“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
– John Quincy
Transform Your Organization
Why CEO Peer Advisory Groups Work
By Dianne Durkin
When you’re in charge there are two truisms: there is never a lack of opinions about what you are doing and it’s lonely at the top. Even if you have a great senior management team and a highly engaged board of directors giving you advice, sometimes a CEO needs to hear from someone who knows what it’s like to be in charge and who isn’t vested in the outcome of a decision. That’s why some executives join CEO peer advisory groups to help them objectively evaluate their approaches to the challenges they face. If you’re weighing whether such a group would be beneficial to you, consider these benefits.
Empathy: If you’ve never been a CEO, it’s nearly impossible to put yourself in a CEO’s shoes. Being able to discuss issues with someone who’s been there is invaluable. Fellow CEOs aren’t looking through the individual lens of marketing, finance or HR; they are looking at the whole picture. It’s what they have to do every day. The empathy that one CEO shares with another is priceless, both professionally and personally.
Objectivity: An employee or board member, regardless of their espoused objectivity and true sincerity, has a personal stake in the outcome. Fellow CEOs from non-competing businesses do not. They can ask the hard questions and not be influenced by personal relationships or other issues within the organization. It’s an eye-opening experience for many CEOs when peers look at a specific challenge through a completely impartial lens.
Shared Challenges: While the CEOs in the peer group may serve entirely different type of customers in varying industries, they share common challenges regarding employees, growth, profitability, executive development, technology and uncertainty. Once they begin the conversation, it becomes apparent how much they have in common and how much they can learn from one another.
Trust: Sharing ideas across industries helps CEOs learn from one another. This creates an environment where the CEO can be truly vulnerable to learn and grow. What’s more, these CEOs will also share their personal triumphs and have like-minded individuals celebrate their successes.
Accountability: With the sharing of common situations and disclosure of critical information comes an incredible amount of respect and trust. The groups tend to be serious about holding their peers accountable to make the tough choices and to deliver on their stated courses of action. The atmosphere of shared accountability with peers is powerful.
Improved Decision Making and Enhanced Results: Advisory group members provide each other with practical advice to real world problems. In many cases, someone in the room has dealt with a similar issue. “Been there, done that” becomes a reality of learning from other’s mistakes.
Clarified Direction: Peer groups ensure that members take the time to think about their business direction. The CEO group serves as a sounding board for future growth strategies and the effect of competitive and market pressures.
Reduced Isolation and Increased Confidence: It can be lonely at the top. CEOs can often feel isolated. A peer group creates an outlet for camaraderie, a sounding board for new ideas and a means to obtain solid unbiased advice on major business issues.
Improved Work/Life Balance: Improving your business is often the fastest way to improve your life. Beyond making more money with fewer headaches, many members form lasting relationships.
An MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed members of CEO peer groups and found:
- 100% agreed membership improved their company’s performance;
- 100% obtained new knowledge;
- 90% were able to improve organization in their professional life;
- 88% developed clearer performance benchmarks.
A peer advisory group can create a safe atmosphere to express frustrations, challenges and feelings that executives may not be comfortable sharing in whole with employees. It also provides access to CEOs who know what you’re going through and can share the wisdom of hard lessons they have learned. After all, collaboration and collective thinking create better results.