As CEOs know, it is indeed lonely at the top. CEOs carry the the mental weight of their organizations through the inevitable ups and downs of business cycles and are ultimately held accountable for the success or failure of their companies.
Executive coaching is one tool that CEOs can employ to support them through their leadership growth curve and to help navigate challenging decisions faced by all CEOs. CEO peer advisory groups are one type of executive coaching that allows CEOs to receive advice from fellow CEOs on key business topics while acting as a forum to voice challenges they face in their roles.
In our experience leading CEO groups, 5 reasons stand out above the rest for joining a CEO peer group.
Access an External Board of Advisors: CEOs regularly receive a great deal of advice from their board of directors, fellow leadership team members and even from the rank and file in their organizations. What they lack is a risk-free forum to surface ideas, concerns, and struggles without any repercussions of showing anything short of the herculean confidence needed to steward their organization in good times and bad. CEO peer advisory groups provide a safe space to ask for help, voice concerns, and get insight critical to their ongoing success. The monthly meetings as well as quick touch points between sessions function as informal board meetings for CEOs.
Tackle Key Issues in a Safe Environment: Issue processing is the common thread across all CEO peer groups given their efficacy in presenting an issue, surfacing overlooked assumptions, generating a multitude of recommendations, and gaining a commitment to action. Individual group members start by teeing up an issue and providing any necessary background or context. Fellow group members then pepper them with questions to gain a greater understanding of the issue at hand. Next, CEO peers offer a series of action oriented recommendations to address the issue introduced by the “issue owner.” Each issue processing segment closes with a commitment to action as well as the date to complete each one. This method has been so successful that it has been replicated outside of peer advisory groups and inside of organizations across the globe as a way to tackle key issues that emerge.
Accountability to Your Peers: Another reason to join a CEO peer group is the accountability mechanism that is built into the peer-to-peer group model. At the end of each issue processing session, participants make committments to put one or more of the group recommendations into practice by a specific date. Doing so forges accountability to a group of your peers who will hold your feet to the fire and ensure you address each commitment in the required timeframe. Committments made to a group of your peers who you respect ensures forward progress and not just veiled promises.
Access Ongoing Learning: Lifelong learning is key to the enduring success of any leader, yet CEO’s schedules impede the ongoing acquisition of new knowledge that can enable their growth and success. CEO peer groups regularly feature outside speakers to provide ongoing learning on a range of topics; HR, legal, and compliance issues as well as soft skills such as time management, dealing with stress, and maintaining work/life balance.
Build Camaraderie with Fellow CEOs: CEO peer groups by their nature provide an opportunity to connect with peers who share the common challenge of guiding and running a company while delivering results to shareholders and investors. Taking time to connect with fellow CEOs who understand the rigors of the job is energizing and provides an outlet to share stories and feel supported outside of the stress of the job.
In addition to the 5 reasons above, Group Sixty’s CEOBoost peer groups offer two additional benefits:
Leadership Skill Development: In addition to regular speakers on key topics, Group Sixty’s CEOBoost groups also dedicate time during monthly meetings to develop leadership competencies among group members. Specific focus areas include managing conflict, gaining buy-in, empowering team members, becoming a “player coach” to direct reports, building a high-performing leadership team, and improving communication skills as well as primers on models such as situational leadership, leading through change, and servant leadership. CEOBoost groups go beyond front of room presentations on each topic to coach each member through the use of break-outs to deep dive on each subject, providing time to practice new skills in the room, offering real-time coaching and feedback, and building plans to adopt a new set of behaviors and frameworks outside of the group in their day-to-day jobs.
Shared Affinity: CEOBoost groups are also unique in that each one includes a shared affinity beyond their CEO roles. Groups are organized by alumni affiliation (San Diego State, UC San Diego, University of San Diego) or an interest in hobbies such as sports or fitness. This common bond creates a unique connection among group members that impacts the way they show up and participate in the group. We have found it to lower initial barriers to expressing vulnerability while accelerating the desire to help one another. The common connection also provides the basis for events outside of the group such as attending sporting events and other leisure activities.
CEOs have a challenging role, but CEO peer groups provide a pathway to increase their success in leading organizations while also lowering stress along the way.