Talent, Training & Technology Are the Leading Difference Makers for Growth

Talent, training and technology are the leading difference-makers for customer growth.

Decisions related to business growth

Growing your customer base: it’s the central goal of most businesses. What do high-growth small and midsize businesses do differently when it comes to engaging customers? Vistage Research sought to answer that question in a study of 1,352 Vistage SMB CEOs. The results illustrate and analyze the decisions that high-growth SMB leaders have made about strategies, initiatives and investments within marketing, sales and service. While there are many variables, our analysis focused on a combination of factors stemming from a CEO’s decisions around strategies and investments for customer growth.

Download the e-Book “Customer growth: Decisions for the SMB CEO” for a detailed look at the key strategic decisions faced by high-performance SMB CEOs for customer growth. Find out where high-growth companies invest in order to accomplish their customer growth plans, and explore the top 5 winning initiatives for marketing, sales and customer service

Rev Up Your Growth Engine

To quote a sage of our time, Charles M Schulz, creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown, “Life is like a 10-speed bicycle; most of us have gears we never use.”

So, what are these gears that stimulate your business growth?

While working with a number of clients as their interim marketing head, you start to see patterns of how high growth companies behave versus those who are suffering from no or slow growth.  Those companies that are growing tend to keep a sharp eye on their competition and their marketplace.  Maybe it is the sheer competitive spirit that drives the CEO and leadership team to be curious about their competitors constantly.  This curiosity of external factors can help us understand the first gear in the growth engine, Insight.

We have all heard the adage, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”  This applies well in the case of the Insight Gear or Gear 1.  You need to not only understand what your competitors are doing but also understand what perceptions prevail from the marketplace regarding your company.  In fact, to paraphrase Art Saxby and Pete Hayes in their book, The Growth Gears, “the opinions of your customers and your marketplace are far more important than your own.”

Once these high-growth companies have tapped external understanding with the Insight gear, what’s next?  All of that knowledge would go to waste if it were not leveraged in the refining of their Strategy.  Thus, to address Gear 2, let’s talk strategy for a moment.  How do you articulate your growth plans?  Do you want to focus on expanding geographically or by industry segments?  Or would it be a better approach to expand the offerings to your existing customer base?  Formulating this plan of how you are going to grow is based on the market insights gathered from Gear 1.

Fast forward, you really want to grow your business.  You have done your homework in the Insights arena.  You have formulated a strategic plan based on those insights.  Next, it’s time to execute!  The third gear is referred to as Execution.  Some of us might refer to this as tactics.  A perfect quote to articulate the importance of both strategy and execution follows:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

This is the time to roll up your sleeves and execute on a plan that is derived from your insights and strategy.  What I remind clients of during engagements is that making growth happen is not a one-and-done process.  We will execute tactics, measure and then adjust accordingly.

Next?  The fourth gear —  you guessed it…Sales!  Insight, Strategy, and Execution gears are all turning to create this high-functioning growth engine that fuels your Sales.  Sales can now happen with a well informed strategy and refined execution based on measurement and adjustment.  Voilà!

 

Watch the video    https://youtu.be/EH7456TPQlU

 

 

Innovative ideas for hiring & keeping great people

  • The labor market is hot, and talent shortages can restrict your growth.

The latest hiring statistics are pretty alarming. Despite overall economic growth in the United States being softer this year than expected, unemployment is at 5% and 3 in 4 employed workers are either actively seeking or are open to new job opportunities. This “churn” in the labor market is a great indicator of sustained economic recovery and overall individual/consumer confidence, however it’s not a great indicator for employers!

As a business leader, you must focus on both recruiting the most talented people for your open positions and on retaining the top players who are already on your team. If you don’t, you won’t be poised for the more aggressive economic growth that’s anticipated in the coming years.

Focus on two concepts for better results

If you continue with the status quo and don’t innovate your talent strategy—likely treating your people as an afterthought and taking a tactical approach—you’ll struggle to get ahead.

First, ask these questions, to assess your needs and remove the talent discussion from the back burner:

  • How many people will we need over the next few years, and in what positions?
  • What specific qualities are we looking for in those people, and how will we know when we find them?
  • Does our organizational structure support our talent strategies and, if not, what should it look like?
  • How effectively does our current candidate and leadership pipeline ensure we find and develop key talent?
  • Who has ultimate executive responsibility for our overall talent strategy? What internal/external resources do they need?

Then, consider innovation in these two areas, so you can find and keep the very best people for your organization.

Treat recruitment like an ongoing, strategic sales process

Do you spend time and energy on employee attraction, just as you do on customer attraction? Establishing and maintaining a strategic and ongoing recruitment process ensures you’ll hire and retain talented individuals to fit your unique culture and help drive your company’s growth. You’ll address immediate hiring needs and have a pipeline of candidates available when you need them. This process will force you to be proactive, vs. reactive. It will allow you to uncover the most talented people, likely passive candidates who are too busy helping another company succeed to actively seek new opportunities.

Assess, enhance and leverage your employment brand

It’s an employee’s market, and employees want much more than a job. They want an experience, in order to work for you and stay engaged. Evaluate your company culture and understand how employees view you as an employer. Bersin, a division of Deloitte, has done extensive research on what it takes to be “Simply Irresistible” as an employer and has identified these five key areas of focus: meaningful work; great management; fantastic environment; growth opportunity; and trust in leadership. How well do you do in these areas, what do your employees think, and what can be improved? How can you use strength in these areas to differentiate from other employers and offer current/prospective employees the most compelling value proposition?

Why Should A CEO Care About Corporate Culture? Because Employees Care About it

Employees want much more than a job. They want to be part of something rewarding, engaging and purposeful. They want to contribute to a company in a meaningful way. As a result, culture has shifted from a “nice to have” to a “must have” for today’s successful companies.

This leaves CEOs with two jobs to do: First, build a strong corporate culture. Second, leverage a strong corporate culture. For guidance on that first step, check out this blog post and watch the embedded webinar. This post explores step two: Leveraging culture to differentiate your company, engage employees, and attract and retain a talented workforce.

Promoting your culture

If your culture makes your company unique, make sure to tell others about it. There are several ways you can promote your culture, including:

  • Ensure that your employee value proposition and messaging reflect your culture
  • Create content for your company’s intranet, website and blog that highlights your culture
  • Spotlight top performers within your culture on social media
  • Develop an employee-referral program to find others that fit your culture
  • Extend your culture into your job descriptions and the candidate experience
  • Seek awards and other third-party endorsements based on your culture

Reaping the rewards

Promoting a strong corporate culture can lead to many positive outcomes for your organization. Here are a few:

  • Attract more qualified candidates that fit your culture
  • Engage with passive candidates
  • Compete on dimensions beyond compensation
  • Improve offer acceptance rates
  • Increase retention and reduce turnover
  • Enhance employee engagement
  • Increase employee referrals
  • Receive recognition as an “employer of choice”
  • Create a competitive edge
  • Improve your bottom line

The Journey of a Chief Decison Maker

It was a tumultuous time in the business, when I took my first CEO position. The dot-com bubble had just burst, impacting our bottom line. I needed to hire a new division head, and received the same referral by several sources. They were selling this candidate hard. He had the big-name credentials and knew our business; everybody loved this person.

In addition to improving results, I was eager to create alignment and instill team spirit, so I short-circuited my vetting process. I’d started with a number of candidates, but I only interviewed this one. Everybody was excited about this hire.

However, within a week, I realized I’d made a mistake. My hire had 100% popular support, but was also 100% wrong. He turned out to be toxic to our firm and could have ruined the company.

This experience taught me a big lesson: the importance of developing and staying true to a decision-making process. A survey by “McKinsey Quarterly found that 60 percent of executives make bad decisions as frequently as good ones. That stat shows that there’s room for improvement. I would argue that if you want to be a high-performing CEO, you must develop a core competency in decision-making. I believe that all CEOs need to experience this shift, recognizing that how they arrive at a decision is just as important as what decision they make.

The four drivers in evolving decision-making as a discipline

Today, as an experienced CEO, I approach decisions differently. I treat decision-making as a discipline and consciously apply a structured framework when making choices. My experience has revealed four drivers that influence the evolution of the chief decision-maker: purpose, mindset, rigor, and time and space. The new CEO and seasoned CEO tend to respond differently to these drivers. It took many years to develop and refine my approach, but it allows me to make better decisions, faster.

  1. Ground yourself in purpose

If you’re a new CEO, you may have developed a form of tunnel vision, focusing on only your department’s goals instead of the big picture. When you step into the CEO role, you have to think about what benefits the company as a whole. That’s one of the big distinctions that comes with moving up into the CEO role. The complexity makes decision-making more challenging, regardless of company size.

It’s also difficult to make decisions if you’re unclear what your company stands for. Having that filter is vital for me. When I’m evaluating a decision, I always ask myself: Does this decision align with my company’s mission, vision and purpose? Will it benefit the organization as a whole? Does it accurately reflect our values and beliefs? If I can answer “yes” to these questions, I know I’m on the right track.

  1. Shift your mindset

A less-experienced CEO might hold a limiting belief that there’s only one right answer to any given situation. Experience tends to show that good choices come from thoughtful processes, and that there’s more than one right answer. It’s liberating to realize there are many options, and the best one is the one in which you’ve invested the time, energy and commitment.

Putting ego aside is also important. Over time I’ve developed the awareness to check my ego and make decisions based on their impact on my company. A company-first mentality provides the clarity and honesty to approach problem-solving effectively.

If I need to pivot or change a decision, I no longer worry how this will make me look, as I’m doing what’s best for the company — not for me.  That’s operating with integrity, and decisions that you make with integrity are the ones you can sleep with.

  1. Apply rigor

You know you’re off-track when every decision feels like starting over. When you treat decision-making as a discipline and apply rigor, you won’t feel like you’re starting from scratch each time. Rigor has allowed me to make decisions faster and with more accuracy.

Part of the rigor is seeking input from others — especially those who think differently from you — while understanding how to filter and synthesize the insights you receive.

Your tendency may be to talk to as many people as possible about the situation and then make a decision based on what the majority says. My disastrous hire reveals a potential pitfall in relying on majority opinion. In my approach now, I listen to other people’s opinions but process them differently than I did as a young CEO. I treat them as inputs instead of instruction and make sure that every decision I make is uniquely mine.

I also ensure that I have enough context to make an informed decision. You have to understand at least some of the details; otherwise, you run the risk of relying too much on assumptions. Applying rigor to outside input makes the decision-making process easier because it gives me clarity and direction.

  1. Allow for time and space

A high-pressure work environment, coupled with the scarcity of time, can cause a new CEO to make decisions in a hasty or haphazard way. As a newcomer to the C-Suite, I didn’t allow myself the time and space to tune out the noise and fully process a decision.

I have since learned to slow down and designate time to process decisions without interruption. I treat decision-making as a marathon instead of a sprint. I set aside a chunk of time every day to engage in quiet reflection and work through decisions. Don’t be afraid to tell people, “This decision is going to take some time.”

Developing your decision-making process

When I’m making a decision, I apply a process that’s based on three core principles:

  • I pay attention to my instincts, listening to my gut without over-indexing.
  • I exercise judgment in my choices, drawing on data and experiences to reach conclusions.
  • The perspectives of my peers, mentors and employees inform—but do not dictate—my decisions.

This is not a sequential process but rather a fluid one, where the three principles work in tandem with each other. I know I’ve reached a good decision when it passes the “MVP test”: It aligns with the mission, vision and purpose of my company.

Let me share an anecdote that stands in contrast to the first story. Years ago, after talking through some business challenges with my CEO peers, I started to think about whether it made sense to create a CFO position. I talked to colleagues about my dilemma, thought about the financial implications of the hire, and listened to my gut when reviewing my options. I stuck to my vetting process. Ultimately, I decided to make the hire. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my career. The CFO who I chose was worth his weight in gold. He made changes to the company that increased its value exponentially.

Just like every other CEO, I’m a work in progress. I still make mistakes but fewer than I used to because I invest time and energy in my decision-making process.

The process outlined here works for me, but is by no means the only way to make a good decision. Take my drivers as inputs to developing your own. Decision-making is a process that’s unique to the individual, so it’s important to develop a model that feels authentic to you. After all, it’s not the model that matters most. What counts is that you rigorously apply a conscious process that leads to better decisions — and better results for your firm.

Download and share the PDF of this article. 

This article first appeared in Inc. Magazine.

 

About the author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage Worldwide. Prior to his tenure with Vistage, Reese served as CEO and board member for the Miller Heiman business consulting organization. He has held senior positions at Corporate Express, Kinko’s Inc. and British Telecom. Reese holds a business administration degree from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado and has completed various executive programs at Stanford University and Northwestern University. He has been a Vistage member for more than 10 years.

How to Find Meaning in a Job That Isn’t Your “True Calling”

 

  • Executive Summary

Most people don’t see their profession as a “calling.” But they can still find meaning in their work by focusing on how it helps others. One strategy is to connect with end users or beneficiaries. Another is to focus on your organization’s broad mission — whether it’s serving cheap, delicious food or putting a man on the moon. A third is to think about how your job helps you provide for those you love or fund activities you find more meaningful.

Why do so few people find fulfillment in their work?

A few years ago I posed this question to Amy Wrzesniewski, a Yale School of Management professor who studies these issues, and she offered an explanation that made a lot of sense. Students, she told me, “think their calling is under a rock, and if they turn over enough rocks, they will find it.”

Surveys confirm that meaning is the top thing Millennials say they want from a job. And yet her research shows that less than 50% of people see their work as a calling. So many of her students are left feeling anxious and frustrated and completely unsatisfied by the good jobs and careers they do secure.

What they — and many of us, I think — fail to realize is that work can be meaningful even if you don’t think of it as a calling. The four most common occupations in America are retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer/server, and office clerk — jobs that aren’t typically associated with “meaning.” But all have something in common with those that are, such as clergy, teachers, and doctors: They exist to help others. And as Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, has shown, people who see their work as a form of giving consistently rank their jobs as more meaningful.

That means you can find meaning in nearly any role in nearly any organization. After all, most companies create products or services to fill a need in the world, and all employees contribute in their own ways. The key is to become more conscious about the service you’re providing — as a whole and personally.

How? One way is to connect with the end user or beneficiary. In one study, Grant and his colleagues found that fundraisers in a university call center who’d been introduced to a student whose education was being paid for by the money raised spent 142% more time on the phone with potential donors and raised 171% more cash than peers who hadn’t met those scholarship recipients. Whether your customers are external or internal, an increased focus on them, and how you help them live their lives or do their jobs, can help you find more meaning in yours.

  • Another strategy is to constantly remind yourself of your organization’s overarching goal. There’s a great story about a janitor that John F. Kennedy ran into at NASA in 1962. When the president asked him what he was doing, the man said, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Life Is Good is an apparel company best known for colorful T-shirts with stick-figure designs, but its mission is to spread optimism and hope throughout the world, and that’s something that even warehouse employees understand. If you work for an accounting firm, you’re helping people or companies with the unpleasant task of doing their taxes. If you’re a fast-food cook, you’re providing a family with a cheap and delicious meal. Each of these jobs serves a purpose in the world.

    Even if you can’t get excited about your company’s mission or customers, you can still adopt a service mindset by thinking about how your work helps those you love. Consider a study of women working in a coupon processing factory in Mexico. Researchers led by Jochen Menges, a professor at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, found that those who described the work as dull were generally less productive than those who said it was rewarding. But the effects went away for those in the former group who saw the work (however tedious) as a way to support their families. With that attitude, they were just as productive and energized as the coupon processors who didn’t mind the task. Many people understand the purpose of their jobs in a similar manner. The work they do helps them pay their mortgage, go on vacation — or even support a hobby that gives meaning to their lives, like volunteer tutoring, gardening, or woodworking.

    Not everyone finds their one true calling. But that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to work meaningless jobs. If we reframe our tasks as opportunities to help others, any occupation can feel more significant

    Emplyees Who Stay in Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less

    by Cameron Keng, Forbes Contributor

     

    The worst kept secret is that employees are making less on average every year. There are millions of reasons for this, but we’re going to focus on one that we can control.  Staying employed at the same company for over two years on average is going to make you earn less over your lifetime by about 50% or more.

    Keep in mind that 50% is a conservative number at the lowest end of the spectrum.  This is assuming that your career is only going to last 10 years.  The longer you work, the greater the difference will become over your lifetime.

    Arguments for Changing Jobs

    The average raise an employee can expect in 2014 is 3%. Even the most underperforming employee can expect a 1.3% raise. The best performers can hope for a 4.5% raise.  But, the inflation rate is currently 2.1% calculated based on the Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that your raise is actually less than 1%.  This is probably sobering enough to make you reach for a drink.

    In 2014, the average employee is going to earn less than a 1% raise and there is very little that we can do to change management’s decision. But, we can decide whether we want to stay at a company that is going to give us a raise for less than 1%. The average raise an employee receives for leaving is between a 10% to 20% increase in salary. Obviously, there are extreme cases where people receive upwards of 50%, but this depends on each person’s individual circumstances and industries.

    Assumes your career will last 10 years. An avg 3% raise and a conservative 10% raise per transition.

    Why are people who jump ship rewarded, when loyal employees are punished for their dedication? The answer is simple. Recessions allow businesses to freeze their payroll and decrease salaries of the newly hired based on “market trends.” These reactions to the recession are understandable, but the problem is that these reactions were meant to be “temporary.” Instead they have become the “norm” in the marketplace. More importantly, we have all become used to hearing about “3% raises” and we’ve accepted it as the new “norm."

    John Hollon, former editor of Workforce.com, remembers when “5% was considered an average annual pay increase.” The amount of fear the media created surrounding the recession and its length has given companies the perfect excuse to shrink payroll and lower employee salary expectations in the long-run.

    The world is desperate for skilled labor and companies around the globe are starving for talent.  Companies can tout technology replacing labor, but it is only exacerbating the global shortage of human capital and skilled workers. This means that we as employees are positioned better than ever to leverage our abilities for increased pay.

    The Forbes eBook To Succeed In A Brutal Job Market
    Don’t let a rotten economy spoil your goals. Use the career and money advice in The Millennial Game Plan to get and stay ahead for good.

    Bethany Devine, a Senior Hiring Manager in Silicon Valley, CA CA -1.12% who has worked with Intuit INTU -0.63% and other Fortune 500 companies explains, “I would often see resumes that only had a few years at each company. I found that the people who had switched companies usually commanded a higher salary. The problem with staying at a company forever is you start with a base salary and usually annual raises are based on a percentage of your current salary. There is often a limit to how high your manager can bump you up since it's based on a percentage of your current salary. However, if you move to another company, you start fresh and can usually command a higher base salary to hire you. Companies competing for talent are often not afraid to pay more when hiring if it means they can hire the best talent. Same thing applies for titles. Some companies have a limit to how many promotions they allow each year. Once you are entrenched in a company, it may become more difficult to be promoted as you may be waiting in line behind others who should have been promoted a year ago but were not due to the limit. However, if you apply to another company, your skills may match the higher title, and that company will hire you with the new title. I have seen many coworkers who were waiting on a certain title and finally received it the day they left and were hired at a new company.”

    Even more importantly, when I asked Devine her thoughts on employees who had remained in the same company for periods long past the two year mark, she explained that she did feel that some were “underpaid” or had the potential to earn more.

    Jessica Derkis started her career earning $8 per hour ($16,640 annual salary) as the YMCA’s marketing manager.  Over 10 years, she’s changed employers five times to ultimately earn $72,000 per year at her most recent marketing position.  This is approximately a 330% increase over a 10 year career.  Derkis’ most recent transition resulted in a 50% increase to her salary.  Derkis’ is a great example of how “owning your career” can make a huge difference in your income and career path.

     

    Arguments Against Changing Jobs

    People are worried that “changing jobs too often” will reflect negatively on employee resumes. I can definitely understand this fear because everyone is always worried about being unmarketable. I will be the first to admit that it is possible that certain employers may look at a resume with multiple transitions as a negative and may even disqualify an applicant based on that alone.

    But, the important question is whether the risk outweighs the reward. Christine Mueller, President of TechniSearch Recruiters, has had clients that “will not consider anyone who has had more than three jobs in the last 10 years, no matter the reason.” Even so, Mueller still recommends that an employee makes a transition every three to four years for maximum salary gains.  Thus, the question is less about whether employees should jump ship, but how long they should they wait before jumping to maximize their salaries and achieve their goals.

    Brendan Burke, Director at Headwaters HW +% MB, strongly disagrees with the “up-and-out culture.”  He explains that “companies turn over great employees because they’re not organizationally strong enough to support rapid development within their ranks. In many cases, that is a recipe for discontinuity in service and product offerings as well as disloyalty in the ranks. As such, we take the opposite approach. Rather than force folks out after 24 months, we try to retain our junior and mid-level staff and develop them within the ranks.”

    Mr. Burke is absolutely correct. Most companies are not equipped to “rapidly” promote and reward their best employees for a variety of reasons such as office politics. Everyone that has worked in the labor pool hates office politics, but understands that it is an unavoidable evil and is more often than not a major obstacle to rewarding talent.

    Finally, we’ve been talking about money a lot.  Andrew Bauer, CEO of Royce Leather, explains that jumping ship can be “stressful.” Employees also need to consider their “quality of life, mental health, physical health and better moral standards.” Mr. Bauer is right. Money is important, but it must be balanced with everything else in your life. Monetary compensation is only one part of your life, and it should not dictate everything.

    Jumping ship is a risk that we all need to weigh at a personal level.  In my career, jumping ship is something I’ve done aggressively and frequently. I’ve never looked back and regretted my decisions because I’ve always felt that my skills deserved more. Hiring a single employee who is able to perform even 10% more efficiently is worth at least a 25% increase in salary. Companies spend a lot of money to pay recruiters, human resourcing to conduct background checks and the time of existing employees to hire and train new people. It’s always cheaper to just hire better people and pay them more.

    Conclusion:

    It’s a fact that employees are underpaid. Instead of focusing on things we can’t control like the economy or management decisions, focus on the things we can. Employees can control their own salaries by aggressively negotiating their opportunities and being unafraid to ask for more.

    Clearly, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Not everyone may be able to make this decision immediately, but every employee should consider the option. I don’t fault employers and businesses for the market because it’s their right and duty to maximize their profits. But,  as an individual, you’re a CEO of one, and you have a duty to maximize your profits.

    Peer Advisory Groups: Superpowers for Leaders

     

    • The summer movie blockbuster season is here and just about everyone is talking about Wonder Woman. As a leader in your industry, you probably have your own superpowers that launched you to where you are today. Still, there are always secrets of entrepreneurial heroes that you might not yet know. How can you uncover them? Join a peer advisory group.

    As part of my consulting practice, I facilitate four peer-to-peer networks. A peer advisory network can take on many forms. I have groups that meet three times a year at a conference and at their operations, and groups that meet just once a year and bi-monthly via video. Sometimes we have outside speakers and other times we focus heavily on one peer member’s individual business challenges. The structure varies, but there are a handful of common themes to ensure the success of peer groups and that are designed to support members in achieving results in business and professional development.

    Five Special Powers Of Peer Groups

    1. Confidentiality

    Confidentiality is the first place to start when joining and maintaining a peer group relationship. A formal written policy that is signed by all members should be the minimum standard. In my groups, we go around the room and verbally acknowledge confidentiality at the start of each meeting. The reason for extreme confidentiality is simple: It’s about creating an environment where everyone knows they can share openly. For high achievers and CEOs to combat the "it's lonely at the top" and the "I have no one that can relate to me" quandaries that surround being in a leadership position, there is only one way to feel comfortable opening up -- trust.

    2. Feedback

    Each peer group’s interaction should include opportunities for members to share what is going on in their business and ask for advice from fellow members. We use operational overviews, but there are a variety of ways to include sharing and peer feedback. Vistage Worldwide, an international peer-to-peer network organization, includes a combination of peer group meetings and executive coaching to maximize results. In The Power of Peers, authors Leo Bottary and Leon Shapiro, both with Vistage, share that participation in peer groups helps leaders optimize their professional development time and cash investment.

    3. Expertise

    One unique aspect of peer advisory groups is that consultants in the room are members themselves and that is the goal. As a facilitator, sometimes it's challenging for me to avoid diving into consultant mode and advising, but the real aim as a facilitator is to get the members sharing their relevant experience and offering practical insight into what works and doesn’t. A facilitator should guide the conversation and work to encourage members to describe their practiced solutions to problems faced by others in the room.

    4. Formal Structure And Facilitation

    You can create your own group. If you do, I suggest you either create it and become the facilitator or become a member and find a qualified outside facilitator to run the program. You may ask why, and the reason is simple: You can’t get what you need out of a peer group membership if you are concerned with booking speakers, moderating the conversation, and planning the meal breaks. Let a pro do that and reap the rewards of peer advice and counsel.

    I also advocate that there be a cost to admittance. Some groups may have an annual fee plus expenses, others just charge to book speakers. There are options, but the bottom line is that when you commit financially, you are much more likely to commit professionally and give the time and energy to the group and to yourself.

    5. Accountability

    Successful peer groups have mastered accountability. I’ve seen groups of executives holding each other accountable for business opportunities and financial improvements, but also for needed changes in a member’s health and fitness, and even personal relationships. Accountability also breeds commitment to attending and being present, something that is very difficult for leaders to do when they are on-site at work. Peer groups support the idea that time away to work on the business and on the owner’s professional growth pays dividends. Things back at the shop can wait.

    The Power To Give And To Receive

    One last thing that makes peer advisory groups work is a willingness to both give and accept valuable, honest counsel. A peer network is not an association or a club. As such, there is not a president or a leader. Maintaining a sense that everyone there is on the same plane is essential, so if you find yourself in a group where it's clear you are the senior member or the standout expert, you need to find a new group where you’ll be challenged. If you’re not, you’re mentoring others and not gaining for your business, too. A balance of both is ideal.

    Peer groups are a way to both give and receive so you’ll be doing good in the world when you join one.

    Even if you don’t have a set of lightning-rod-emitting gold wristbands, you can still tap into the power of a peer-to-peer network to elevate your game

    Peer advisory groups work because of a willingness to both give and accept valuable, honest counsel. http://bit.ly/2uCdDfx