Leadership Caffeine™—Leading Your Peers

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveMost of us don’t think about leadership and leading in the context of our peers. After all, by definition, there’s no hierarchical relationship between group members. Conventional thinking suggests our peers are our teammates, our colleagues and our fellow managers or executives, not people we’re supposed to lead.

That thinking is nice, but naïve, if you’re intent on doing more for your firm while bolstering your career prospects.


  • Groups of peers are not groups of equals in terms of power, political savviness, capabilities or aggressiveness. They’re a collection of heterogeneous personalities with diverse and often divergent interests.
  • Peer groups are headless. In an effort to remain collegial and respectful, few but the bravest of souls venture into the realm of assuming leadership for these teams. Push too far and too fast and your peers will momentarily unite to push back at you. “Who are you to suggest what WE should do?” On the other hand, these groups are ripe for “benevolent” and issue-focused leadership.
  • Peer groups of managers are typically not highly functional or contributory entities in most organizations. Management “teams” are simply a team in name only. Your fellow managers likely share information and updates at operations reviews and provide input in strategy sessions, but they don’t do much together that creates tangible value.
  • The opportunity for improved collaboration between peers is very real. The potential for these groups to create value around the right issues—strategy execution or problem solving in what I term the “gray-zone” between functions, is incredible. The operative word is, “potential.”

7 Steps to Help You Assert as a Leader with Your Peers:

1. Know that “trust” is your currency in-trade. If you’ve cultivated solid relationships based on showing respect, offering your trust and delivering on commitments, you’re starting from a good position. Friendly advice: if you’ve engendered something other than trust across your relationships, stop reading now and give up on this idea of asserting your leadership with your peers. If you need to strength your currency reserves of trust, focus on number 2, reciprocity.

2. Grow your accounts receivable balance for reciprocity. Reciprocity is second in value only to trust. The essence of reciprocity in an organization setting is: If I help you, you have an unspoken obligation to help me at some time. Give first to get later.

3. Focus your peer-group leadership efforts on gray-zone issues. The problems in the gray-zone are those process inefficiencies or bottlenecks that no one department or function owns. They exist between functions. Identify one of those items and build the case for cross group collaboration to solve it.

4. Create heroes out of your group members. Keep the spotlight on the contributions of your peers and their teams, even if you were the one to organize the problem-solving effort. Remember, you’re playing the long-game and you will benefit from shining the light brightly on others.

5. Practice shuttle diplomacy. Most of us interact with peers more by exception than design. Make certain to build time into your schedule to check-in, share ideas or offer your help.

6. After some victories solving gray-zone issues, raise the stakes by focusing on strategy execution. The gap in most firms between the ideas of strategy and the coordination of strategy execution is Grand Canyon-esque. This is a great place to direct the energy and gray-matter of a peer group that has recently cultivated a track-record for solving problems together…with your guidance and yes, your leadership. Focus the group on the issues of coordination and communication essential to implement new programs and monitor results.

7. Assert as a peace broker for border skirmishes. Armed with ample trust and a strong accounts receivable balance of reciprocity, pay attention to and help your team members navigate differences. By your de facto leadership of the group around key business initiatives, you’ve created the basis for shared interests between members. Appealing to and leveraging those interests is a powerful tactic for resolving differences of opinion or approach.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

For anyone waiting for the guidance on the “Frank Underwood” (House of Cards) power-play in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Leading your peers isn’t about collecting power to feed your ego. Rather, it’s about tapping into the potential of your colleagues to solve problems and move the performance measures in the right direction. After all, the best leaders have something larger in mind than their own personal interests. And yes, get this right and you will be noticed and you will benefit.

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See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

New Coaching and Webinar Offerings from Art Petty

webinarpromoFBLinkpostThere’s something particularly logical about creating offerings that people ask for. During the past few months, I’ve received a number of inquiries that neatly fit into two key themes:

  • Coaching services for individuals below the executive or soon-to-be executive ranks. A good number of you reached out and asked whether I would extend my executive coaching capabilities outside of the C-Suite. The resounding answer is “Yes!” and it comes in the form of my new individualized ACCELERATE program. For the next few weeks or until enrollment is filled, I’m taking on new non-executive clients at a one-time rate for individualized coaching services focusing on helping you move further faster in your career.
  • Coaching services for those focused on reinventing themselves in their careers. Similar to ACCELERATE, this new individualized program, REINVENT is available for a limited time at a great price to help you jump-start your own career reinvention. (Note: this is not a job search program.)

I expect to close enrollment in early February, 2016 and would love to work with you. Check out the program page and information or feel free to drop me a note with your questions.

Last and not least, I’m excited to kick off my 2016 webinar series with, “Level-Up and Accelerate Your Career,” on February 4, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CST. The webinar is complimentary. I’ll share my perspectives on the impact of change in our global environment on our careers, and I’ll offer some very real case studies on approaches and ideas to help you level-up in your career while helping your organization navigate change. I’ve attended enough stuffy webinars, so this one will be conversational and include some live q/a time. I hope you join me.

That’s all for now. Thanks for your readership and support! Whether it’s through the blogs, the webinars or the programs, I’m honored to help you achieve your professional goals!

Yours in great career health,

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Art’s Leadership & Management Writing for the Week Ending 1/23/16

Toolbox with the words Leadership ToolsAs 2016 navigates its way through the first month, it’s proving to be cruel to rock and roll musicians and fans, stock market investors and as of this writing, anyone attempting air travel in the eastern portion of the U.S.

For this week, my leadership and management writing focused on sharing ideas on re-energizing, improving performance, navigating difficult moments and management insights gained in the role of product manager.

Enjoy the ideas. Use them in good health. And in the words of the recently late Glenn Frey of Eagles fame, “Take it Easy” this weekend.

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Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

Just One Thing—Dream Big and Then Fight Like Heck

One Inch at a TimeThe Just One Thing series is intended to provoke action in pursuit of goals.

“What you see depends not only on what you look AT, but also, on where you look from.” –James Deacon

Think for a moment about that unrealized dream you put a shelf in your mental closet, waiting for “someday” when the timing is right. Is it writing the book you know you have in you? Is it going back to school for that next degree (or for your first degree)? Is it learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, starting a business or changing careers? Or, is it earning that next promotion or moving from one role into a role that matches your work with your superpower?

Our goals and big dreams often are rudely shoved out of the way in favor of the urgent issues of life as well as those activities we deem more easily achievable. Some are abandoned due to the mirage of size and complexity. “It’s too big for me to accomplish.” Or, “I’m not sure how I would even get started.”

We make excuses for ourselves, mostly, because we don’t know how to fight what author Steven Pressfield calls resistance. This nefarious quality is present in all of us. It manifests around things we care about. Our diet. Our weight. Our goals. Left to its own designs, resistance inserts itself into every important situations in our life and revels in our failures. Its greatest victories are when we fail to even get started.

Just One ThingWhatever your big dream is, the only way to truly, profoundly fail on all levels is to fail to try. This means, you have to get started. You have to find a way to grab resistance and pin it to the ground or shove it rudely into the corner. Motion beats resistance every time. Actions shove resistance back into the corner where it cowers in fear of its own failure—of its inability to derail you from something important.

But, you can’t even think about beating resistance without getting started.

The punch line to the old joke, “What’s the best way to eat an elephant?” offers more truth than humor. The answer: “One bite at a time.”

The people leading our biggest corporate initiatives long ago learned to break big visions down into small component pieces and then work on them one at a time. Some plan all of the pieces out ahead of time, and then sequence them and get started. Many others operate with a clear end goal, but focus on the bite in front of them and then pause, assess and determine where to take the next bite from in pursuit of this vision.

Much like my work in moving from the world’s worst, slowest runner to my goal of running a half marathon next Spring, the only way I’m getting there is by putting the time into the hard work of training and conditioning. Running, lifting, interval training, managing my diet are all part of my daily routine and it’s a battle. The first steps were painful and humbling. Now, I’m halfway to the goal and feeling great. I’ve got resistance on the ropes for this one and I will win.

So can you.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide whether you’ll capitulate to resistance or fight back and win. The resistance is inside of you. So is success. Just take it one bite, one step and one action at a time.

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

Coming Attractions at the Management Excellence Blog

image of a box with new and improved on the labelNote from Art: There’s a lot of new and a fair amount of “new and improved” coming soon at the Management Excellence blog. I value your readership and look forward to supporting your professional development and career growth in some new and exciting ways.

The Leadership Caffeine™ Podcast is Back!

I’m excited to be kicking off the latest incarnation of the Leadership Caffeine podcast series! This initiative was a temporary casualty of my multi-year corporate immersion and is something a number of faithful followers have repeatedly asked me about bringing back to the Management Excellence blog. It’s also something I love producing and sharing with you!

Cover art for Leadership Caffeine PodcastThe first incarnation of the series found me interviewing and sharing insights some of the leading management thinkers and authors of our day, including: Geoffrey Moore, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Bob Sutton, Scott Eblin, Dan McCarthy and many others.

For this round, I’m expanding the reach to incorporate business professionals in a wide-range of industries, entrepreneurs and individuals striving to change the world through creative business practices. And yes, I’ll talk with the leading authors of the day as well!

I hope you enjoy the series and I welcome ideas and recommendations for our growing line-up of guests. First up in the new series will be Laura Macleod, founder and principal at: From The Inside Out Project, who will describe her unique approach to solving those vexing communication challenges between management and hourly workers in many businesses.

Incoming: the Management Excellence Holiday Book List

If you’re a regular visitor here, you know that my perspective is if you’re not reading and learning, you’re moving backwards at the speed of change. There are a number of great and important new books available for the professionals in your life and I’ll share my thoughts on my top picks for this holiday season. Look for this feature during the first 10 days of December, leaving plenty of time to add them to your holiday wish lists!

The Leadership Caffeine™ e-Newsletter is All New with Subscriber-Only Content

Quickly approaching 10,000 subscribers, the Leadership Caffeine e-news is dedicated to providing pragmatic guidance aheader2websitend provocative ideas for consideration in your professional work. We continue to tune the content to match the interests and requests of our readership, and the recent makeover has been well received. I keep the newsletter and blog content separate, although I do reference some of the latest blog posts, in case you missed them.

From feature articles to short, action-focused suggestions, links to great professional resources, the content is intended to help you along on your leadership and professional journey. The promotion is limited to a brief section at the end of the newsletter outlining my latest offerings and we absolutely respect the privacy of your e-mail information.

If you’re interested in just a bit of exclusive Leadership Caffeine (or my New Leader enews) thinking, you can join here.


Coming in 2016: Live Coaching Calls with Art

I’m introducing a series of Coaching Calls (audio/VOIP) designed to help you jump start your professional development in 2016. The audiencelevelup focus will vary for each call, ranging from those striving to “Level-Up” and reach the next rung on the career ladder to those later-career professionals searching for “The Next Act” as they evaluate how to apply their talents and passions in new ways after long, successful stretches in their careers. The format will include a number of no-fee sessions followed by a subscription series for the balance of the year. Every session will include dedicated content, live q/a, spotlight coaching and frequent guests sharing their well-informed perspectives. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to interact directly with many of the great readers/commenters here! Stay tuned for the January schedule.