Most people in business today certainly know about CEO peer groups. They are generally based on Napoleon Hill’s concept of a Mastermind group. Most are comprised of 12-16 business leaders in widely diverse lines of service, manufacturing, retail, and distribution. They usually meet monthly, and sometimes include executive coaching of the members.
I have personally been a part of this process for the past 19 years. I joined Vistage as a member just after I returned to the States after having lived an adventurous life as an expatriate in Europe and Asia. I had just begun working on a turnaround, and was way over my head in oceans of challenges…and even a few opportunities.
Originally, the thought of taking a whole day every month out of the office to “work on the business, not in it” struck me as absurd. Even the idea of meeting with an experienced executive coach for a couple of hours seemed impossible. I was cranking on all cylinders all day and most of the night seven days a week, still living in a hotel, and was inundated by waves of doubt, worry, confusion, despair, and hope, in seemingly equal measure.
I did finally join Vistage, after coming to the realization that I needed some people with vastly different experiences and points of view to engage with me in a dialogue around my options. I desperately needed people with no vested interest in the outcome to help me see what I was incapable of seeing from the briny waters swirling all around me. I needed a calm presence in my chaotic world, in the person of my Vistage Chair, to help me take a deep breath before plunging back into the waves.
My time in that particular body of water had an excellent outcome. I had been asked to lead a turnaround of the worst performing unit in 60 countries. Within only two years, we went from being the worst to the best. We streamlined operations and developed people and implemented a whole raft of new initiatives. All of the measures we took had their origins in the advice of my Vistage group.
And when I completed the turnaround after three years, Vistage honored me by asking if I would become a Chair myself. That was 16 years ago, and ever since, I have facilitated a group of some of the smartest, most aware and innovative people in the DC metro area, and coached each of them to support them in their quest for excellence.
This past year, one of the members of the group suggested that we break into cohorts at each meeting to focus on specific topics of interest determined by the members. We had a wide-ranging conversation about cohort topics, and two were chosen.
One group decided they needed to work on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). KPIs are one of the perennial topics of discussions that everyone knows they need, and very few companies have. The observation was made that in today’s world, it is not difficult to gather information about performance. What is difficult, however, is understanding the relevance of the massive data. That is what the cohort focused on. What emerged was a comprehensive dashboard using the data and linking it to individual employee performance. One of my tech-savvy members designed software that gives him the data, and in real time, provides information to employees on where they stand compared to the goals they have set.
The second group decided to focus on launching new lines of business. The Vistage members in this group had frequently talked about opportunities that they knew were out there that they simply had not had time to leverage. For six months they discussed and planned and researched and received feedback. At the end of the six months, four new businesses emerged. Yes, four businesses in six months, all of which are up and running today.
Neither the KPIs nor the new businesses would exist if it had not been for the Vistage group. Without a community of very smart, engaged people holding each other accountable, there isn’t much that moves forward.
One of the adages that guides the group is:
You are the average of the 10 adults with whom you spend the most time.
Indeed, it is so much an honor that I am soon launching a second group. If you are interested in learning more about my new group, please do not hesitate to contact me. My information is below. Time is short. We will be launching soon. I look forward to hearing from you.
Let’s raise each other’s average by a few points.
David Belden, Master Chair