Rethinking Our Own Thinking with Dan Pontefract and The Power Of Peers: Finding Your People with Leo Bottary

The world is filled with so much information and we’re absorbing them from all aspects of our lives every single day. Because of this, we tend to just skip from one information to another, not stopping to reflect and take it in. Chief Envisioner at TELUS, Dan Pontefract, proposes for us to rethink our thinking. We are being busy without action, so to counteract that, we need to optimize the way we think in order to balance reflection and action to enhance our critical thinking skills as well as creativity.
There are so many things in the world that holds us back from achieving a lot of things. One of those is the environment. The people we surround ourselves have a huge impact in our lives. Author, keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator Leo Bottary touches on the power of peers and on how to determine what peer groups are for you. He talks about the importance of knowing what it is that we’re trying to do and from there, finding the people who aligns with you.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers

We have Dan Pontefract and Leo Bottary. Dan is a keynote speaker. He is the Chief Envisioner at TELUS and the author of many books including Open to Think. Leo Bottary is a speaker, an educator, a podcast host and the author of What Anyone Can Do? They’re both going to talk about their books.

Listen to the podcast here

Rethinking Our Own Thinking with Dan Pontefract

I am here with Dan Pontefract who is the Chief Envisioner at TELUS. He’s the bestselling author of The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization as well as Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization and the Open to Think. Renowned speaker Dan has presented at multiple TED events and also writes for Forbes, Harvard Business Review and the Huffington Post. Welcome, Dan.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
Open to Think: Slow Down, Think Creatively and Make Better Decisions

Diane, it’s a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with this Canadian.

I really enjoy chatting with the people who are interested in how we think. I was watching your TED Talk. I’m so fascinated with that. I’m writing a book about curiosity. My dissertation was on emotional intelligence. I’m interested in all these types of topics that you address and I want to talk about how people think, good critical thinking, creativity. What do you think about that? If we’re outsourcing our thinking, what does that mean? Can we address a little bit of what you talked about in your TED Talk?

Let’s put a foot down and say, “Let’s address our thinking.” It’s time to rethink our thinking, Diane.

How do we do that?

There are two sides of every coin as we all know, as the cliché goes as well. On one side is reflection and on the other side is action. Ultimately, what we need to remember is that when we’re at our best, we are balancing reflection and action. Offensively, what’s occurring in our lives more so than ever is we’re hung up on action. We are taking most of our time to do, to execute and to be busy. There’s not enough reflection going on. That being said, some of us still reflect too much, therefore we’re indecisive, we have paralysis by analysis. There’s still some of us out there. There’s a good cohort that perhaps are dreaming a little too much and not taking enough action. I think you’ve seen this as well. What I see is that everyone is filling up every single nanosecond of their day with stuff. Let’s look at a couple of examples, a bus stop, a tube stop, a metro stop, people in a park bench, what are they doing? For the most part, they’re scrolling through their life by whatever’s on their phone. That’s an example of being busy, less action. We used to reflect more and daydream, mind wander as some call it. We might sit on a park bench and look at the cloud and say, “That cloud is shaped like Mount Everest.” Our minds would go off into different places, but now we fill all the nanoseconds with stuff. That’s just bus stops and park benches. What about at work? We’re almost penalized to dream or to reflect. You must be busy all the time at work now. I call it the age of freneticism.

Inside our organizations, whether you’re for profit, you are corporate, whether you’re a public sector, government or not for profit, somehow we’ve been incentivized to be busy all the time. I don’t know about you, but has anyone ever remembered the agora, the Greeks back in the day, they would just walk around the agora and just hang out. There were no meetings. They were just chilling with one another and reflecting on what could be. I’m not sure we have that anymore. There was this big ‘80s and ‘90s movement, the whiteboard, ideate and brainstorming sessions but you don’t hear that anymore as much.

[bctt tweet=”There are two sides of every coin. On one side is reflection and on the other is action.” username=””]

What you’re talking about is interesting to me because I teach a lot of business courses. I have a lot of students who put a lot of stuff into their papers without any reflection. They copy and paste the quotes and then it will be more like patch working for this person and this person. I have to say that word back to him, I’m like, “Where is your reflection on what this means? You did a great job of copying and pasting. What did you get out all of this?”

My favorite course or section of K-12 whether that was grade four, grade eight, grade eleven was reading comprehension. I loved that. There’s some short story, a parable or a book that’s assigned to you. Either it’s within a quiz, whether it’s in a unit or maybe it’s a final exam, you’ve got to read and then interpret, comprehend and then ultimately deliver your decisive verdict on what it was that you analyzed. In this age of freneticism, we don’t allow ourselves the time to, ideate, to dream, to daydream to let the synopsis connect if you’re using a brain metaphor. We jump past critical thinking because we don’t have any time to do so. We can’t make those connect the dots because there’s no time to do the judicious decision making. We jump to action and when we do, you’re doing exactly what you said, we are copying and pasting other people’s interpretations or worse, just completely plagiarize it. That’s a metaphor for much of what’s going on or wrong in society. We’re cut, copy and pasting our lives away.

There’s no paraphrasing it all. For someone to listen and to understand what you’ve read or what you’ve heard, you have to paraphrase. This is what this means to me. That’s why I don’t let my students have direct quotes because I want them to paraphrase so I know they least understood it. That’s why I’m studying curiosity because I see so many people who aren’t curious. I wonder why aren’t they asking more questions, why aren’t they more interested in thinking about things outside their little box of whatever they’ve always known? You say that there are just some bad habits of thinking. Is it just a bad habit? What is that?

It’s an onion that begs to be peeled open wider for sure. Let’s look at schools, aside from you and I who are awesome scholars and professors who do this, we are totally perfect. I wonder however in the K-12 arena, whether that’s elementary school, middle school, junior school and senior school, what are we doing inside of those schools? Are we not teaching good reflection, good creative thinking, good critical thinking anymore? There are pockets I know that are doing it really well. You’ve heard of makerspaces. Those are great creative and critical thinking tanks. They’re fantastic. Maybe we need to take the metaphor of makerspaces and apply that more throughout the school. Many schools are teaching to the test to get them into college and university and so forth. Where does the reflection, the critical and creative thinking occurr if we’re teaching to the test?

They are obviously doing a lot of that and by the time they get to me in higher ed, they lack so much of the soft skills, critical thinking and all the things that we want to see. When I was looking at some of the things that hold them back from being curious, a lot of it is their fear, their assumptions that they’re not interested, their technology or whatever their assumptions might be, but also the environment. When you’re talking about this environment, they’re teaching to the test. It’s so important. If we can optimize how much we help people develop the questioning, critical thinking and being curious, we can become more creative. That’s what you’re talking about in your book. If you optimize our thinking, you can become more creative, more efficient and more effective.

You introduced so kindly about outsourcing our thinking and to a degree I believe that’s what our kids, our young adults are doing. They’ve outsourced their own thinking to Google and other search engines and they’re not collaborating with one another in the pontification stage like, “What could be?” as opposed to, “What is?” Secondly, the mainstream media picks up on the Jobs and the Musks of this world. They say, “These people are so creative. They’re geniuses.” Yet they forget to tell the story that the only reason Jobs got to be Jobs and Musk got to be Musk and so on is that they surrounded themselves with these think tank of idea engineers. It took time to develop the iPod and the iPhone. It took time to develop SpaceX and the Tesla. It became cycles of innovation, cycles of ideas and cycles of failure.

That’s one of the other stigmas about good, open thinking these days is that we’re not allowed to fail and that’s nonsense. There’s this phrase I love from my CEO at TELUS and that is, “There is tuition value in mistakes.” Tuition value, that means inherently I’m getting some monetary yet obviously, tuition is a life skill. When you invest in yourself it’s about building behavior, skill development. There’s a tuition value in making the mistake. If we don’t have the time or the affordance to make that mistake, then we jump to action because we just need to it and/or do it perfectly. We wrote, remember and teach to the test. We study for the test or in and out Google type stuff, that’s just bad.

It’s leading people not getting the skills that they’re going to need. I interviewed a presidential candidate who is running in 2020, his name’s Andrew Yang. He was talking about how all these jobs are going to be gone because they didn’t require deep thinking. It was more limited skills, but now everybody’s going to be needing more skills to run the jobs that are left if we’re having technology do those type of jobs. We have to reshape how we think and strengthen our minds to meet those challenges. How do we do that?

Ultimately, we have to remember that in order to move forward, not only do we have to make mistakes, we have to be open to change. One of the quotes I love and I know we’re not supposed to do quotes, but Churchill once said, “To improve is to change, but to be perfect is to change often.” With that is a wonderful metaphor for life that there’s no such thing as perfection because we should be always changing. That’s what he’s really getting at. Changing means trying new things, failing new ideas, pausing, ideating, thinking of what could work but with the judicious decision-making of having all your facts, evidence and the real data to make that decision in order to then take action. Churchill never said, “Jump to action and then think about it.” That’s not what he meant.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
Power Of Peers: We have to remember that in order to move forward, not only do we have to make mistakes; we have to be open to change.


It’s interesting though what he’s saying and what you’re saying. It’s just like if we had perfection, every day would be very boring, every day would be the same. There would be nothing that would make it interesting. Much is spent hours and hours a day doing what their thought processes of what they go through, how do you know how much time to spend reflecting and how much time working? Is there any perfect balance?

The magnitude and level of depth do depend on the situation. It’s situational reflection. I’m not sure I should be spending a lot of time debating what dry cleaner I should use if I move to a new city. Maybe I go on Yelp, maybe I ask a couple of friends, maybe I look at proximity to my new home and I’m like, “Y and Z dry cleaner, that’s good because how much difference is there in dry cleaning?” There are life skills like that where you have to make some judicious decisions based on the evidence that it’s good enough. There’s my dry cleaner example. Moving to the city, maybe you don’t take that on a whim. Maybe if you’re moving to a new city and a new home, maybe you need to go through the proper amount of reflection about pros and cons of the city, the pros and cons of the new home, pros and cons of the new job offer, how does this uproot the family, how does this not. I don’t think you want to take that on a whim and jump to action right away and say, “We’re moving to Wichita.” That’s it. We need situational analysis about the time spent on the reflection phase and then time spent on action.

My point overarching is that we’re not deliberating about that type of situational analysis enough. Everything seems to be rushed. Let’s look at texting and driving. In America, as we say in Canada, the number of accidents that occurred by texting and driving outweighed those caused by drinking and driving or impaired driving. We become so frenetic and so overly busy that we think it’s a good idea to be texting and driving, using our phones to answer the boss or to jump to that action. Rather than perhaps using that time to reflect on whether I need to move to Wichita. How would the impact be with my kids? That’s incredible because somehow through MADD and other great organizations that had pushed the, “Please don’t drink and drive” premise, we’ve now more or less said, “That’s probably a bad idea. You shouldn’t go drink and drive.” It’s okay to now drive at 100 miles an hour on the I-90 and use your phone, keep looking down. It’s these little things that are starting to drive me nuts. No pun intended.

I was watching one of your talks, I think it was in 2015 about the attention span that we have. It was twelve seconds and then now, it’s eight seconds. We’re seeing such a drop at 33% drop and goldfish have a nine-second attention span. Where are we going? How can we help people to think more clearly if they’ve got such a bad attention span? How do you improve that?

[bctt tweet=”In this age of freneticism, we don’t allow ourselves the time to ideate, to dream, to daydream, and to let the synopsis connect.” username=””]

I have a fifteen, thirteen and eleven-year-old family that we affectionately call goats that we’re raising. At times I use our goats, our kids or children as a test case. Other times, I’m working with organizations, senior leaders and team members. I straddle the two worlds from raising a family with my lovely wife, Denise, and working with teams and organizations, whether there are 50 people or 50,000. My point is that I think the affliction of being overly busy, overly distracted and overly frenetic is this combination of societal. I look at my kids and when Instagram came up with Stories, there was this whole social media craze. It continues that we must post the Story as quickly as possible and then view these Stories because we’ll lose them, “I didn’t see Sally’s Story and she told me it was a great Story. It lasted for fifteen seconds and it’s gone.”

Social media is not helping us teach our kids that we need to step away from the device and step away from the freneticism. Everywhere we go, we are constantly bombarded by doing more with less and being quicker than ever. Raising a family is one step. Over here in the organization, whether you’re 5, 50 or 50,000, think about meetings. I see way too often organizations that pack meetings all day everyday where senior leaders, leaders, line manager they’re just from 8:00 to 5:00 one hour after another. Then you see people scurrying around, running from one room to another or back to their desk. If they work from home, I often see them late. They’re like, “I’m sorry I’m late but I was meeting late.” It’s just perpetual over-meeting culture. Then not only you’re overly meeting during the day, then you’ve got “work” to do. That could be emails, texts, all the other DMs that you get. Then you’ve got reports and analysis to do. Your kids or whatever you might have, see you at night working on your laptop or working at the kids’ soccer game because you can’t get all the work done “during the day.”

You’ve got these two things happening. You’ve got societal things, whether it’s the Instagram Story example or many other that I could bring up or you’ve got the organizational one, like overly meeting and many other examples in between. This is a societal and a professional issue that has collided. Our kids are learning whether that’s school or within the family unit that we are now in a state of being over programmed and short and then there’s no reflection required. It’s just what we do. We’re always on. In the organization, it’s a zoo, we’re running around.

I don’t get the after meetings. Most of the meetings are about the next meeting too. You’re not even doing anything in these meetings. It’s all like, “What are we going to talk about next time we meet?”

The bane of my existence is the meeting of the plan for the meeting.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
Power Of Peers: It’s always planning the plan to plan the plan. Nothing ever gets done but planning.


It’s always planning the plan to plan the plan. Nothing ever gets done but planning. It happens at all these companies. It’s snuck in. They didn’t do that in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. I look back and I’m like, “When did that happen?” All of a sudden you realize you’ve lost all of this time. It was around the time the death by PowerPoint started. You had to fill time so everybody started creating PowerPoints. Did it seem to you that it’s around that time that we started to see this creep in?

I call it a death by PowerPoint and grave built by Outlook.

What got interested in thinking as your area of focus to begin with?

I was a recovering Chief Learning Officer in two different organizations. I was in charge of leadership, OD, culture and engagement. I have a huge passion for people and the way in which the organizational dynamics operate within the construct of behavior, of operations. Always in the case of for-profit companies making money and turning a good margin. It’s not evil to make money or turn a profit but clearly, there’s some evil that can come out of that if the parameters and the values aren’t set accordingly. I’m a huge proponent of what I like to call the three legs of an organizational stool. One is culture, so how do we behave with one another? How do we interoperate? What are the leadership skills and values?

The second is purpose. Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life? What’s the purpose of my organization? Is it just to make money? Is it just to keep the bureaucracy? Is it perhaps to be a bit more benevolent than giving and think about stakeholders as opposed to shareholders? This third leg thinking came out of the fact that I continue to see organizations that lack in that culture, that lack of purpose and whether they’re organizations are then disaffected, disengaged or disenfranchised. Much is not going right in our organizations, sadly, on the whole with lots of great case study examples that are beating the trends. I found that that the way in which we’re thinking or not is actually impacting the culture and the purpose of the org.

I started, as Canadians say, skating around the particulars here. I was like, “Maybe the way in which we’re not thinking is in fact impacting culture and purpose.” As I dug, researched, interviewed and started trying to connect dots, if there were any, I realized it is a relatable leg to the stool. The best story was one that was societal which drove a dagger through my heart as a parent. It then got me going into thinking about this. It was Mother’s Day 2013 and my eight-year-old, he was the little guy of the three at the time. We were at a Mother’s Day brunch. This group comes up next to us about a party of seven or so. It was the mom and the dad, a couple of kids who are teenager-ish, and then you got one grandma, what looked like another grandma and the grandfather. About ten or so minutes in, Cole, my middle guy tugged on my shirt. He said, “Dad, do you see that table next to us?” I was like, “Yes, let’s be respectful. Shut up.” He was like, “Look at everyone.” He was astute enough to point out that essentially the family, that was the mom, the dad and the kids were all on their devices and these poor grandmas were looking at each other. I tried not to pay attention. I was like, “Just eat your eggs.” He tugged again about ten minutes later. He’s an introvert but this kid is a thinker. He said, “Dad, how many Mother’s Days do those grandmas have left?”

[bctt tweet=”A wonderful metaphor for life is that there’s no such thing as perfection because we should always be changing.” username=””]

He definitely got dad’s mind though.

That got me going on the societal thing and I started thinking about the organization. When I ask team members or employees’ opinion of their boss or their boss’ boss, I started asking the question, a very simple one, “Is your boss on time for your one-on-one?” 80% of the time the answer was no. I’m like, “That’s bad.” That just shows a level of disrespect. That shows a bunch of different things. You know all the data. We know that only 30% of organizations are “engaged,” that means 70% are not. You start looking at purpose-driven organizations. You’re like, “Only 20% say they have a purpose and they act on that purpose, which is to steer the world in the correct order as opposed to just looking at it for-profit or power.” There’s this relationship. If people aren’t spending time, the time to think, be with our people or to collaborate and all the good things that go along with creative and critical thinking, it was a real no-brainer that people, leaders in particular in the organizations are stuck in an always-doing attitude.

That’s a great lead into why they need to read your book Open to Think. If people want to read your book or find out more about your past talks or any of your past books, can you share links on how they can reach you?

The really easy way for this book, you can get anything else from the particular site is We made it pretty simple for people not to think about where to go.

What you’re working on is right up my alley so I was fascinated by your work. I enjoyed your TED talks and everything else that you’ve been working on. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Diane, I look forward to the results of your curiosity research as well. It’s such a lockstep with the overarching point of open thinking. Thank you for the invite. I really appreciate it.

The Power Of Peers: Finding Your People with Leo Bottary

I am here with Leo Bottary who is an author, keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on the topic of developing peer advantage for high performing teams and peer groups. He is a growth and success expert. He’s got his own show. His latest book is titled What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth. It’s so nice to have you here, Leo.

It’s wonderful to be here. Thank you so much.

I was looking forward to this. I was looking at your book. You were so kind to send me. You have an impressive group of people at the beginning endorsing it and you had a review from Rich Karlgaard, who I love. He’s somebody I know pretty well from working with him at Forbes School of Business and of course, Jeff Hayes who you and I work with a lot. I love that your illustrations were done by Ryan Foland.

Ryan is a great guy. One of the things that I wanted to do with this content because it’s not a particularly academic book as you know, it’s very much one where I wanted to underscore the approachability of the content. I think that Ryan saw cartoons which lead into every chapter which invites you into the content all throughout. I was really grateful that he agreed to do it and it’s just fun working with him on it.

He’s been on my show. He does great work. I don’t know if I’d say your book isn’t, would you say academic? How would you put it? It is definitely very well-written in a way it’s meant for everybody to read. There’s a lot of research and information that goes in and behind the scenes.

There’s no doubt that you certainly have to provide the support, both the stories and the research and things like that. I think at the same time, the concept isn’t particularly difficult to understand. I also think that as you get into it, people can see themselves in it. They can relate to it very easily which was the idea. I enjoyed that you mentioned about the endorsements to the book. Jim Kouzes was kind enough to endorse it and described it as this over-a-cup-of-coffee style in terms of the way it’s written. I was really happy he said that because that’s exactly what I was looking for. I wanted it to feel conversational in that regard. Ryan’s cartoons just represented the perfect fit.

This is not your first book. You coauthored a book with Leon Shapiro, The Power of Peers?

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth, and Success

It was The Power of Peers. It was published in 2016. It was essentially a look at how and why formal peer groups for business leaders work as well as they do. What happened was after that book, I’ve done a ton of speaking. I’ve done now close to 60 workshops with groups all over the country. I had a podcast, as you all know, it’s the Year of the Peer Podcast. We ran it through in 2017. It was fascinating because I had a lot of amazing guests on the program, all very successful people. It was interesting as the conversation moved from peers to the larger circle of people who are influencing our lives. It’s our parents, our teachers, our kids, our mentors, our mentees, that whole circle.

We also talked about it not simply in the context of going to a monthly formal peer group meeting, but how we can do a better job of engaging that circle of people in our everyday lives. That’s what inspired the book. Of course, Robert H. Thompson who wrote a wonderful book called The Offsite, he and I were having a conversation one day and he was a real proponent of saying, “This is something you should do.” Robert is a smart guy. I followed his advice and I had a lot of fun working on it.

You started out the book by just saying how you join a group or your peer CEOs. It reminded me a little bit on the book I’m working on curiosity. You mentioned an influence. I looked at four things that hold people back from being curious. Fear was one, assumptions was another and technology was another but the last one was the environment. Our family, our friends and a lot of the things people you mentioned have a big impact on whether we’re open to new ideas and new things. When we’re young, maybe they made fun of whatever we were into or they didn’t let us develop it because they were too busy to acknowledge things. It’s really important to join peer, get into different groups, especially I like to be around people who are a lot smarter than I am, which is not hard to find. There are a lot of people out there who are so bright that if you get around, people who know more than you do, it can really help you. How do you determine what peer groups, what peer CEOs who you want to hang around with? Is there a magic formula?

You can look at it in a few different ways. One is certainly there are CEO groups where you’ve got people who lead companies and they were around other people who lead different companies. It’s fascinating because what they share in common is sitting in that seat, having to make decisions for an entire organization. Because they represent different industries, it’s fabulous when you see CEOs exchange ideas that are a commonplace in one industry and unheard of elsewhere. Yet there’s a lot of knowledge that can be shared and a lot of experiences that can be shared among CEOs or small business owners and people in groups like that. As individuals, when we think about who we surround ourselves with, a lot of it has to do with trying to figure out what is it we’re trying to do.

If I wanted to run a marathon or I wanted to learn a language, I’m going to surround myself with a different set of people that can help me do that who will encourage me, maybe provide me advice. Maybe some of them will hopefully speak the language that I can practice with if that’s the case or you can have a running partner if I’m interested in running a marathon. Once we get some clarity around what it is we’re trying to do, then we can start thinking about who are the people that we can surround ourselves with that can be a positive influence on us. Conversely, we should look for ways that we can help others.

[bctt tweet=”When we think about who we surround ourselves with, a lot of it has to do with trying to figure out what is it we’re trying to do.” username=””]

I’m curious, why do you think so many people don’t enlist the assistance of others or they have difficulty with it? Is there some advice you can give them to help them get over that?

There are two things. There’s the, “Why don’t we ask?” I know in terms of when I went to school or everything was very much about your individual learning. When you’re at work you are often evaluated and compensated based on your individual performance. Even though there’s a lot of talk about teams, people tend to want to show up in a way where they got it down, they got it handled there. Their life is good, everything is good. They have no problems. We want to show up well in that way. We are taught to put our best face forward. When we are constantly living in that environment, we don’t always imagine because we see everyone else’s highlight reel all the time. We don’t imagine that people have the same struggle as we are.

We’re not always inviting people into our worlds in that way. Once people get a sense of the fact that, “First of all, we’re all in the same boat.” Secondly, we all are dealing with the same struggles in business and in life. We can actually help one another be our best self and contribute to others in a very powerful way if we just let ourselves, allow ourselves to do that. I think for advice on doing that, I would start with people who you trust. You’ve got family and friends, there’s got to be one or two people that you confide in at some level. Beginning with those people and telling them, here’s what I’m thinking about in my life, here’s what I want to do going forward and then, invite them to do the same.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
Power Of Peers: We matter and we have the responsibility to actually share our gifts with the world.


Start having those conversations and be thinking about what you want to do. You may know Laura Goodrich who wrote a book, Seeing Red Cars. She’s got a wonderful video on YouTube which talks about this idea that people can be great. If you ask them, “Diane, what do you want?” You might say, “What I don’t want is,” and they’re good at being able to articulate those things. Not always as good about being able to have the clarity and in some respects the courage to say, “Here’s my dream. Here’s what I want to do. Here’s how I want to change the world or change my neighborhood or my family,” or whatever it happens to be. Once we can get over that hurdle and we can get a sense of who we are, what we want and realize, according to Angela Myers that we matter, and that we’ve got a responsibility to share our gifts with the world that we will seek out others to help us make that happen.

I found a lot of people seeking others and a lot of masterminds more so than I’ve ever heard and maybe it’s just because of the things I do now that I’m hearing about it. Are there more masterminds in the last year or is that the thing right now?

It’s most certainly growing. You look at a lot of the bigger players in it, whether it’s Vistage, YPO or EO. There’s growth happening there. I also think there are other kinds of groups. The people are starting on their own. Bill George wrote True North Groups back in 2011 about people starting their own groups. There are women’s groups. There are industry specific groups. There are groups that are less formal. People are gaining a comfort level from reaching out to others, some in more formal environments and some in less formal. As people see the value of it and people are growing their businesses and improving their lives as a result, it is catching on. There’s a lot more room to grow too quite frankly.

You talk about in your book you want to drive change, opportunity and personal growth. That’s a lot of what I was looking at with my work in curiosity. Innovation is going to be such a hot topic right now with change and all those topics because of artificial intelligence and all the things that are going to be on the forefront. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to be the next innovative company, how not to be Blockbuster and how to be Netflix or whatever the next thing is that changes the landscape. Do you think that it’s challenging to be in a group of people that everybody wants to do the same thing? How do you not steal each other’s ideas? How do you play off each other’s strengths without competing?

One of the best examples of it, I talk a little bit about it in the book, I worked for a company, at that time it was called Mullen. Now it’s MullenLowe. It an advertising agency headquartered out of Boston. One of the things about working there, it’s a very combative environment. In fact, if you look at the logo of the company, it’s an octopus with boxing gloves. That’s what it’s like to work there in many respects. It’s very combative and very competitive at a certain level. However, it isn’t combative in terms of people fighting against each other. People are there at Mullen because they want to be part of an ensemble that can produce the very best advertising in the world and they have confidence in one another that they together can do that.

Their fight is for the best idea. It isn’t against one another. They know that as smart as everyone is around that table, in that room at any given time, that together they are far better than any one individual. One example of something I used to participate in there probably I was involved in twelve or thirteen of these big meetings where there were twenty to 25 people in a room. We were working on a campaign for a new prospect or an existing client. All these people will be there with a lot of combat and a lot of yelling. Every once in a while, instead you’d get to a certain point in the meeting where a campaign would emerge on the board. You’ve taken it about as far as you can with the twenty to 25 people there and everyone just looks at it and goes, “Isn’t that brilliant? Isn’t that amazing?”

A little self-congratulatory moment, but then you do it a second time, third time, fourth time and sometimes even a fifth time. The beauty of that was at the end of a session like that, not once that I ever see the first idea that everyone thought was so amazing, even survived the cut to show the client. It just shows you what happens when you put people in a room who are committed to a common purpose who trust one another and who are all very different and very talented, all but who believed that together they can make special things happen. It was an extraordinary experience and it was great to see that difference in terms of what healthy conflict can be all about and what it can produce.

That brings up a group think which a lot of people are trying to avoid. How do you get away from that if you’ve got to a company situation where everybody is agreeing with everybody because they don’t want to be the odd man or woman out?

[bctt tweet=”Challenge the process.” username=””]

In Mullen, that wasn’t the situation. No one was agreeing on everything, which is why you’d get to a place. James Kouzes, he’s got The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership and one of them is challenging the process. I think it’s a reminder to us all that no matter where we work, asking questions and quite frankly to your work, being curious and doing so in a way that can be very positive. You’re not trying to upset the applecart, trying to make anyone look bad, trying to do anything other than ask all of the right questions that you should be asking here before they get asked by your consumers or your students or whatever other stakeholders will eventually ask those questions when something goes to the marketplace.

As individuals, what are the things we talk about the book is it starts with us. It’s a little bit of the airline safety instructions. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help others. There’s a bit of that in terms of if we as individuals continue to be curious, continue to question, bring our A games and bring our talents to any situation as they do at Mullen, then at least it will help be a bit of an antidote toward group think.

As we progress and we see that these groups that we’re involved in have achieved bigger and bigger goals, we have to celebrate our progress. You talked about a lot of things in your book. Near the end of the book, you talked about developing a people plan. Can you address what you mean by that? I wanted to go into that a little bit.

What I wanted to do was I’m not one who typically likes to give people prescriptions like here’s what you need to do in very specific shooting people type terms. At the same time, after we get into all of the things that we talked about, to your point in the book, I did want people to have like, “What is it that I’m supposed to do now? At least I may not want a prescription, but I do want a framework. I do want something which will help give me some guidance where I can work within that framework in terms of what will be right for me but at least it will be helpful to give me that head start.” That’s what the people plan is all about. Of course, it’s based on threes in alliteration because it’s prepare, plan and play.

Preparing is simply having that initial conversation with people to find out what is it that you’re looking for, working with that person, then to identify maybe a specific goal. Let’s look at one thing that you’re looking at trying to accomplish and then building your dream team around that specific goal like who can be helpful to help me get this particular thing done. Once you’ve got that team around you, they can be helpful in the next phase of it, which is planning. Creating a plan for what it is you want to do. Because you’re going to continue to engage with them and you’re going to see that you may set out a plan, but it’s okay to adjust it along the way. To your point, be curious, be always getting new information and listening to things and make adjustments as you see fit.

Of course, celebrating those small wins which you brought up are so important. When we have goals and sometimes, especially if they’re larger goals, that goal seems like a long way away. What are the things that are going to get us all the way? The best way to do it is to make sure that you can identify milestones all along the way, you celebrate those wins and you realize I am making progress. It’s going to be a little while to get to the top of that mountain but I know that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’m going to make that happen. Then we get into the play phase. Play, for me, was an important word, not only because it stuck with the key theme, if you will, but largely because I don’t want people to think about this as drudgery. Is this like, “I’ve got a goal. I’ve got this plan. I’ve got this thing.” This should be fun. This is where, again, leveraging your dream team all the way along, keeping them involved, talking about what you’re doing, having fun with it is particularly important.

The other thing that came very much with such a common theme among the podcast guests that I had was this notion of paying it forward. Every one of the people that I had on the podcast, we’re all super successful. In fact, they laughed at the idea that the suggestion that they did, any of this all by themselves, yet a lot of people that help them along the way, you’re not always in a position to reciprocate, but you can pay it forward.

[bctt tweet=”The better we get at things, the more we enjoy doing them.” username=””]

The more we pay it forward and the more we play that role of being part of someone else’s dream team and realize that we have expectations of that person, the more that we’ll look at our own goals. We’ll realize that the people around us have expectations as well and that we want to continue to deliver on that. Finally, as part of play, the better we get at things, the more we enjoy doing them. The more that we commit to continuous improvement and just getting better all the time is what it’s all about. One of the teams that I talk about, this is true for individuals and teams, the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team. They’d been in the last dozen Final Fours. They won more national championships than any other university on the women’s side certainly.

It’s just extraordinary to watch the level at which they play all the time. That’s basically because their culture is all about setting their own standard of excellence. They’re not just worried about being better than Notre Dame, Stanford or South Carolina. They set their own bar and they continue to set it. When they reach it, they reset it and because of that, that’s what wins you national championships. The national championship is the reward but the commitment to excellence is what drives how good they play as consistently as they do. For all of us, if we can continue to be students of what we do, think about what you do, think about what I do or whatever. We love to call one another experts at things. We probably don’t ever want to call ourselves an expert oftentimes because we all feel like we’re still learning, we’re still students of our craft and we love what we do. It’s a never-ending process and a fun one.

What you and I both do and what I think is fun is having these shows. You have what anyone can do, podcasts with Randy Cantrell. How did you get to know Randy? How did that come about that you cohosted?

Randy, first of all, reached out to me. I’ve never met him or anything. Randy read The Power of Peers. He said that I should be doing a podcast. He reached out to me in a number of occasions and it wasn’t that I wasn’t interested or anything, I was just super busy. I wasn’t getting back to him as I would typically do, but once we started talking he basically said to me, “I don’t even want anything out of this. I feel like this is something you should do. I love the work. I love the topic. This would be a fun thing.” Of course, when we did the podcast, it was The Year of the Peer for 2017. Then knowing that we wanted to continue doing it, but we wanted to rebrand it, I invited him to cohost it with me because I thought that it was absolutely the right thing to do. Also, he’s great at it. He’s got a great experience with podcasting and we have a lot of fun together doing it. It makes it great. I’m super grateful to Randy because without Randy there is no podcast. To be honest, without the podcast, the book that at least is coming out soon, wouldn’t have been written either.

It’s great to get so many great minds on these shows. They helped my book a lot as well. Every day you learn something new from the most interesting people in the world. I know that we’re both on C-suite Radio in Jeff Hayzlett’s group and all that. The access to interesting people adds so much to that network and to what I learn every day. It’s fascinating what you have done with your work, with your podcast. You’ve achieved the top of the mountain now with this book. A lot of people think that’s when the work ends is when you’ve finished the book, but now your work is about to start, isn’t it?

[bctt tweet=”We’re all still students to our craft.” username=””]

I think this is the fun part. The point of writing the book isn’t just to have a book with your name on it, have it be that thing. It’s the important pieces. How can I make sure that people are receiving and utilizing some of the content to their benefit? The more people that I can get to do that, the better. I’ll do as many of these shows or speaking engagements or whatever as I possibly can because the more people I can get introduced to what this is all about, that for me is the biggest reward of all. It’s why after doing the first one that we published in 2016, that pretty much just two years later I’ve got the second one out. I believe in this idea of how we need to be and can be much more effective at relying on one another and working together. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in history where it’s ever been more important. As we know in the next decade, even the whole role of human beings in the workplace is about to change. When it does, it’s going to continue to move toward people’s ability to be able to be open and collaborative.

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers
What Anyone Can Do: How Surrounding Yourself with the Right People Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth

That’s a great place to end because I agree with that and you’ve done some amazing work. I know you have Are there any other websites that you’d like to share or information you want to share for anyone?

I would just say definitely go to Amazon and you can just type my name in or you can type in What Anyone Can Do. You can learn more about the book or get to my author page there, but the website certainly will give you everything you need to know. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Definitely come find me and connect. I would love that.

Thank you so much, Leo. This has been so much fun.

Thank you so much. I knew it would be. We loved having you on What Anyone Can Do. As you know, you were our first guest for our show so we were honored to have you do that. We’ll keep the conversation going and I can’t wait to read about curiosity.

Thank you to Dan and to Leo. What a great show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to Please join us for the next episode.

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About Dan Pontefract

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers

Dan Pontefract is the Chief Envisioner at TELUS. He is the bestselling author of The Purpose Effect: Build Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization, as well as Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. A renowned speaker, Dan has presented at multiple TED events and also writes for Forbes, Harvard Business Review and The Huffington Post. He is the author of Open to Think.


About Leo Bottary

TTL 243 | Power Of Peers

Leo Bottary is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator on the topic of developing “peer advantage” for high-performing teams and peer groups. During a six-year tenure at Vistage Worldwide, Leo led the rebranding of the company and directed a thought leadership initiative on the power of peers, which resulted in a book he co-authored with Leon Shapiro titled: The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth & Success. Leo also serves as an instructor for Rutgers and Northeastern Universities. His latest book is titled What Anyone Can Do: How surrounding Yourself with the Right people Will Drive Change, Opportunity, and Personal Growth.

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