Why ‘Peer power’ trumps ‘Will power’

It can be hard to keep our promises to ourselves; to not eat that extra biscuit; to get up earlier than yesterday or read that chapter of our book. When left to our own devices it’s all too tempting to give up, cut corners or make excuses, (even legitimate sounding ones). It seems will power alone doesn't always cut it.

Enter peer power. Peer power (not to be confused with peer pressure) is relying on those around you to help you reach your goals. Peer power gives us the added support to make better choices, live up to our commitments and feel encouraged and inspired to do the right thing. Tapping into the collective commitment and behavioural choices of those around you is like swimming with the tide instead of against it. It takes less effort, feels easier and is more enjoyable.

If no one orders dessert at dinner, you might think twice about doing so. If everyone in your household is up and about early in the morning, maybe you’ll be more inclined to join them. If everyone at work uses the recycling bin, it quickly becomes the norm. 

A few years ago one of my girlfriends and I were committed to getting fit at the gym. We both knew that we could end up less committed and more likely to skip sessions if relying on our willpower alone, so we devised a plan to harness our peer power instead! We made a plan of our workout days the week before, then we banned ourselves from contacting each other before showing up for the workout. This meant we couldn’t ring to say we weren’t going, or wanted to make it later, or didn't feel like it; which in turn meant we just had to show up! Amen to peer power.

Next time you are struggling to keep a commitment to yourself, or to reach a difficult goal, consider harnessing the power of your peers. If you’re doing it tough, chances are others are too, and will welcome the support. 

Coaching tips:

  • What are your big goals for 2017?
  • How can you harness peer power to support you?
  • What group can you sign up to?
  • What ‘bestie’ can you get to join you?
  • What online community can guide you?

Good luck and let me know how you go! :)  


Leading Out Loud is our one-day masterclass for women who want to build presence, improve visibility and strategically manage their leadership impact. Join your peers on Feb 22nd (www.trybooking.com/NNZO) to explore the confidence, communication strategies and power dynamics necessary to actively steer your leadership career.


Anneli is a communication expert who has been working with leaders to improve their communication and interpersonal intelligence for almost a decade. She coaches women to increase their visibility, confidence and personal power for greater professional impact.

Anneli is the co-author of Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guess work out of leading leaders, a practical guide for developing performance at work.