- 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
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.
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.
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.
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