Peer advisory groups

Are you feeling a bit lonely at the top of your business?

As a leader in your business, who can you turn to for trusted advice, perspective, experience, and accountability?

When you have important decisions to make, who can you trust to check your thinking?

Imagine having over a dozen peer company executives and leaders, from noncompeting industries, acting as a type of trusted board of advisors, helping you sort out and resolve the toughest issues in your professional and personal life. Business leaders all over the world are beginning to turn to peer advisory groups to share hard-won knowledge and work together on their toughest challenges. These groups work on the principle that more brains are better than one; that an honest exchange of ideas and experiences among peers can benefit almost anyone; and that the isolation and loneliness that executive leaders feel can be overcome to produce exceptional results.

A business peer advisory group is a group of 8-16 business executives from diverse industries who get together on a monthly basis to solve problems, share best practices, hold each other accountable, and offer each other support. They operate under the assumption that even business owners and executives need personal and professional development. Peer advisory groups have been a part of the business community for over 50 years. They are known by various names and most are sponsored by professional chief executive organizations: Vistage International, TEC, mastermind groups, WPO, The Alternative Board, C12, CEO Clubs, executive forums, the Chamber, etc. Some of these peer advisory groups operate right here in Colorado Springs and can be found by googling the organization’s name.

According to Leo Bottary, writing for Startup America, “Peer advisory groups turn the traditional executive development model on its head. The problem is that most executive training is episodic/event-oriented. Someone goes off to training, learns some interesting new concepts, and within a few weeks time, is back to the same old, pre-training behaviors. Peer advisory groups work in exactly the opposite fashion. By having a professional facilitator bring peers together, whether they are colleagues from different areas of a large company or CEOs from different businesses, they can work together as equals with the primary goal of meeting difficult challenges or setting a course for the future. The diversity of the group, coupled with real dialogue, works to create an environment of trust to address larger issues that tend to transcend personal agendas. By setting specific objectives, it’s easy to measure the ROI.”

Business peer advisory groups are different from networking groups, seminar groups, or casual gatherings of business peers. They are covenant groups that have defined membership qualifications. They often discourage members from doing business with one another in order to maintain objectivity. The agenda of each monthly half-day or full-day meeting is often defined by in-depth discussions surrounding actual challenges or opportunities shared by each member in turn. Members often spend as much time talking about personal issues as they do business issues: after all, most executives have few opportunities to talk openly about the things that really matter in their lives.

The most effective groups have consistent attendance every month. Members are open to sharing and learning because of the value that they gain from the input they receive. They hold one another accountable for commitments or goals shared in the meetings. The groups share sensitive information in a highly confidential environment and are managed by a trained facilitator or “chair” to insure that they stay on track and that every member participates. Members grow in their knowledge of one another and their respective businesses as they spend time together, thus becoming more effective advisors and accountability partners over time.

Business peer advisory groups generally charge a membership fee that is backed up with strong promises of results that members will experience:

Enhanced decision-making. For tough decisions, there’s no better sounding board than fellow executives who have met and overcome the same challenges one is facing. It’s like getting the “trial” without the “error.”

Kent Wilson (PhD) is a business practitioner and nonprofit specialist. He can be reached at kent.wilson@vistage.com.