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!


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

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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Thank you!

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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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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 7) #5009

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 7) #5009

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 7) #5009

Chapter 7 is entitled, “Foster Valuable Interaction.”

The book has already chronicled some stories of CEOs and business owners sharing their story with a peer group. In each case, the group provided support and encouragement. Members of a peer advisory group must believe that sharing their issues – sharing their story – will result in a positive outcome. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how safe or confidential the setting may be, they’re not likely to open up to the group.

Sometimes sharing our story is simply about engaging in dialogue with others with no expectation of reaching a decision. We just need to be heard. That’s a positive outcome.

Still sometimes we want a fresh perspective and guidance. We want to make a great decision and the feedback from others can help us achieve that positive outcome.

Defining valuable interaction

The authors define this in terms of a conversation where all participants are engaged. Everybody understands what’s being discussed, and are prepared to ask insightful questions that inspire focus and clarity for everybody. Everybody learns something valuable because they’re all involved in the conversation.

Skilled discussion

These are defined as a way of talking that leads to decisions. A skilled discussion is aimed at looking at a situation to separate good ideas from bad ones in hopes of letting the best ideas bubble to the top. If a discussion lacks a process, or the discipline, it can devolve into members just tossing out ideas, sharing thoughts and trying to sell their ideas. Effective peer advantage is found when members engage in some rigorous thinking with mutual respect so all the options can be weighed.

As you might imagine, these discussions don’t happen by accident. There is a process that will help optimize. Some real-life examples to help us do that come from the Blue Angels and the Navy Seals. They give us a framework for skilled discussions that can used by CEOs or business owners worldwide.

Blue Angels post-flight debrief

Everybody is equal in the debrief. That creates a safe environment for honest conversation. Rank, age and experience are non-factors during the debrief. Everybody is encouraged to be as candid as possible. People’s lives depend on it.

The pilots take turns talking about what they did well and they identify specific mistakes they made during the flight. They call those mistakes “safeties.” That means they’re safety problems or violations. Each pilot identifies their own safeties, but they also commit to the entire squadron that those errors will be fixed the next time they fly. Each pilot concludes his remarks by saying, “Glad to be here.” That tradition refers to their gratitude for being a member of the Blue Angels. They know other pilots are deployed around the world serving our country, making it possible for them to be part of an elite flying team.

After each pilot takes a turn, he gets critiques from two members of the team who are assigned to specifically observe and assess the flight from the ground. They share their perspective. Reviewing video of the flight, they watch and rewatch specific maneuvers to get a complete picture of the performance. The goal is to improve the performance for next time.

Other members offer the team their observations about the non-flight parts of the performance. These include things like the pilot’s salute and his march to and from the aircraft. This debriefing process is simple, but it ensures that every detail of the performance is covered.

Today, former Blue Angel pilot John Foley works with companies on continuous improvement. He uses the principles he learned while flying with the elite team. Foley says that what separates the Blue Angels from other great teams is the unique combination of attitude, habits, and worldview. Here’s how he summarized the difference:

The Blue Angels share a mindset, a special way of looking at the world and seeing the potential for success that is often hidden behind the obstacles and difficulties of daily life.

The Blue Angels create a culture of excellence that surrounds, supports and nourishes them.

The Blue Angels transcend expectations; they continually improve, innovate, and seek higher levels of performance. 

Foley says the biggest excuse companies make for not employing a debrief is that it takes too much time. He believes if it would become a habit though, it would actually save time because it would prevent people from repeatedly making the same mistake. Sort of reminds me of that phrase, “If you don’t have time to do it right, then when will you have the time to do it over?”

Navy Seals’ after-action reviews

Former Navy Seal Brandon Andrews goes around the country sharing the principles and practices of the Navy Seals with business leaders. For Seals there are two kinds of “after actions.” Informal and formal. Informal reviews are largely to critique individual training runs and formal reviews are reserved for larger training exercises or important missions. The formal reviews involve the larger leadership team and are documented for the benefit of future platoons.

The informal review is structured around 3 basic questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What’s going to be done to get it fixed for the next time?

After-actions are happening constantly for the Seals. It happens thousands of times because the teams may do 40 – 50 runs a day and the reviews happens each one. The team gathers quickly to review without the need for any write-ups. It’s just a constant focus on continuous improvement.

The leader of the informal review helps navigate the conversation to answer those 3 important questions. Usually, the leader sets the example by giving his perspective and critiquing himself. The mission and the team come first. By humbling himself in front of the men, everybody feels more comfortable to make sure nothing gets left unsaid.

The philosophy of these sessions is powerful. “Let’s all take note of it so no one else makes that mistake, and we don’t have to worry about that ever again.”

The formal after-action reviews are directed by the leader with the most situational awareness of the mission or training run. That person creates a detailed, often chronological agenda based on the nature of the mission or training. It may include a slide deck and other training aids. These sessions are formal because there’s a larger leadership presence in the group. The entire session is documented and plugged into a computer system where it’s available to anybody in the military. That’s so the learning can be shared as widely as possible.

Both the Blue Angels and the Navy Seals understand the power of optimizing these conversations. They devote the time to it because it’s invaluable to their work, and the work of others who can benefit from what they’re learning. Imagine a resource in your company where employees could benefit from the lessons learned by the employees who came before them.

Issue processing for CEOs

The authors review a process that’s been around since the 1950’s. It grew more popular in peer advisory groups in the 1970’s. It’s commonplace today.

CEOs or owners who bring a specific challenge to the group benefit from a formal process that guides the conversation. It’s a realtime case study as opposed to something historical. Too often the initial question addresses a symptom instead of the real challenge. The protocol goes like this…

  1. The issue is framed in a question that begins with the phrase, “How do I ________?”
  2. The group then asks clarifying questions
  3. The issue is then restated to make sure it’s accurate
  4. The issue is then reframed, if necessary, using the same “How do I ________?” question.
  5. Suggestions are offered
  6. Action is promised with a due date

It focuses on the person with the issue. The clarifying questions are asked without judgment or suggestion. Rather, they’re asked to seek deeper understanding of the issue. Sometimes the best question isn’t a question at all, but a request. “Tell me more about that.”

The objective is to get to the root of the issue to make sure the stated issue is THE real issue, not some other hidden one. Sometimes members find they’re asking the wrong question. That knowledge or awareness changes everything. It’s the power of deeper, more structured conversations. The authors cite some examples of this in the book. It’s enlightening when leaders discover how to more accurately view the issue. It’s a bit like trying to fix a problem that isn’t really the problem. Instead of putting a bandage on it the group seeks to find a more permanent remedy for the ailment.

As this chapter points out, the benefit isn’t merely to the person with the issue. The entire rooms benefits as members work through any single issue. Learning how to have these conversations engages members in learning how to approach issues. The shared conversation helps each member distill something they can use and apply to their own lives and businesses. Members may end the conversation with some statement of thanks, similar to the Blue Angels ending with “Glad to be here.”

At the conclusion the person with the issue decides for himself what action he’ll take. His intentions are noted and they’ll be revisited at the next meeting so a culture of accountability can be established and maintained. We’ll look at that in the next chapter, chapter 8

Variations on a theme

The issue processing protocol is a framework designed to slow people down to accurately think about what they don’t know and what they might need to know before making a decision. There are variations on how this can be done.

One is the fishbowl. This involves starting the conversation with a member and a small number of people inside the circle (the fishbowl) while the other members remain outside the bowl to listen and observe so they can gather data. After a time, those outside the bowl switch places with those inside. Often times the questions get better using this process. It also gives the person with the issue the opportunity to engage with a smaller group of folks in stages rather than working with the whole group at once.

Another approach is the fly on the wall. After clarifying questions have been asked and answered the member backs away from the conversation and sits silently to listen. The rest of the members engage in a no-holes-barred conversation about the issue and what’s really happening. No matter the comments, the member with the issue understands that this level of honest feedback is supremely rare. They also understand it comes from a place of real care and concern for the member’s welfare. After 20 minutes or so, the person with the issue rejoins the conversation. It provides a powerful way of helping the member look at some aspects of the situation that she may not have confronted during earlier meetings.

A third method involves dividing the group into different perspectives. This works well with larger groups. The group may be divided into 3 subgroups with each group tackling one aspect of the issue from a particular perspective. The groups gather independently from one another. The member with the issue doesn’t engage in the conversation but rather roams from room to room listening and observing. After a period of time, the entire group rejoins and each subgroup share their perspective. That way the entire group may have covered the issue from three different perspectives (for example, company, individual and family).

No matter what issue has been processed and no matter who brought it forth, sometimes the smart guide will end by asking the people in the group, “Okay, if you were the one who had to solve this problem, what recommendations would you give yourself?”

The four dimensions

When you combine emotional safety and confidentiality with an intellectual process designed to get at the heart of the issue and elicit honest advice from different perspectives, you create collegiality and a bond that enriches the total experience.*

*People sometimes ask me if I’m selling a product or service. In spite of the fact that I love selling and think it’s honorable, I’m really not selling anything. I’m inviting people to an experience! The experience is to become the member of a group unlike anything most people have ever experienced or had before – a group of their peers – people pursuing what they’re pursuing, business success as an owner. A group that will support, encourage and help them without reservation or expectation. A group that will provide the experience because that’s the entire purpose for their existence! To help each other grow and accelerate that growth, professionally and personally. A group where every single member has skin in the game and a full commitment to give as much and get as much as possible from the experience. That’s what THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network is all about. Visit to learn more and apply today. 

The four dimensions are intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. The authors quote Cecelia Wooden of the Hay Group who commented about the power of CEO peer advisory.

There’s certainly the intellectual dimension that is augmented by a group of smart people sharing different experiences and perspectives. The emotional dimension comes from feeling safe to be vulnerable. The camaraderie creates the social dimension, which I believe adds to a person’s multidimensionality. Finally, I would suggest that there’s a certain spirituality that occurs as a result of fully actualizing your peers, being able to not only emotionally connect with them, but also to have your core values expanded. I regard this as more spiritual than emotional. I’m not talking about religiosity, but spirituality. What is the spirit within me that has grown as a result of those core values, and how can I understand that spirit more? That’s even deeper than the emotional bonds that so often occur in such a group. The degree to which you can learn to look at yourself and your core values through a lens of others, and open yourself to whatever you believe, is amazingly powerful.

Next time we’ll dive into chapter 8, Be Accountable.

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 6) #5008 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 6) #5008

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 6) #5008 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Chapter 6 is Utilize A Smart Guide.

The authors admit they struggled to come up with a neutral, all-encompassing term for the person who is charged with leading a peer advisory group. The leader of an effective peer advisory group needs to be smart and seek the guide the group so they came up with the term smart guide.

The point of this chapter isn’t to teach somebody how to be a smart guide, but rather to allow members and prospective group members to gain insights into how these groups operate and why effective guidance is so critical to maximize the potential of the group.

A smart guide in action

Co-author Leon Shapiro begins the chapter with the story of a business owner – actually a co-owner with his brother – of a business that had recently discovered a serious inventory issue. The chairperson of the group had some insight about the relationship of the two co-owners, brothers. When the issue was brought before the group, the chairperson asked questions that prompted deeper discussions about how the two brothers approached running the business. By having a smart guide help navigate the discussion, the business benefited more fully from the support of the peer advisory group.

What does great peer advisory group leadership look like?

The challenge is simply stated – how can you help your members be at their best both inside and outside the group meeting, professionally and personally?

At the top of the list is having a passion for the work. The authors talk of a group leader named Pat who died in 2013 at the age of 98, still actively leading his groups. Many of the members had been with him for more than a decade. His passion was evidenced by remaining engaged in the work as he approached the century mark of life. The interesting note is that he didn’t start until he was 73. That means he enjoyed doing the work for almost 25 years. Pat regarded it as the most meaningful work of his life. He wasn’t just helping CEOs. He was helping create jobs, helping families buy houses, helping companies support non-profit causes – work that went well beyond the top or bottom line of a company’s performance.

Bula Network was formed when I left the C-suite after having run a company for almost 20 years. As Tom Petty sings, it was time to move and time to get going. Time for a new chapter. That was back in 2008. Mostly, I wanted to help other businesses by way of consulting. That morphed into coaching, which introduced me to the idea of peer advantage. Having never been involved in the formal work of peer advantage, it immediately clicked with me. I knew I was wired ideally for the work so I set about to learn all I could. That was over 2 years ago. 

That led to me connecting with Leo Bottary, a co-author of this book. Which led to me urging him to start his own podcast…which he did, YEAR OF THE PEER.

All the while I was desperately wanting to enter this space, even if in some small way. And to do it the way I felt was most suitable for the people I really wanted to serve – small to medium sized business owners. I’ve worked with many CEOs and executives, but there’s something unique about owners. They’re operators. They’re close to the work. They have a point-of-view that resonates with me. I’ve been in that world since I was young. My passions began to intersect – my passion for small to medium business coupled with my passion to help facilitate deep conversations where problem solving and taking advantage of opportunity could be enhanced. That’s how The Peer Advantage began…and why I’m now full-throttle ahead in seeking out SMB owners who want to experience the tremendous value of the peer advantage. 

The peer advantage resonated so deeply with me because if faced with door number 1, which I could enter and engage a room full of hundreds of people, many of whom are famous and exciting…or door number 2, behind which are 7 complete strangers who will engage in deep conversation where we can get to know each other…I’m picking door number 2 every single time! That also explains why I’m not attempting to build larger groups…I want to form groups of just 7 so conversations and progress can happen more quickly and relationships can be forged that will positively impact every member of the group. 

Servant leadership

In addition to passion, another common component of effective peer group leaders – aka smart guides – was servant leadership. Robert Greenleaf coined that term in 1970 in his essay, “The Servant Leader.” Leo interviewed Kent Keith who served as CEO from 2007-2012 of what is now called the Robert K. Greenleaf Center. Kent told Leo how servant leadership came to be.

Mr. Greenleaf worked at AT&T before retiring after 38 years in 1964. Toward the end of his career he was director of management research, training senior leaders for the company. After he retired he concluded that the power culture of leadership he had known at AT&T didn’t work well. He saw a better way – servant leadership. In his model the employees weren’t there to make the leader successful, but the leader was there to provide resources and guidance to help the employees be successful.

Today experts in leadership recognize the important shift Greenleaf made. As Kent said, “Most servant leaders are only known within their organizations and communities. They are not trying to be famous, they are trying to make a difference – and they do.”

Being a good listener

Take passion, add to it the servant leadership spirit and let’s add to it being a good listener. That means more than hearing the words. It requires the ability to hear and understand what’s being said. You can best know what someone’s true needs are when you’re able to listen and understand them.

Great questions and fierce conversations

Let’s pile on another component – the ability to get to the heart of somebody’s needs. That requires asking good, even great questions. Susan Scott wrote a book entitled, “Fierce Conversations.” In the book she describes the 7 steps to fierce conversations.

  1. determining the most pressing issue
  2. clarifying the issue
  3. reviewing the current impact
  4. deciding what will happen if nothing changes
  5. determining one’s personal contribution
  6. describing the ideal outcomes
  7. committing to action

In chapter 7 of THE POWER OF PEERS we’ll learn more about how to ask good questions.

Reaching your own conclusions

The best group leaders think of themselves as coaches, not consultants. Consultants are problem-solvers who recommend solutions while coaches help you reach your own conclusions. My career over the past decade has morphed from consulting to coaching so this progression to becoming what the authors call “a smart guide” is fitting for my experience, expertise and natural wiring.

There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that whenever we employ a solution, a decision, a plan or anything else that we conclude ourselves…we’re more likely to follow through and be successful implementing it. That sense of ownership of a solution is important.

Relationship building

The best smart guides have an ability to help group members build relationships. The authors cite a story of a peer group leader who conducted a meeting, but 3 days later one of the members had a crucial issue arise. He called her fretting about having to wait another month until the next meeting. She asked him what he wanted to do and he said he’d like to get with a few of the members who he felt might most be able to help him. He asked her if she could help make that meeting happen and she suggested he contact those members directly. The point wasn’t her role, but the member’s need and his ability to forge ahead, even without her (the group leader). The members have a relationship with each other when a smart guide performs well.

A passion for the work

Passionate leaders have an impact on people. Just think about the people, like teachers, who have had the biggest impact on you. We’re attracted to and more deeply engaged by passionate people. We can tell when people love what they do and are really into it.

The group leadership structure

You may tend to think that a peer advisory group leader is at the center of it all, standing in front of or in the middle of the group. But the leaders the authors spoke with said you can’t lead a peer group that way. At least not for very long. The ideal group structure isn’t one that puts the focus on the leader, but where the attention is on the members and their interaction with one another.


The best smart guides aren’t at the head, but they’re among the group. They’re part of the group. The authors have a diagram of a triad where the smart guide, a member and the group are at the three corners holding the relationship in the middle. Triads become essential for effective communication.

The smart guide insures that the group understands what’s going on and what’s being said. And the smart guide has the back of the relationship.

Everything can’t go through the leader though if the group is going to stay together. Sustaining the group requires a smart guide to help insure that every member and the entire group bear responsibility for holding up their part of the relationship.

Reinforce group norms

The leader can’t be wishy washy. A measure of assertiveness is required to maintain the group norms and insure the group culture is positive – enforcing things like confidentiality and safety. Developing a shared understanding of expectations and responsibilities is an essential part of the smart guide’s responsibility.

Creating an atmosphere for learning

Group meetings can be serious tackling some pretty heavy issues. Smart guides reported the importance of interjecting some fun at times. You may think that business owners or CEOs wouldn’t appreciate it, but that’s not true. This is their time out of the office to work on their business…and to have a bit of fun, too.

Smart guides create different ways to interject fun into their group meetings. One group leader mentioned creating a wall space where group members could hang anything of interest they had come across since the last meeting. They could celebrate their findings together. They also celebrated milestones including birthdays or anniversaries. It brought the group closer together.


True smart guides lead with a guiding hand of a servant leader. They listen, ask good questions, build camaraderie, consider themselves coaches rather than consultants and wear their passion for the role on their sleeves.

In the next chapter – chapter 7 – armed with the right peers, a safe and confidential environment, and excellent guidance, the authors will explore what’s behind the power of these groups and how peer advantage becomes possible.

Are you a small to medium business owner who finds all this talk of The Peer Advantage intriguing? Then please email me at RandyCantrell [at] BulaNetwork [dot] com. If you can see the value of being surrounded by other business owners who are committed to growing their companies and their leadership, then I’d like to speak with you to learn more about you and your company.

Thanks for listening and next time we’ll tackle chapter 7 entitled, Foster Valuable Interaction.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 5) #5007 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 5) #5007

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 5) #5007 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE


Today’s episode is brought to you by THE PEER ADVANTAGE, peer advisory groups by Bula Network. The Peer Advantage is a group of just 7 SMB owners from around the United States coming together regularly by way of an online video conferencing platform. It’s convenient, easy and cost effective. Email me at RandyCantrell [at] BulaNetwork [dot] com if you’d like to learn more.

The chapter begins with the story of two sons who have agreed to a 10 year buyout of the family business from their father. They pay off the debt in 5 years, but dad is still hanging around, drawing a salary, pitting one brother against the other and dragging things out because he’s not ready to let go despite the agreement. The tension between them all is negatively impacting the family and the business. Who can these sons talk with? Where can they go to have a safe, private and confidential conversation about it?

They need to handle this problem or their business and family may implode. But the level of trust involved for the kind of dialogue they need to have requires an environment where each participant can be totally vulnerable yet completely safe. Environments that afford complete safety are rare – nonexistent for many of us.

For these brothers, the safe environment of their peer advisory group offered them the support and encouragement they needed to help them confront their father. When they did, their dad got angry, but a week later he realized they were completely right. He was simply afraid to let go. He stepped away from the business, easing the family tension and giving the sons the freedom to nearly triple sales over the next 24 months.

Fighting off caveman mentality

Vulnerability equaled weakness in caveman days, which resulted in death. So for many people, being vulnerable isn’t a good thing. Brene Brown, author of the book Daring Greatly, talks about the myth of vulnerability. One myth is that vulnerability is weakness. During her research, Brown asked subjects to finish the sentence: “Vulnerability is ___________.” Sample responses included starting a business, having faith and admitting to being afraid of something. Brown says vulnerability sounds like the truth and feels like courage.

It’s about being courageous and telling the truth. Sadly, too many people regard sharing a messy problem, not knowing the answer to a question, or demonstrating a lack of competence in a particular discipline as a sign of weakness, and fear they’ll be judged or ridiculed. Member of a peer advisory group have to learn and understand they can be vulnerable without dying or being judged.

Beyond overcoming our fear of being judged, there’s another challenge to creating a safe environment. There are very few safe places in our society for true vulnerability. We live in a world of constant, almost instant judgment. It’s especially true for CEOs and business owners. Letting your guard down is tough because it requires you to consider that this new environment – the peer advisory group setting – is different from anything you’ve ever experienced before. You may believe when you join such a group that the members are asking you to trust first, then you’ll get trust in return. The good news is the opposite is true. It’s likely during the first meeting that somebody will share a personal story and you’ll quickly realize it’s the first time that member has ever told it out loud. The group is ahead of you. The water is fine.

Group norms

After building trust, people can have faith in the sincerity and depth of other members’ caring. That’s what allows members to effective challenge each other to grow. If you’re a judger instead of a learner, it’s unlikely you’ll feel comfortable in such a group. Learners are ideally suited to benefit from participating in a peer advisory group.

All members of the group comply with the group’s norms. There’s a consensus that confidentiality is critical and key. A dedicated onboarding is essential for exercising your vulnerability muscles.

The value of onboarding

The authors interviewed dozens of peer advisory group leaders to discover the shared best practices for onboarding. The first and most important step is to engage the members as equal. New members feel welcomed as equal partners and now understand they’re part of a group that values them and cares about their personal and professional growth.

Additionally, the new member gets a written profile on each of the other members before the first meeting. These profiles tend to offer more details about the group members than what may have been shared with the new member before joining. Every member will take a few minutes during the first meeting to talk about who they are, how long they’ve been in the group, and the biggest value they’re getting from the group. Group members are also encouraged to reach out to new members outside of the group meeting.

Members are often asked to share stories about their lives and identify any weaknesses they may have. The objective is to inspire questions and invite dialogue. That creates open conversation where members can feel free to share anything they’d like.

To have safety, you have to build trust

Jim Kouzes, author of The Leadership Challenge, says if you want to build trust, everybody needs to feel the same level of vulnerability. One way to accomplish that is through self-disclosure. When members share who they are, where they came from – and go back as far into their childhoods as they’d like – the group learns about who they are as people, and it fosters others to share more about themselves, too. By divulging high points and low points members learn that they’re not so different from one another. It creates more trust.

Vulnerability rewarded

Scot Dietz is “head cheese” (his real title) at 3 Blind Mice Window Covering in San Diego was experiencing gang buster sales. In 2006 he was recognized as the second-fastest growing business in the region by the San Diego Business Journal. That’s when he joined a peer advisory group because despite his success, he believed joining a group would expose him to people who could help him get his business to whole new level. When the recession hit, it impacted Scot’s business hard. He suffered 34% decreases in sales, followed by more decreases. His company was sinking going from a $5.5 million company to a $1.2 million company in the span of just 3 years.

He admitted to his group that he was drowning. He asked his group members if he should file for bankruptcy. The group went further than that. One of the members invited Scot to operate out of a space he and his wife had available – free of charge for six months. They offered to charge him $500 monthly for the 6 months after that, then to raise the rent to market rates following that. Scot went from paying $8000 a month in rent to zero. That allowed him to get his business on track. Today his business is stronger than ever. The group was there for him as he worked his way back. The group’s value to Scot is priceless.

Safety inspires openness

Scot’s problems caused him to open up, not shut down. That made the difference in getting the help he needed from his group.

Issues don’t have sides, they have dimensions that go beyond facts. When members open up there’s greater clarity about the issue. And the group can get to the root of the problem.

The dangers of missteps

Members make mistakes. That’s why the group and its leader try to avoid missteps. An example of a misstep is a member being disrespectful in response to comments from another member. That can cause the disrespected member to shut down and not share in the future. But it can also serve to put other members on guard. If the misstep isn’t addressed immediately, the group dynamic can be forever damaged. Repeated acts of such disrespect to others would necessitate dismissal of that member from the group.

No single member is more important than the group. The authors research revealed that such dismissals are rare. Member of peer advisory groups tend to understand and comply with group culture and norms.

Besides, a single misstep doesn’t necessarily spoil the group, as evidenced by a story Jim Kouzes told about his colleague and co-author Barry Posner. Barry was leading a workshop where he was getting people to do the “trust fall” exercise. In 30 years of doing that they had never seen anybody get hurt. People tend to do what they’re supposed to. One day a participant asked Barry, “Professor Posner, why don’t you do the trust fall?” He’d done it many times before so he told them instead of falling over he would lie on the ground underneath and take a picture of everybody catching each person as they fell. He warned the catchers that if they failed the person would fall right on top of him. Everybody agreed it was a great idea.

So Barry got down on the ground, aimed his camera up at the person standing on the stepladder about 3 or 4 feet off the ground. The participant fell over backward, but for some reason the catcher didn’t catch. The person landed right on Barry. The faller wasn’t hurt but Barry lost his breath momentarily.

People were shocked. Later Barry learned he had cracked a few ribs. The folks in the crowd told him, “We bet you don’t ever do that again.” After a minute Barry said, “Actually, I will. I think this has taught us something very important. There are really just two rules when it comes to trust. Rule number one is: you have to keep working on trust and never take it for granted. Rule number two is: sometimes trust breaks down. So see rule number one.”


Being vulnerable is liberating. If you want to get everything you can out of a peer advisory group, or any relationship, regard vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness. According to author Brene Brown, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Chapter 6 will cover the third of the five factors – the role of the group leader and why an effective leader is the lynchpin of peer advantage. That chapter is entitled, Utilize A Smart Guide.

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A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 5) #5007 Read More »

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 4) #5006 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 4) #5006

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 4) #5006 - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Chapter 4 of THE POWER OF PEERS begins Part 2 of the book, The Five Factors For Peer Advantage. Chapter 4 is on the first of these, “Select The Right Peers.”

Surrounding yourself with the right people is essential to peer advantage. Peer advantage doesn’t come cheaply, but if you’re in the right group where you share strong values, set clear goals and commit yourself to the other members by giving and receiving — there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.

“How will I identify which peers can really help me?” is the question you must ask and answer. You should look beyond mere credentials and titles. Think about how you approach hiring an employee. You look for people who have certain skills, but you’re also critical of how well they’ll fit into your culture. The same thing is true of your peer group. Good groups share a set of beliefs in pursuit of common goals. There are 7 shared beliefs that are essential for a successful group.

The group is smarter than any one individual. 

You may not be the smartest person in the room, but if you’re the boss you may be treated that way. The collective experience in the room is greater than any individual in the room.

You may diminish your team if you always think you have to be the smartest guy in the room. Once you believe in the collective knowledge of the group, you can stop judging and start learning.

Leaders benefit from insightful questions and advice from their peers.

Hard questions can be asked in a group setting. Your fellow members care about your success, but without skin in the game they’re free to ask unfiltered questions, offer impartial advice and share experiences. Great questions and unfettered advice and feedback help members build trust and extend their relationships beyond the group meetings.

Leaders, regardless of industry, share aspirations and challenges. 

Common practices in one industry might be unheard of in another one. Sharing ideas and practices across industries can be powerful for CEOs and business owners.

People prefer to implement their own solutions.

There’s a difference between what you get from a consultant and what you get from a group of peers. Both can be valuable, but when you get recommendations from a consultant you’re left to implement their ideas. When you get insights and experiences from a group of peers you’re challenged to learn from your colleagues and make a commitment to develop and implement your own solutions. CEOs and business owners who own a particular strategy and implement it are more committed to be successful with it.

Success is often the best teacher. 

When something works, you’re more inclined to adopt it or stick with it. Until then you may not trust it.

Success can fuel our willingness to change. Listening to and engaging in a peer group can fuel success when people are open to the strengths found in others.

Peer accountability is a powerful force.

This is a force we all experienced from the time we started school. Teachers understood it, too – what with their carrot and stick approach. Teachers shined a light on the good students while punishing poor behavior. In business, admission of failure to colleagues that you failed them is the toughest admission of all. The respect of your colleagues is your greatest currency. You want to be regarded as somebody will do what they say. It’s a culture of accountability found in a peer group.

Shared beliefs are necessary if the group is going to engage in open and honest exchanges, creating a confidential and safe environment for sharing. If you have what it takes, then you’re on your way to realizing the peer advantage.

Shared goals are also important. What do you want to accomplish? If you want to run marathons you know to surround yourself with others who want the same thing. THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network is designed to serve SMB owners who want to grow their business and their own lives as business owners. That necessarily means it’s not designed for non-owners, or owners who are satisfied. That’s how we make sure the conversations are congruent with every member of the group.

How will you know if you’re in the right group?

Your group will let you know. By their very nature peer groups provide honest and direct feedback. If you’re apprehensive about your interactions with the group, chances are they’re equally apprehensive about you. Typically, many CEO group leaders will do a 90-day check in with members to see how much value they’re getting – and to give feedback on their participation. Good communication is the glue that holds the group together.

It’s about giving and receiving. 

We can all fall into the trap of thinking we’re giving a lot more than we’re getting. When people embrace a different view – one that recognizes all the benefits we’re getting, as opposed to solely concentrating on what we feel we’re giving – then we can avail ourselves of the benefits of the peer advantage.

If you’re wondering if a peer advisory group is right for you, ask yourself if you believe in the true meaning of the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

That doesn’t mean you should give more than you receive. It means giving is receiving in more ways than one. In the context of a peer advisory group, if you’re prepared to give 100% of yourself to the group, you’ll get 6, 8, 16 times return from your colleagues – based on the number of members in your group. Each member will, be fully committed to you!


• A peer group is smarter than any one individual.
• Leaders benefit from insightful questions and impartial advice from their peers.
• People prefer to implement their own solutions. Mostly, we don’t want to be told what to do or how to do it.
• Success is the most effective means for driving positive behavioral change.
• Leaders, regardless of industry sector, share common aspirations and challenges.
• Leaders benefit from learning about industry practices not common to their own business.
• Peer accountability is a powerful force.

The value of your group is negotiated between you and your group members, based on a simple formula: the more you give, the more you receive.

My Calls To Action

  1. Seek out one or more people to connect with based on nothing more than what you feel you can do to serve them. No expectation on what you can get, just focus on what you can give.
  2. Let these ideas of sharing experiences, insights and expertise resonate with you. Keep thinking about what you can do for others and think about how much value they can offer your life (and your business).
  3. If you own a business – it doesn’t matter if you run a business that does $1 million a year or one that does $300 million a year – and you think a small, intimate virtual group that makes participating in a peer advisory group easy and convenient might bring value to YOU, then email me: RandyCantrell [at] BulaNetwork [dot] com.

Next time we’ll dive into Chapter 5 – Create A Safe Environment.

Thanks for listening,

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 4) #5006 Read More »

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