide that experience for you. Find out more by visiting

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 9) #5011

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 9) #5011

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 9) #5011

We’re coming toward the end of the book, THE POWER OF PEERS by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary. Today we’ll summarize chapter 9, “The Advantage Of Individual Growth.” There are just 3 chapters remaining, including chapter 9.

The chapter begins with the sad, but hopeful story of Jay Steinfeld, the founder and owner of In 1985 Jay was forced out of his VP of Finance role when his employer was acquired by a multinational company. His wife, Naomi, had started a mom-n-pop drapery and blind business. Together they worked from a storefront and visited customers in their own homes.

Jay launched a website in 1993 that was just an online billboard for the store, but in 1996 he launched an e-commerce site, A year later Naomi was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was in and out of remission for a few years. In 2001 the brick and mortar store and the e-commerce site had a handful of employees and both enterprises were equally profitable. Jay was working 6 days a week, then handling paperwork on Sundays. But in 2002 he lost his partner and wife (and mother of their three children).

After 26 years of marriage and a number of years in business together…Jay was alone.

He started reading self-help and philosophy books. He was looking for answers. He learned that his life had been a mixed bag of both pain and happiness.

In 2004 he launched About a year or so later he realized if he was ever going to grow the company he’d benefit from the advice and help of other business owners or CEOs. So in 2005 he joined a paid peer advisory group.

Jay’s peer advisory group helped him realize he couldn’t do it all. Being CEO did not mean being the Chief EVERYTHING Officer. He knew the blinds business, but he had a lot to learn about being a CEO. Over time his group helped him learn and grow. He worked hard, made the improvements necessary to grow and scale the business at

What began with a $1500 investment grew over 20 years to become the world’s number one online window covering store with over $150 million in annual revenues. won high praise as a top place in Houston (and in Texas) to work. Jay remarried in 2013, then in 2014 was acquired by Home Depot.

By taking a leap of faith to engage with other business owners and CEOs Jay was able to change his frame of mind and grow. He learned to delegate and focus instead on strategy. He learned with the help of his peer group how to become a CEO. He learned what it meant to be a good (even great) CEO. Ten years later Jay still remains a dedicated member of his CEO peer advisory group.

A good peer advisory group will challenge your worldview, give you pause for reflection and help you develop as a leader while growing as a person.

CEO Groups As A Mechanism For Individual Growth

The authors report that individual growth was a hot button for every peer advisory group leader and member they interviewed. Without individual growth they realized that change and positive outcomes that result from it don’t happen. For growth to happen, individuals have to change who they are and who they are being. It’s about personal transformation.

Generally we hold beliefs about ourselves and about how to survive and thrive in life. Most of these are formed early in our life. Over time, leaders who participate in peer advisory groups begin to identify  and recognize those beliefs through their interactions with other members. And members realize that foundational beliefs that once served them may not longer serve them. It’s the beliefs themselves that are self-limiting.

Robert Fritz, known for his study of the way structural relationships impact behavior, believes most of us hold two contrary beliefs that limit our ability to create what we really want — powerlessness and unworthiness. He says he’s only met a handful of people who don’t have one or the other of those beliefs. It’s these beliefs that hold us back no matter what role we serve in an organization. That includes the CEO or owner.

Once peer group members become aware of these and other self-limiting beliefs, they can choose to hold onto them, or to believe something different.

Many CEOs find it valuable to identify beliefs that once served them, but don’t anymore. A peer advisory group can help them face their fears which include the fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being wrong, fear of not being in control. Awareness and choices empower us to choose different actions to get different results. Great group members and leaders can observe and offer feedback. It’s sharing perceptions. It’s not about who is right, and who is wrong. It’s identifying how members are showing up in a given situation.

You can’t separate work from personal. Our lives are intertwined. We’re human. There’s no such thing as a purely business issue. With every business issue is some fear, anxiety and risk. And emotion.

All business issues have some personal aspect to them. And all personal issues have the potential to affect you professionally. That’s why personal issues frequently come up in peer advisory groups. CEOs will discuss their challenges with drug addicted children, marriage risks, family members who are dying, grief over the loss of a loved one or a health issue. Just because a person is a leader or owner doesn’t mean they’re immune to the human condition. We all share in life’s problems.

Our natural inclination is to look good in front of our peers. It’s not that we need to look good. It’s that we want to.

We want to share our good sales or profit numbers. We want to share our good news. But when life isn’t so good, we often want to hide. Or downplay it.

The willingness to be vulnerable and bring an issue before the group, good or bad – personal or professional, is where the real value is found. Members can get a 10x to 100x ROI from their group experience. It’s not about tips, techniques or things many might think are most valuable. You can get those, but those may only garner a 3x to 10x ROI. When you operate at the human level and you bring your whole self, you’ll get a much higher ROI from your peer advisory group experience. That’s the way to growth.

The chapter then goes into some details for which they were granted permission to share. Owners and CEOs who credit their peer advisory group with helping them achieve significant growth and success. They tell the story of Jane who took her Texas-based trucking business from $5 million to $25 million because of her commitment to learn and grow. Her group helped her acquire the confidence she lacked when she first arrived. It resulted in helping her hire better and in her willingness to be held accountable. She credits her success to the growth she achieved thanks to her group.

Another story involves a group member who confessed he didn’t have long to live. It was a big moment for everybody in the group as you’d imagine. It was emotional, but it forced every member to consider their own lives. They helped their dying friend through the most difficult time of his life. Members report how it impacted their lives – a lot of personal growth for each of them. Everybody had to get real, look in the mirror and consider their own affairs. Not merely financial and legal affairs, but their personal and relationship affairs.

That same group endured the death of a member’s child. One member’s son died from a drug overdose. Many members had experienced drug addiction in their families. They got through it together.

Then there are the individual stories of CEOs or owners who had to learn to grow into the job with the help of their peer advisory group. CEOs and business owners aren’t necessarily born. We have to learn the skills and mindset necessary for success. Peers can serve to accelerate that learning.

Sometimes we need to learn trust. A story is told of a CEO who, during the economic downturn in 2009, learned (thanks to his group) that his 35-year-old company was 6 weeks away from a cash flow crisis, putting the entire company at risk. About 80 employees relied on the company for their means of support. The CEO had most of his net worth tied up in the company. It was all about to slide off the cliff.

The group pulled together a tiger team (a smaller group of members from within the larger group) together. They literally went into his company at his invitation to help him cut costs…more than he ever though possible. Today, the company is thriving and cash flow positive (massively so). The owner is living a dream life, but he had to transform. He had to trust people. He had to connect. He had to be respectful. When he had first joined the group, he’d had multiple heart attacks. The business had only been marginally profitable. He was an autocratic micromanager.

There are more compelling stories of CEOs and business owners who – thanks largely to their peer advisory groups – learned the things that had previously held them back. From letting go to delegating. From lack of confidence to fear of being wrong. From working all the time to leveraging the work they most enjoy (and were good at). From not believing something was possible to seeing it realized.

Largely the chapter is about members of paid peer advisory groups coming together so each member can learn to overcome the beliefs and ideas that may be holding them back. Much of it is about possibility thinking. We can all use help in seeing the possibility where at first we may have thought it was impossible.

It’s about constant, ongoing learning. It’s about our willingness to constantly question and stretch our thinking, which drives our choices and actions. It’s the truth of the adage that what got us here, won’t get us there.

Growing challenges the bounds of our current thinking. There’s no such thing as personal or business. It’s personal AND business. If you’re open to learning from your colleagues, the first thing you discover is that growing your organization starts with growing YOU. Organizational growth won’t happen without our personal growth. Peer advantage isn’t fully realized without it.

THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network is designed to help just 14 SMB owners change their lives…and their businesses. These charter members will be able to experience the things depicted in this chapter. Personal, individual growth – which will fuel their business growth. By now you should more easily see the financial return on such an investment. I’ve spent years coaching leaders one-on-one helping them discover the 10x or higher ROI when there are just two of us sitting down together. Let’s put 7 owners together with me serving as the smart guide and it’s not surprise that owners may be able to experience an ROI they never thought possible. As the stories in chapter 9 show us…much of the personal, individual growth is priceless. It’s beyond measurement using decimals or dollar signs. Whether it’s helping a CEO tackle a cash flow problem, or helping a member through the grief-stricken days of the death of a child…the peer advantage is a powerful resource that only the best and brightest seem to fully understand and embrace. I hope you’re among them. Click here if you’d like to apply or learn more.

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 8) #5010 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 8) #5010

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 8) #5010 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Chapter 8 is “Be Accountable.”

The chapter begins with a story of Pete, a cofounder and CEO of InstaViser and also a member of the 2000 and 2004 Olympic U.S. Men’s eight rowing team. He knows about winning and accountability. In his sport the team members are literally in the same boat.

Pete told the authors about the 2000 Olympics. The team was undefeated during the Olympic cycle leading up to the games. They were heavy favorites to win the gold, but they finished 5th. No medal at all. Some members of the team would be too old to compete in 2004. It was a dreadful experience for them.

Looking ahead to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, some of the athletes decided not to compete. Some were married and had kids. Others wanted to avoid going through another four years with the possibility of repeating an awful experience. Pete said a few of them decided to stick with it though. They knew they needed to band together in order to be leaders for the upcoming team members. Three members of the 2000 team competed in the eights in 2004. During the months leading up to the games there was a lot of peer accountability among the three veterans. The younger members grew to rely on the leadership provided by the three, who would rotate leadership based solely on the organic need. They didn’t structure anything. They just did what needed to be done.

The veterans were on a mission to make sure they didn’t repeat the mistakes of Sydney. The goal was to win gold. In 2004 the U.S. men’s eight won gold decisively largely because they had embraced a culture of accountability.

What does accountability really mean?

It means different things to different people. There’s an emotional component of how people feel when being held accountable.

In early Greek civilization citizens would cast a vote by stepping on a stone; that’s how they’d account for themselves and demonstrate where they stood. Accountability doesn’t tend to be a favorite word because somewhere along the way it got a bad rap. People can think of it as punishment or mean spirited.

The authors discovered some things when they looked at the education system in Finland. Ranking among the very top in the world in reading, science and math, Finland’s education system emphasizes investment in professional development of teachers. The country spends very little money or time on measuring learning outcomes through standardized testing. They’ve created a culture where teachers accept responsibility for teaching their students. And they’re given the freedom to do it based on the needs of the individual school and students.

There is no word for accountability in the Finnish language. Instead, accountability has been described as “something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.” So it appears to have such a negative connotation that the language lacks any word to really describe it.

One CEO in a peer advisory group said this about accountability to his fellow members:

Do you realize that this is one of the few places where we can go to get support that comes across as unconditional love, unvarnished, with no other strings attached? There are few places where we can go in life where somebody doesn’t have an agenda, doesn’t want something from us. This is one of the few places where we can show up and hold one another accountable to keep that level of behavior in front of us at all times.

What CEO needs more accountability?

The authors say they have talked with enough CEOs through the years who declare they already have enough people to whom they feel accountable professionally. But, as the authors point out, there is an accountability dilemma. Former Vistage CEO Rafael Pastor created a CEO accountability model where the CEO is at the center. On top is the board. To one side are peers. To the other side are customers. Below are employees.

Rafael says CEOs are already being held accountable up, down and sideways. He calls that upward accountability, to the board or shareholders, as ENFORCED accountability. Goals and objectives are set for the CEO by those folks.

Employees hold the CEO accountable and he calls that EXPECTANT accountability based on what each group (employees, contractors, etc.) expect.

All CEOs have customers to whom they’re accountable. Rafael calls them ELUSIVE accountability because customers are fickle so you’d better be sharp and give them what they want.

These 3 types of accountability are imposed on the CEO. That’s why some CEOs may resist adding still more accountability to their lives. But that brings us to what Rafael calls the 4th type of accountability, EMPATHETIC. That’s the accountability provided by peers. It’s the type that is missing because it’s completely voluntary. The other types of accountability are imposed.

Because peer accountability is voluntary it stands apart from the others. It helps CEOs deliver more effectively on the other three types. That’s why top performing CEOs don’t mind volunteering to add another dimension of accountability to the mix.

A professional peer advisory group acts like a lab for personal and professional growth. Rafael noted, “Look, this is a place where you ought to try out as much stuff as you can and it is totally okay to fail; better to fail in here before you show up to the board.”

Shapiro and Bottary, coauthors of the book, cite an example of a CEO who was encouraged to give a board presentation to her peer group first. She rejected the idea at first, but finally agreed. It was an ambition presentation she was going to deliver to her board requiring a $55 million investment to build a container center at the port.

She delivered the presentation to her peer group. They tore it to pieces. It was aggressive and impersonal. With her permission they offered suggestions on improving it. She was taken aback, but grateful.

At the next meeting she reported that her board told her it was the best presentation they’d seen. When they asked her how she did it, she credited her peer advisory group. She trusted their judgment, made the necessary changes and delivered a successful presentation. Just one example of the power of peers.

When accountability gets personal

Walter and Debbie are architects. And married to each other. They started their business shortly after marrying. It began in a closet in the bedroom of their first home. Today, it’s a $30 million company. Walter has been a member of a professional peer advisory group for 8 years. During that time his group has seen him raise 3 daughters and grow his business.

The conversations have touched every area of his life. During one meeting he revealed that he’d done little to set up trusts for his three daughters, or to get his financial affairs in order. What if something happened to him? Or his wife, Debbie? What if something happened to them both?

Debbie always wanted to handle it, but Walter would drag his feet. But when Walter brought this up to his group, he agreed to follow their advice and get right on it. As the group continued to meet, Walter pushed it off claiming one excuse or another. The group was relentless though. They continued to raise the issue with him at every single meeting for nearly a year. Toward the end of the year they’d sent Walter emails saying they were going to bring tar and feathers to the next meeting if he refused to take the action he promised. They didn’t let him off the hook. Finally, he got his affairs in order, shared it with the group and they broke out in jubilant celebration.

A culture of accountability

Many CEOs and business owners can relate to Walter and the temptation to delay or put off certain things. We’ve all done it. Many times we put it off and put it off, then finally we do it only to wonder, “Why didn’t I do that a long time ago?”

This chapter cites the research of three experts who say there are 15 key reasons people put things off:

  1. Ignorance: “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.”
  2. Skill deficiency: “I don’t know how to do it.”
  3. Apathy (1): “I really don’t want to do this.”
  4. Apathy (2): “It really doesn’t make any difference if I put this off.”
  5. Apathy (3): “No one really cares whether I do this or not.”
  6. Apathy (4): “I need to be in the mood. I’m not.”
  7. Fixed habits (1): “But I’ve always done it this way and it’s hard to change.”
  8. Fixed habits (2): “I know I can pull this out at the last minute.”
  9. Fixed habits (3): “I work better under pressure.”
  10. Inertia: “I just can’t seem to get started.”
  11. Frail memory: “I just forgot.”
  12. Physical problems: “I couldn’t do it; I was sick.”
  13. Appropriate delays (1): “I’m just waiting for the best time to do it.”
  14. Appropriate delays (2): “I need time to think this through.”
  15. Appropriate delays (3): ” This other opportunity will never come again, so I can’t pass it up.”

In many cases, CEOs will delegate tasks they find uncomfortable, unpleasant or boring. In other situations though, when CEOs have to complete certain chores themselves, they can find the same reasons to procrastinate that everybody else does. Professional peer advisory groups can play a big role in helping CEOs take ownership and responsibility for getting the task completed.

Go back to Walter’s story. There were 2 aspects of his story that are important. One, the group truly cared about Walter and his family. He told the group it was important to him. That’s why it was important to the group that he follow through. Two, while it’s unusual that something that important would take a year to accomplish, it shows that the culture of accountability requires more than a single follow-up. When the task was completed, the entire group rejoiced, proving to Walter that they were all on his side.

Making accountability a positive

Leaders can find it difficult to hold people accountable. Some of us sound like accusers because we’ve not been taught how to make accountability a positive. Instead, it often starts off with an accusation, “Why haven’t you done this?”

We’ve all learned that what gets measured gets done. What gets rewarded gets done better. But the intent of the tracking or measurement can make all the difference. For too many employees it feels like a stick and no carrot.

The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual And Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman define accountability as “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results: to see it, own it, solve it, and do it.” The authors who an above the line and a below line metaphor.

Below the line thinking and behavior is victim thinking. Above the line is accountability.

Steps to accountability or above the line behavior include these four actions:

  1. See it. Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of the situation.
  2. Own it. Accept full responsibility for your contribution to the current experience.
  3. Solve it. Change the current reality by identifying and implementing solutions to your problem while being conscious of “below the line” behaviors if challenges present themselves.
  4. Do it. Fully commit to follow through with the solutions identified, especially when there is great risk in doing so.

Now, contrast that with victim thinking, or below the line behaviors:

  1. The ignore and deny stage: where you pretend there is no problem.
  2. The it’s not my job stage: when you’re aware there’s a problem, but you avoid involvement.
  3. The finger pointing stage: when you deny responsibility for bad results and shift the blame.
  4. The confusion/tell me what to do stage: when you avoid responsibility by claiming confusion.
  5. The cover your tail stage: when you create stories about why you’re not responsible and show not be blamed.
  6. The wait and see stage: when you know there’s a problem that requires action and you choose to not act in hope things will magically improve.

Greg Bustin, author of the book Accountability: The Key To Driving A High-Performance Culture, identified 7 pillars upon which you can build a culture of accountability:

  1. Character
  2. Unity
  3. Learning
  4. Tracking
  5. Urgency
  6. Reputation
  7. Evolving

Accountability starts with the character of the person. Then it’s about making sure the bonds created among group members are strong, but don’t interfere with a member’s responsibility. Social interactions are wonderful, but at the end of the day you’re there as a peer to give feedback.

Being open to learn is another component. Members have to be coachable, willing and eager to learn and improve.

Urgency is more about focus than speed. It’s about priorities, putting first things first.

Reputation is what you earn when you display strong character over time.

Greg offers a quote he once read about Babe Ruth. “Yesterday’s runs don’t win today’s games.” That’s what evolving is all about. It’s about getting better.


Over time member in a professional peer advisory group will come and go for a variety of reasons. But it’s important for the group to grow. The culture and experience of the group accumulates leaving a legacy. Many professional peer groups have a 3 month lead time for departures for that very reason. Members need time to say good-bye and thank you. We need time to seize the opportunities of leaving a legacy in our quest to get better.


Peer influence is individual. Peer advantage is a group endeavor powered by greater selectivity, targeted strategies for achieving goals and structured engagement that inspires lasting results.

That’s precisely the objective of THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network. I’m currently accepting applications for membership in two groups of 7 SMB owners from around the United States. Each group will meet online via a video conferencing platform, making it easy and convenient for members to attend. We’ll meet for 2 hours twice a month. One group will meet in the morning and the other will meet in the afternoon. Members will join one group or the other. You can visit for more details and to complete the application. I hope you’ll do it today.

The next time we’ll dive into Part 3 of the book – Leading With Peer Advantage – when we tackle chapter 9, “The Advantage Of Individual Growth.”

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