Why being part of a CEO support group is so valuable

“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”
—Claude Levi-Strauss, businessman

I have to admit that I am “late to the party.”

While running a small, entrepreneurial yacht company, an international resort company and a Silicon Valley technology services company, I was an independent, go-it-alone, must-know-the-answers CEO. Looking back,

I’m amazed about what more I could have accomplished if I had embraced some sort of CEO Peer Group; a non-judgmental sounding board, a trusted group of peers that could question me, support me and hold me accountable.

If you are like me at all, you are not alone. In Leo Bottary’s recent book, “The Power of Peers,” he cites a Stanford Graduate School of Business study that found nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive outside leadership advice. These CEOs struggle with isolation and a sense that they are lonely at the top.

The last three years I have been lucky enough to be involved with an incredibly generous, thoughtful group of non-competing CEOs that support, question and hold each other accountable.

The impact they have had on each other as leaders and the growth of the varied businesses has been nothing short of astounding.

One member was supportively questioned about his role leading his 18-year-old company; whether he was the right person to be his own CEO? He realized it was a great question for him to seriously consider and defined what this new CEO should look like and do to have the most impact.

He is quickly becoming this leader and is already reaping great benefits with his most profitable months in 18 years.

There are all kinds of CEO peer groups and there should be one that will feel right for you. Some focus on networking and sociability, others are professionally-facilitated and you “roll up your sleeves and get down to work.”

There are groups that are all women, groups whose leaders are all under 40 and groups that are more specific to a community.

You want to find out if you:
1. Share the same values embraced by the group.
2. Connect with their core values and goals.
3. Can commit to their standards (attendance, openness etc.).
4. Feel it is a good fit to get and give the most value.

Now that I am “at the party” and fully engaged, I see joining the right peer group as one of the most valuable investments of time and money that a successful CEO can make.

Three questions to ask yourself?
1. Who is questioning your answers?
2. Who holds you accountable?
3. Is it important who you surround yourself with?

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. “I now believe that is brilliant insight.

Joan Sills is San Francisco Chair at Vistage International