Why 2016 will be the Year of the Peer!

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The world is changing and growing increasingly complex. Technology is being introduced at a faster pace than we can adopt it, and events halfway around the world can have immediate ripple effects here at home. In the face of all this rapid change, the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that institutional trust is at an all-time low. So if you’re leading a small to mid-sized company today, where do you turn? How will you meet the challenges of a future you can barely imagine? The good news is: We have each other.

It’s among the reasons that this year will be the year of the peer. CEOs, business leaders, and employees alike will turn to their peers to find the kind of help they simply won’t find anywhere else. Despite the fact that peer advisory groups in the U.S. can be traced back to Ben Franklin and Henry Ford, the time has come for peer advisory groups to become mainstream. There’s an African proverb that reads: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In today’s world, we’re not going to get very far at all, if we try to go it alone. There’s some evidence and good reasons for why this is essential and why it’s so timely.

“CEOs, business leaders, and employees alike will turn to their peers to find the kind of help they simply won’t find anywhere else”

Peer advisory groups are already popping up inside larger companies. These groups can serve as a mechanism for creating better alignment, improving employee engagement, and leveraging the additional investments companies are making today in employee training and professional development. CEOs will seek out other CEOs from outside their industry sectors to broaden their perspective and spend time working on their business rather than just in their business. What’s more, adult learners who’ve grown accustomed to working in peer groups in their undergraduate and graduate school programs will seek to continue the practice in the workplace in greater numbers.

Inside today’s larger companies, the use of peer advisory groups are precisely what CEOs and CHROs need to build great teams and maximize their ROI on executive development. The challenges inherent with the current executive development model are that most of the training that’s conducted tends to be episodic or event-oriented. Someone goes off to training and learns some interesting new concepts, only to return to the office to catch up on everything they missed while they were out. Without the time or the practice required to implement new learnings, old practices and tired behaviors win the day. What’s more, the training and the actual work of the company are often so poorly coordinated that measuring effectiveness is next to impossible. By collaborating with their peers, employees can work together as equals to address difficult challenges, identify market opportunities, and help each other adopt new behaviors and best practices they learned in training.

For CEOs of small to mid-sized companies, they will have to broaden their perspective if they expect to compete long-term. One highly effective way to do this is for CEOs to engage peers outside their industry sector, on a regular basis, where they can work together to meet difficult challenges and identify new opportunities. The diversity of the group, coupled with rich dialogue, fosters a safe environment for building trust and addressing complex issues. CEOs in these groups help each other arrive at their own solutions, and they create a culture of accountability to ensure successful implementation of their stated action items. Over time, during this repeated collaborative process, the participants become better listeners and better leaders. Successful outcomes lead to improved leadership behaviors and the cycle continues.

“For CEOs of small to mid-sized companies, they will have to broaden their perspective if they expect to compete long-term.”

So sure, the peer advisory model makes perfect sense, but why will this year be the year it takes hold?

  1. Large companies are challenged like never before to create alignment, improve employee engagement, and build muscles around organizational agility. And the continued inability to link increased training expenditures to producing more competent leaders and better bottom-line results will result in companies seeking out a more practical way to accomplish both.
  2. Leaders of small to mid-sized companies are finding that the world in which they operate is becoming increasingly complex, especially on the international and technology fronts. The good news is that because these challenges are common across industry sectors, it will inspire greater collaboration.
  3. Today’s younger CEOs are not digital immigrants, they’re digital natives. They grew up with social media and are natural networkers who are much more inclined than their predecessors to engage their peers for advice and counsel.
  4. There’s been a fundamental shift in management education aimed at leveraging the experience of the increasing number of adult learners in the classroom, in both traditional and online education environments. Learning centered environments geared to adults are becoming increasingly more popular, replacing a teaching centered/lecture-oriented approach that relies more on the knowledge of the instructor than in the collective experience and insights of the group. It’s only a matter of time before it finds its way more prominently into private enterprise.
  5. Because of the many similarities between learning teams and peer advisory groups, workplace peer groups will replace the learning teams they left behind.

“2016 will be the year that business leaders in record numbers will discover the difference between garden- variety peer influence and the power of peer advantage.”

Imagine engaging your peers in a manner in which you are more selective, strategic, and structured in your approach – to take what you know about peer influence to be so powerful to an entirely different level. 2016 will be the time that business leaders in record numbers will discover the difference between garden-variety peer influence and the power of peer advantage. Join your fellow business leaders in making that happen.

About Leo Bottary 1 Article
Leo Bottary is Vice President, Peer Influence for Vistage Worldwide, Inc., an adjunct professor for Seton Hall University, and coauthor of The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, & Success (Bibliomotion, March 22, 2016). As a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University, Leo’s dissertation focuses on peer influence and learning outcomes for CEOs who participate in CEO peer advisory groups.

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