Great Peers Will Help You Help You Soar

Jan 8, 2013

EagleWe’ve all heard about the power of the peer group. Tony Robbins says that you tend to play the game of life at the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Think about it for a moment. Who do you surround yourself with most often, and how do they influence you? What level are these people operating at, and what are their standards in key areas of life, such as business, finance, health, relationships, contribution, and spirituality?

Let’s say you have a workout partner that you regularly go to the gym with. Are they the type who tolerate laziness, and let you off the hook easy if you don’t feel like working out on a given day? Or do they scream at you to give them two more reps, even when you’re already at failure, and feel like you’ve given all you’ve got? Which person is going to help you achieve more? Anyone who works out knows that those last two reps give you 90% of the growth!

It would make sense that people who are healthy and fit surround themselves with others who make healthy lifestyle choices, as opposed to people who drink, smoke, and eat like crap. People who have strong religious beliefs congregate with others who share their convictions. Successful business owners like to spend time with others who also share their desire and commitment to success.

You May Need A New Group

So how is your current peer group affecting you? Are they pushing you to achieve more, or holding you back? Do they act like a headwind or a tailwind?

If you find yourself in a peer group that is not empowering you and driving you to achieve your maximum potential in business and in life, you really have three choices:

  1. Motivate and inspire your peers to raise the level of their game. This is what leaders do;
  2. Lower your standards and self-sabotage your own success because you value the connection with your peer group. This is what most people do, even though it does not serve them;
  3.  Leave your peer group and find a better peer group.

This last choice is often what you need to do if you want to truly grow. You associate down to teach, but you associate up to grow.

For those of you currently thinking, “But I spend most of my time with my family. I can’t leave my family,” Tony has another sage piece of advice: Love your family, but choose your peers.

Are You Settling?

Let’s examine how this principle applies to your recruiting practice. Do your closest colleagues come up with reasons or results? Are they investing in future growth, or are they comfortable where they are now? Is their goal to bill $200k, or $1M+? With these questions in mind, are you surrounding yourself with mediocrity, or people who inspire you to be absolutely outstanding?

Remember: Good is the enemy of great. If you are satisfied with just being good, you will never achieve greatness or anything near your maximum potential.

There are numerous benefits to having an empowering peer group for different areas of your life. You now recognize how your peers can massively impact your success in a positive or negative way. So how can you harness this power to increase your billings and grow your search practice?

Peer Accountability Group

One way to put the power of the peer group to work for you is by forming a Peer Accountability Group with other like-minded owners/recruiters. Your peer accountability group serves multiple purposes. Just like a great work-out partner in the gym, they will:

  • Keep you on track towards achieving your goals, even on days when you feel like slacking;
  • Encourage you to go outside your comfort zone;
  • Push you harder than you might push yourself;
  • Notice opportunities for improvements that you can’t see yourself (your blind spots);
  • Help you through the down times;
  • Celebrate your successes with you;
  • Bring different strategies/knowledge that you were unaware of;
  • Force you to raise the level of your game just to be on the court with them.

When I was young in the business growing up in MRI, I remember attending my first few Pacesetter/Presidents Club trips. I would seek out the top billers and managers in the organization, and try to make connections with them. This would usually consist of passionately sharing with them how I was committed to being the best of the best (just like them) and would do whatever it takes to reach that level of success, and I’ll run through brick walls, and… This rant at the top of my lungs would usually continue for a minute or two before I finally took a breath. While this approach isn’t necessarily advisable for everyone, it did seem to make an impression. As my buddy Mike Kittelson (who’s billed $21M in 17 years) always says, Make ‘em mad, or make ‘em glad, but make ‘em remember you!

These reach-outs to the top dogs in MRI helped me eventually build close relationships with folks like Jeff Kaye and Jon Bartos, who, to this day, have been two of my biggest mentors and closest friends in the business.

Peer Group Power

Interestingly enough, coming full circle, Jon Bartos is actually the creator of my current Peer Accountability Group. Many of Fordyce’s readers may be familiar with Jon. He’s been a $1M+ biller for 10 straight years, and recently created his RPM metrics tracking software. It’s an amazing solution that hundreds of recruiting offices now use to manage and grow their teams’ production. However, with his dedication to building that business the past few years, his billings have taken a bit of a dip. Jon recognized the power of the peer group, and decided one of the fastest ways to get his production back to seven figures is to surround himself with others who are also committed to producing at that level. And thus, Club $1M was born.

Our objective was to bring together a small group of million dollar-plus billers (or trending that way) to help each other with best practices, accountability, encouragement, and motivation. The final outcome we were shooting for was simple: To help each other reach our maximum potential, as well as exceed our personal (not firm’s) billing goals.

In order to qualify, first priority was that you had to have a billing goal of at least $1M you were committed to achieving in 2012, with members’ goals ranging between $1M on up to $2M. If you aren’t really committed to your goal, then you are wasting someone else’s time asking them to hold you accountable to it. The only other requirement for joining was that you either had billed $1M in the past, were trending towards $1M, or had been over $500k many years in a row and wanted to step up your game to a seven figure level.

The cost of admission? A one-hour free conference call held once a month, your commitment to be held accountable to your own goals, and willingness to provide the same accountability to others in the group.

Start Your Own Group

What is the ideal group size? I think groups can be as small as three, or perhaps as large as 10, but you just want to make sure there is value for each member. Larger groups obviously make scheduling call times more challenging, and call duration can get stretched out allowing enough time for everyone to share. However, too small a group and you might miss out on the knowledge transfer and best practices aspects that come from bringing so much recruiting horsepower together.

Our call agendas vary a bit each month, but the initial call that got things started included:

  • Review purpose of club $1m;
  • Individual review;
  • Overview of organization and desk (we all own firms while still being rainmakers);
  • Last year’s results;
  • This year’s goal;
  • What you need to change to get there;
  • What help the group can give you;
  • General discussion on club $1M ;
  • Other potential members?;
  • Joint tools to use;
  • Promotion of club $1M;
  • Future agenda ideas;
  • Potential future guest speakers.

Subsequent monthly calls typically include report out of previous month’s billings, including breakdown between contingent/retained/contract, any major wins that month, biggest challenges/setbacks, biggest win outside of search, etc. In April we did a Q1 wrap-up call, where we analyzed our quarter, what went great, what didn’t, and how the group could help us do even better moving forward. We also had to forecast what we were shooting for in Q2. We followed a similar format for our first half wrap up call in July.

Members Share Strengths

While we typically only communicate as a group on the monthly calls, we do keep in touch individually as needed. Any time someone has questions that would benefit from another group member’s expertise, we will always bounce ideas off of each other. If someone wants to know about retainers or taking down searches at the C-level, they’d likely approach Patrick Sylvester, who’s completed dozens of executive level searches for six figure fees. If someone wants to know about taking down contract business with their perm clients, they might reach out to Joel Slenning, who has been wildly successful in both the contract and perm side of the business. If anyone has a new rookie recruiter on their team who would benefit early on from hearing about the importance of planning, and that phone time is king, they might ask me to convey that message, since I am usually on the phone 5-6 hours per day and plan religiously. Often times, it’s hard to be a prophet in your own land, and your people may react differently hearing a message from someone other than you.

Firm Owners Can Benefit

While our group is mainly focused on personal production, it could also serve search firm owners to be in a peer accountability group to focus on their firm’s goals. The group essentially acts as members of each other’s board of directors. One of our Club $1M members, Stacy Ethun, is also part of a separate group that is more focused on growing their firms. They too, have monthly calls, and they also get together face-to-face once a quarter. Objectives for the group are similar to those mentioned above, but at a firm level. Other subjects discussed in such meetings include future hiring plans, performance management issues, new practice areas, insurance, operations, or anything else relating to profitably running and growing their firms.

Common Interests; Similar Goals

Whether you form a group that focuses on helping you achieve your individual production goals, or those of your entire office, one of the important factors in developing an effective group is to have some type of commonality amongst people’s objectives. Obvious example: in our group, we all want to bill over $1M. As an owner, if you want to grow your firm and expand your team, try to link up with a group comprised of other like-minded business owners that share similar objectives and will thus be faced with similar challenges. Probably goes without saying that it helps to be in a group with people you like, respect, and trust.

Joining a peer accountability group may be just what your search practice needs to achieve the lofty goals you’ve set out for yourself. Finding the right partners is critical, so choose wisely. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to you.

How committed are YOU to achieving what you set out to do, what are you willing to do, and what are you no longer willing to do in order to get there? Your peer accountability group will just serve in keeping you on track with following through on your own commitments. They will also push you beyond your comfort zone, and help you squeeze out those last two extra reps, where all the growth comes from.

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