By Bill Reed
The merits of peer-to-peer collaboration have long been heralded, with global groups promoting a formula for leadership success and life enrichment for nearly six decades.
At the core of the peer group leadership experience is personal growth, shared learning and accountability, access to new perspectives and the opportunity to receive wise counsel from leaders in a variety of professions and industries with a wide range of life experiences.
While the peer advisory group model is conventionally associated with chief executives and owners of technological, industrial, manufacturing and hospitality companies, doctors and those who head healthcare facilities can also reap the rewards of this winning paradigm. Ultimately, all business owners and chief executives share the desire to become better leaders, grow their company’s revenue and profitability, enhance their decision making skills and achieve better results. And as human beings, they all share the desire to enhance their lives.
A Long Island-based gastroenterologist with a multi-million dollar practice and a staff of 25 faces many – if not most – of the same business issues as the CEO of a billion-dollar software company employing hundreds.
So how does this proven model work? Groups of 12 to 18 leaders – the “ultimate decision-makers” in their respective organizations commit to meet regularly in an environment of total safety and trust, where there can be no conflicts or hidden agendas, to discuss their business and life opportunities and challenges. By giving voice to and sharing these hopes, dreams and hurdles with their peers, they gain access to fresh viewpoints, new ideas, and the ability to test assumptions. They are cheered on while sharing their success stories…and they reap the benefits of their peer counterparts’ experiences when addressing the challenges that keep them awake at night. In the end, they engage in a process of “care-frontation” to hold each other accountable for confronting their own business and life truths and for making progress towards creating the business and life of their own design.
You won’t find it in the dictionary, but “care-frontation” is one of the hallmark tenets of the powerful peer-to-peer leadership group experience. The peer group dynamic fosters self-accountability for achievement of results by requiring members to share their plans and hopes for the future with fellow members. Here is where the concept of “care-frontation” unfolds and blossoms as fellow members provide the persistent, yet nurturing peer pressure to hold each other accountable for following through on initiatives to realize their respective strategies and dreams.
Specific issues relating to the overall economy and commerce, growth, and best business practices are addressed within the chief executive peer group model. But at the heart of meetings is conversation about becoming a better leader and enhancing one’s life. This safe and non-judgmental environment allows participants the freedom to reveal to others their life dreams and challenges, and in the process reveal to themselves obstacles in the way of, and opportunities open to them for achieving their goals.
The popularity of this shift toward learning from one’s leadership peers with whom one has no functional or other conflicts has been evidenced over the last decade by the growth in memberships in these groups. Leaders of enterprises who would prefer to turn to their peers for guidance rather than pay high-priced consultants or invest in expensive, more abstract leadership training programs.
There can be an overwhelming sense of isolation in heading a medical practice or being CEO of a healthcare organization. Moreover, the financial and economic crisis that has defined the past several years has created additional uncertainties for company leaders. There exists a growing sense of “we’re all in this together” fueling the trend toward peer-to-peer leadership groups where sharing, caring and personal accountability for achieving one’s business and life dreams are the elemental instruments of success.
Bill Reed is Chair of a Vistage chief executive peer advisory group comprised of members from the eastern RI, MA- South Coast, and Greater Boston region. Vistage (www.vistage.com) is the oldest and most experienced peer-to-peer chief executive membership organization dating back to 1957 and has 16,000 members in 15 countries.
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