It baffles me that given how incredibly effective CEO Peer Advisory groups and forums have proven to be for so many for so long, they are utilized by too few. On one level, I get it. We celebrate the self-made man or woman. Books on self-help abound. We see asking for help as a sign of weakness instead of an act of resourcefulness. What we’re missing here, however, is that self-help doesn’t mean by-yourself-help. It never has, yet we cling to this idea that we can (and should) go it alone. Given this backdrop, let’s talk about the five fallacies people have about joining peer advisory groups and forums:
- I’ve come this far on my own, so why do I need a group now?
- If I needed help, what could I learn from people in the same position as me?
- I hold myself accountable. I don’t need others to do it for me.
- I won’t learn from people who are unfamiliar with my industry sector.
- My peers will give me unbiased advice.
Let’s take these one at a time.
I’ve come this far on my own, so why do I need a group now?
On your own? Really? You didn’t draw upon your parents, teachers, mentors, scholars, community leaders, business executives, or an infrastructure that makes what you do today possible? We are a product of our peers and the people who surround us in our lives. The more you think about it, the better you will understand it. The experience will resemble looking into a Colorado night sky, where the longer you stare, the more stars you’ll begin to see.
Peer Advantage, a term we coined in the book, The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success, is based on the idea that peer influence is a powerful force in our lives. It’s been that way for as long as we can remember, yet if we can be more intentional about the people we surround ourselves with, the greater the benefit. I suggest being more intentional about doing what you’ve already done for your entire life.
If I needed help, what could I learn from people in the same position as me?
If you are inclined to ask for help, you may believe that you should look up, not across – that you need to speak to people who have already experienced what you are going through. Makes perfect sense. Here’s the thing, though, looking up is great, yet you might be surprised to learn that you have peers with experiences that can be enormously helpful. It’s also worth noting that the world is changing fast. What was true yesterday may not be true today. Take it all in. Be sure not to miss the real-time insights your peers have to offer.
I hold myself accountable. I don’t need others to do it for me.
I might agree if New Year’s Resolutions didn’t have a 92% failure rate. The fact is, left to our own devices, it is the rare person with the self-discipline to persevere through self-motivation alone. If we were so awesome at it, the personal trainer profession would be one-tenth as large as it is. In 1976, Joe Henderson, former editor of Runner’s World, wrote a book titled, The Long Run Solution. In describing successful runners and people in general, he said that most of these people are not capable of superhuman feats; they do the things that anyone can do that most of us just don’t. If you make your goals public and enlist and engage the support of others, you’ll do the things anyone can do far more often.
I won’t learn from people who are unfamiliar with my industry sector.
Sure. What could these people possibly teach you? Turn out that you share more common challenges than you can imagine. The best part is that these challenges are often met differently based on the industry sector. Here’s an opportunity to become acquainted with practices that are commonplace in one industry and unheard of in yours. In some cases, I’ve seen such practices adopted in a way that not only met the challenge but served as an industry competitive differentiator. There’s something special about being part of a group of people where you grow to care about one another and ask each other the kinds of questions you stopped asking yourself years ago because that’s just how you do things in your business.
My peers will give me unbiased advice.
No, they won’t, but that’s a good thing. I want to make two points: 1) In this context, bias doesn’t connote prejudice; it refers to perspective. Everyone, based on their backgrounds, experiences, etc., brings their biases with them. For example, I will never look at the world through an engineering or finance lens, yet many CEOs are wired that way. The biases are among the big reasons you should join a group. The more transparent the biases, the better. 2) Groups that refer to your receiving unbiased advice do so to suggest you will receive impartial advice from peers who don’t have a personal stake in the outcome – a fair point, yet why not promote bias and impartiality, as they both deliver value.
We’re all looking for answers about how to navigate what’s next in this world. As I recommend to audiences to whom I deliver opening keynotes at conferences, I remind the attendees that their most significant assets at the event are not the keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, or event organizers; it’s the people next to them. They will be the ones who will help you go from forgetting 70% of the conference content to remembering 70% and sharing it with your team. Better yet, you may build a few lifelong relationships. It’s among the reasons CEOs should join groups, too.
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