The power of peer groups is undeniable. I have been Chairing peer groups of CEOs and senior executives since 2003 (12 years and counting at the time of writing this) and speaking to such groups nationally and internationally. I have spoken to more than 250 groups globally and have Chaired more than 500 group meetings and 1500 one-to-one coaching sessions with CEOs. Vistage (previously TEC and still called that in some parts of the world) just passed through the milestone of 20,000 members in 16 countries and membership continues on a rapid growth trajectory – when I became a Chair in 2003 there were only 7000 members. The scale, scope and impact of Vistage/TEC is mind boggling:
- 20,000 members in 16 Countries totaling $300 Billion in annual revenue and 1.8 Million employees
- 12,000 group meetings per year, 140,000 one-to-one coaching sessions per year, 25,000 business issues solved per year – on average, everyday of the year, 1000 of our members are in a group meeting
- Average growth rate of members is 3X that of non-members (7.1% vs 2.1%: Dunn & Bradstreet)
Peer groups are now truly a huge global phenomenon and if you aren’t in one you are missing out. In an increasingly VUCA world, there is no better place to be than in a peer group, whether it’s Vistage/TEC or some other. It is essential to have the agility to survive, thrive and prevail.
I am very proud to say that one of my long-time Vistage members of one of the groups I chair just wrote the book on the subject (Leo Bottary in the video above). Read more:
- “The Power of Peers: How the Company You Keep Drives Leadership, Growth and Success” (March 2016) by Leon Shapiro (previous CEO of Vistage) and Leo Bottary (Vistage Corporate Communications and long time member of one of my Vistage Groups)
- I am honored that Leon and Leo referred to some of the articles I have written on the topic over the years or been quoted in:
They lay out the spectrum from peer-influence (where the majority of teams play) to peer-advantage (where only a minority of teams play) and the 5 factors required:
They quote me in a couple of places:
We’ve covered the mechanics of the process, but Mike Richardson describes what it feels like to be in the room and work an issue with a group:
“At the very beginning of the meeting, you notice that you’re already past the garden-variety peer influence end of the spectrum. Things quickly crystallize though, and as they start to gel, we progress to the advantage end of the spectrum. You can feel it. You can taste it. You can see it. You can feel that different context, that different aura, the different gravity. It can start as early as the pregame stuff that’s going on as people are connecting before the meeting formally begins.
Obviously, I think the differentiating moment between influence and advantage happens when you’re in the middle of discussing a complex issue, or what I like to call a wheelspin issue. It’s so tangled that this member may well have been spinning their wheels on it for quite some time, and here we are in the middle of it and there’s just something very powerful that it may not sound like it or look like it or even feel like it to an outsider, but to an insider, you know there’s something very special happening. It’s quiet when it needs to be, it’s noisy when it needs to be; we are in the moment, we are very present, we are listening and looking, and you can feel the epiphany is coming and you can see, hear, and feel things shift.
It may not be a singular earth-shattering comment or question or idea from anybody. It’s not always sharp, it’s often blunt. It can be just the compounding effect of the member who’s being listened to for thirty- five, forty- five, sixty, ninety minutes, and being appreciated and cared for. After the member has taken a moment to reflect, we say, “What have you heard and what’s resonating with you?” They’ll say something like, “You guys have left such a footprint and impact upon me, I can’t tell you how big an impact all of this is.
Lightbulbs come on in my head in some way, shape, or form, and I think it’s that depth, it’s that height of shift—and it takes time to get there, although it happens a lot faster than you might think. I think that’s the advantage. You can’t buy that. You can’t get that. You have to invest in that and then, you belong to it. You’ve earned the right to be part of it and it shows up.”
The passion and energy of Mike’s words are palpable. This is just one example of what makes the peer advantage experience so powerful. In essence, there are few, if any, forums in which CEOs can sit down with a group of people and be totally honest and vulnerable without having their guard up. The CEOs who want to avail themselves of that kind of forum trust one another enough to create it. With each passing meeting, there’s a little bit of extra trust, an increased willingness to be open—and the more people do this, the more trust builds in the group. It creates the necessary atmosphere of emotional and intellectual safety so necessary for this kind of experience.
Mike Richardson, who has been guiding and speaking to groups for more than ten years, told us that he challenges his CEOs to face the future head on: “I ask them: How are you going to future proof your- self? How are you going to be recession ready? How are you going to do all of that in an increasingly time-compressed world that is accelerating all the time? If you think it’s difficult now, just wait twelve months or even twelve weeks.”
Richardson believes strongly that the only advantage that has any permanence these days is agility. “Everything else is increasingly temporary,” he says. “If you want to have an agility advantage, you better damn well have a peer advantage because they are inseparable. The best place to develop that advantage of agility is in a group of your peers, which is filled with such diversity and such a good process that it actually gives you a fighting chance to survive and thrive in the VUCA world.”
I specialize in importing the process of peer groups into organizations and teams, helping clients tap into the power of peer-advantage with the kind of transparency, safety and accountability we are able to achieve in Vistage/TEC Groups. It’s so fulfilling to open the eyes of CEOs, Executives and their teams to the power of interacting with each other at whole different levels, as the source of a transformation to a new level of teamwork. Participants get an experience of what it is like to process complex issues/challenges/problems in a powerful peer group process which creates a deep shared sense of safety, transparency & trust from which agile resolutions to the issues/challenges/problems emerge. It becomes a benchmark for the team-agility environment participants aspire to create with their team for agile high-performance-teamwork. It’s essential for organizational agility as teams are the building blocks of organizations and enterprise-agility. The power of peer group teams leveraging peer-advantage is at the heart of team-agility and enterprise-agility. Don’t miss out. Read more here: Peering into Team-Agility & Talent-Agility: A New Tool for HR.