Everybody knows that networking is an important way of making connections both within your industry and out to the broader professional world. Once you’ve made your connections, how can you get more from and give more to those relationships to help you thrive in your career? By sharing information and ideas across industries, business leaders can inspire each other to build up their own organizations. According to Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary, coauthors of The Power of Peers, the term for this mutual benefit is “peer advantage,” and it can have far-reaching impacts on both professional and personal growth. We asked Leo Bottary some questions about his experience and hopes for the future of peer advantage:
You and your coauthor did some original research for The Power of Peers. Was there anything you found in that research that was surprising or unexpected?
One in particular that came to us while we were working on part one. We talk about the four ways we engage with our peers as we connect, network, optimize and accelerate. Briefly, here’s what they mean:
- We connect with our peers in person or online. The people we connect with are typically acquaintances—though they may be people we’ve never met—with whom we exchange information or share a common interest, even if only temporarily.
- We network online, at conferences, or at local business events and socials in a more selective and more purposeful attempt to advance personal and professional interests. Connecting and networking tend to be individual pursuits and are, by far, the most common ways we reach out to our peers.
- We optimize when we work together in teams to bring a high level of excellence to achieving a common goal. The work of optimizing tends to take place among a more homogenous group of peers and be temporary in nature, determined by either the length of a specific project or the span of a season.
- We define accelerate as the ultimate means for gaining peer advantage—it’s what top CEOs do when they work together as part of a diverse group on an ongoing basis. The objectives are to help one another meet tough challenges, achieve lofty organizational goals, and grow as leaders.
People, generally speaking, connect more than they network. They network more than they optimize, and they optimize more than they accelerate. Our “ah-ha!” moment occurred when we realized that CEOs should prioritize their own peer engagement in the opposite order. CEOs, whose time is extremely valuable, should invest their time first where they will receive the greatest value. That means accelerate first, optimize, network, and then connect.
What are your hopes for the future of peer advantage? Do you see it becoming a widely-adopted practice as the leaders in your groups bring these principles back to their own organizations?
We’d like to see peer advantage become part of the overall leadership lexicon. Our hope is that leaders will seek out peer advantage for personal and professional development with the same regularity as they read books, hire coaches, or attend executive education courses.