Peer Power Primer
How would you create a culture that attracts 1000 applicants for every position like Zappos or grows its customer base fivefold in just four years as HCL Technologies did? Few would expect to learn the secrets of success from a small town credit union in Boulder City, Nevada, or a rural hospital in Southern Arizona, but wouldn’t you like to know how to create a team that can increase assets by 270% while only adding one employee, or how to be so honest with your board that they plead with you to stop telling so much truth?
The answers to our most perplexing leadership questions are hiding in plain sight blocked only by the answers we already think we know. Regardless of your industry, experience or even position, you can learn how to break through the limitations that hold others back. The solutions lie not in those we often idolize but in unleashing the creative spirit of those “value adding” team members whose ideas and energies often go unnoticed.
We live in a culture that idolizes the lone champion whose abilities are beyond comprehension. We exalt the compassion of Nelson Mandela, the courage of Richard Branson and the creative genius of Steve Jobs. Their amazing accomplishments allow us to vicariously share in their victories without the discomfort of questioning our own abilities.
They are enough like us that we can imagine how they feel but enough different that we are not challenged by their accomplishments. We feel safe, even comforted believing there are special people who are destined for greatness possessing mythical skills or magical charisma that we could never hope to attain. But it is those people who have walked in our shoes, faced our challenges and possess our potential that inspire us to act.
There is nothing wrong with idolizing experts, glorifying giants, and cherishing champions but if we are looking for real change it is important to remember that we are powered by our peers.
The solutions I will share in the pages that follow aren’t found from the usual suspects.
You will find secrets to being recognized as a best place to work from a fast food franchise, and lessons from a coffee company that didn’t have the sense to put chairs in their first store or even print the menus in English? .
Business is not the only source for these Peer Powered Profiles. You will hear the story of a record-holding swimmer and veteran coach who, after decades of success, realized he didn’t know how to swim. The answers didn’t come from coaches, the breakthrough came by watching his peers. People who with the same challenges and abilities just did better.
It does not matter if you are growing at 30%, stuck in reverse or immersed in a culture of complicity. The solutions are not found in top down direction but inside out resurrection.
Examples like Novo Nordisk whose “tell no evil” policies nearly had them banned from U.S. markets before they transformed their entire process through a culture of candor.
Today their commitment to absolute honesty is so revered that employees regularly post critical signed reviews of company policy on the internal news system without fear of repercussion. Few stories of near disaster are as poignant as the tale of Pixar’s Toy Story 2 when they did the unthinkable and started over. With absolutely impossible deadlines to meet they started each day not with a race to finish but with a frame by frame peer review of every detail involving every engineer and illustrator on the project.
You may be thinking this is great for organizations who thrive on innovation, but what if you are part of an industry so encumbered by regulation that there really is no other way but to do business?
Maybe you will find inspiration in the tenacity of Rabobank. Instead of accepting the confines of conventionality The Netherlands, largest financial services created the secure technology to allow employees to connect from anywhere anytime, crushing the industry standard of managing hours instead of encouraging results.
But if your goal is to have no “management” at all you can’t find a better role model than the largest supplier of tomato products in the world. The Morning Star jobs page replaces terms like hiring and managing with reminders of choice, commitment and personal accountability.
New team members don’t get hired, they “agree to associate” with other “self-managing professionals”.
Their vision statement inspires Olympian accomplishment through Gold Medal performance while bringing not merely vegetables but “happiness to ourselves and the people we serve”.