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Benchmarking the Best

Learning from those with different views than yours can help you keep your edges sharp.

Snap One’s Jonathan Lin and I get together for a check-in every few weeks. We seldom have an agenda, but somehow manage to chew on life’s gristle until we’re both ready to go back out and conquer the world. It occurred to me recently that my conversation with Jonathan is a snapshot of his flow state. I perceive that he talks to everyone — people who agree with him, who disagree vehemently with him, or who walk a completely different path from him. Like the mighty honey badger, Jonathan doesn’t care — he takes all comers. It all dumps into his mental gumbo and renders some amazing observations. I asked him about my theory, and he simply replied that he’s “benchmarking the best.”

Benchmarking - Peer Groups
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I loved hearing Jonathan’s very intentional reply to my query, and I wondered to myself to what degree am I doing the same thing (or could be doing a better job seeking out a more diverse range of opinions)? Are we all operating more and more in our own micro realities, seeking the easy comfort of harmonious opinions vs. the hard dissonance of those relish taking us to task?

Also by Henry Clifford: Becoming A Dissent Farmer

“Benchmarking the best” is a workout and certainly doesn’t happen by default. Jonathan put it simply. “You know how it’s fun to beat the pants off of your opponent?” he said. “It’s great for a while but gets old over time. The truly great players want to be around those playing better than them to keep their edges sharp.” This anecdote definitely lit me up. I’m always seeking out those who I perceive are pushing the edges and doing better than me. It makes me a better player.

One of the best ways to benchmark on a regular basis is through membership in a peer group. I belong to an organization called the Virginia Council of CEOs where we’re broken up into smaller roundtables (8 to 12 members) where we get together monthly and share experiences aimed at helping each other solve issues inside our businesses. We are governed by the principles of the Gestalt process, which prohibits members from giving advice to one another (a great way to keep a bunch of Type A personalities from getting sideways). I started facilitating my roundtable in 2010 and then began running a roundtable inside CEDIA Groups in 2015. Last year, my partner Dante and I began offering roundtable experiences to our clientele at IntegrateU, where we look at quarterly financials together and benchmark against one another. What a great motivational experience to be surrounded by some of the top players in the industry on a regular basis!

Also by Henry Clifford: Unhappy Clients and Their ‘Jump to Conclusions’ Mats

How are you benchmarking the best in your life and inside your business?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.