How did we begin?
We started the Councils back in 2002 because we wanted our friends—fellow executives in the Internet world who cared about customers—to understand and benefit from the power of asking for help as a leadership discipline—and to experience what it’s like to have a community of peers that you trust and can thus be open and vulnerable with.
The dotcom world had just crumbled. Many people were out of a job and we thought that those that still had jobs needed to really help each other. So with Elizabeth Peaslee, then at Travelocity, Marissa Mayer, then at Google, Maryam Mohit, then at Amazon, Mary Baumgartner, then at HBO Online, Jake Peters, then at Uline, Mark Carpenter, then at AARP, and a few others, we launched this community designed to help digital executives ask for and give help to their peers.
It worked. Early Internet pioneers really helped each other. And then the Councils grew. When we hit the next crisis—the Great Recession—members really stood with each other and helped their peers lead through those tough times.
Where did the idea for the Councils originally come from?
Phil’s mother was the original inspiration. She created “Councils” (she didn’t call them that) including a group of teachers and administrators from her first public school teaching job in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. That group met annually for 50 years until the year she passed away.
Other influences include the Cyberposium conference, which Phil co-chaired at Harvard Business School in 1998, the McKinsey Internet Forum, which Phil worked on that same year and a private group of CEOs that Phil spoke to in Kohler, Wisconsin where he met Jake Peters and Liz Uhlein of Uline (and Jake subsequently was one of the founding members of the Councils).
Phil talks more about the superpower of being open, vulnerable and willing to ask for help in this Harvard Business Review article, “Who Can Help the CEO?” and in his recent TEDx talk. He also talks at length about why companies do and do not include their customers (and essentially why they do or do not ask their customers for help) in his book, Customers Included.