Peer advisory groups: How CEOs can overcome challenges, achieve balance

You only know what you know — you don’t know what you don’t know. Today these words are more relevant than ever with global markets, uncertainty and volatility, rapid change, market disruption and a changing workforce.

Leaders need to find ways to not just survive but to thrive in this new normal. The most effective way to do this is to surround yourself with the best people.

It is not possible to know everything, and it is not enough to only know what you know. A CEO needs access to the knowledge and experience of those who know what he or she does not.

Smart Business talked with Jim Jelinek, Dennis Sabol and Jeff Semple, Vistage International Inc. Chairs, on how peer groups can teach CEOs to better lead their companies, overcome challenges and achieve work/life balance.

How can peer groups help senior executives?

The stakes are higher than ever. You’ve got to be competitive and deliver the metrics. With the speed of decisions that need to be made, there is no way for CEOs to get enough experience to answer all the questions and resolve the issues effectively by themselves. Peer groups provide a place where CEOs can get answers by leveraging knowledge and experience of other leaders who actually run companies and live in the intersection of been there, done that.

Peer groups enable CEOs to learn from the successes and failures of their peers. CEOs ask each other the tough questions, uncover what we don’t know and provide clarity, insight and options to the most pressing problems. Better outcomes result. Deep relationships are formed. It’s not so lonely at the top.

A peer group helps CEOs achieve work/life balance. CEOs can be reminded that they cannot be their best self if they neglect the personal side. CEOs have got to experience the magic. It’s just like a light went on that wasn’t there before.

How do peer advisory groups work?

The chair assures that around the table there are great minds: passionate, lifelong learners who understand the benefits of being mentored. By putting leaders in a setting of total trust and confidentiality, issues are discussed that are not dealt with in any other forum.

The group helps the member search for answers. Members often find a path forward that is far more successful than they could have found on their own.

Many members are there to understand their personal lives. They are looking for balance in life and they see what others are doing.

Peer groups are where you grow as a leader and help others to grow as well. Members challenge assumptions, give unbiased feedback and hold each other accountable. They recognize and celebrate each other’s successes.

The ROI on being part of a group speaks volumes. When people continue to attend every month and spend the most valuable resource they have — time — they realize that this is where they receive the highest returns.

Members meet for one day per month to work on their businesses. They hear expert speakers present the best in current thinking on a wide range of critical topics. The afternoons are reserved for issue processing where members will discuss any issue, opportunity or challenge important in their business or personal life. The chair also meets monthly with each member on a one-to-one basis as a coach and sounding board.

What should group members expect to gain?

Members search inside themselves and say, ‘I don’t know it all. I need to surround myself with great people to ensure there no are blind spots.’

Joining a peer group comes from a desire just to be better, whether it is in their personal life or in business.

Members are truly there to help each other to be more successful, no matter what stage they are at in their evolution.

Jeff Semple, Dennis Sabol and Jim Jelinek are Chairs with Vistage International Inc. Reach them at (877) 793-7532 or [email protected][email protected] or [email protected].

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage International Inc.


FOLLOW UP: For more information about Vistage peer advisory groups and events, contact a Vistage Chair.