Archive for the ‘Peer Advisory Groups’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Experience Vistage on June 11 at Hacienda del Sol



Every month Tucson Vistage members give up a day at the office to spend that day with 15 of their peers? Easy? No. Invaluable? Yes. Watch to find out why. Vistage Value

On  June 11 join Tucson’s business leaders for a half day version of a Vistage CEO meeting. Enjoy a popular Vistage speaker leading you through an accelerated Strategic Planning exercise. Learn what it is like to explore a tough question or issue you are facing with the help of a room of your peers. Schedule an appointment to see if you qualify for membership in Tucson’s newest CEO Peer Advisory Group. That group is already 25 percent subscribed, including the President of one of Tucson’s largest aerospace companies.

Come as a guest. Full information here.



PostHeaderIcon Why Peer Advisory Groups are the Next Big Thing

It may seem odd to some that peer advisory groups, which have been around for decades and, prior to that, existed long before anyone probably ever referred to them as such, will be the next big thing, but I believe the time has come for this time-honored practice to take hold as never before.   The perfect storm is here.  In part it’s because the fundamentals of the peer advisory process itself are aimed squarely at problem solving, visioning, and personal and professional development,  but that’s always been the case.  The reason for the perfect storm, however, is revealed in the environmental and demographic trends that make the prospects for rapid growth nearly unlimited.  First, let’s look at the peer advisory model versus what most companies do today:

Peer advisory groups turn the traditional executive development model on its head.  The old model, which people have been using for decades now, is designed to train people to be better leaders with the implicit expectation that it will make a difference in how they lead and manage.  And that somewhere down the line, the company will actually see the fruits of this investment in its corporate culture and financial performance.  The problem is that most executive training is episodic/event-oriented.  Someone goes off to training, learns some interesting new concepts, and within a few weeks time, is back to the same old, pre-training behaviors.  What’s more, the training and the actual work of the company are often so poorly coordinated that measuring its effectiveness and value are next to impossible.

Peer advisory groups work in exactly the opposite fashion. By having a professional facilitator bring peers together, whether they are colleagues from different areas of a large company or CEOs from different businesses, they can work together as equals with the primary goal of meeting difficult challenges or setting a course for the future.   The diversity of the group, coupled with real dialogue, works to create an environment of trust to address larger issues that tend to transcend personal agendas.  By setting specific objectives, it’s easy to measure the ROI.  Peer groups will ask the hard questions and arrive at their own solutions rather than have to comply with recommendations of trainers or outside consultants.  Over time, during this repeated collaborative process of actual problem solving, the participants become better listeners and better leaders.  Great results lead to improved leadership behaviors and the cycle continues.  It rarely happens the other way around.

So sure, the peer advisory model makes perfect sense, but why will it be the next big thing?

  1. Large companies are forced to do more with less and are challenged to create alignment within their newly re-organized organizations.  To do so in a manner that’s effective and measurable, they will no longer be able to rely on the old “executive development” model of training executives to be better leaders and managers, in the hopes that what they learn in training actually finds its way into meeting the day-to-day needs of the organization.   And the continued inability to link training expenditures to producing more competent leaders and better bottom-line results, will result in companies seeking out a more practical way to accomplish both.
  2. Leaders of smaller companies are finding that the world in which they operate is becoming increasingly complex, especially on the international and technology fronts.  The good news is that these challenges are common across industry sectors.  As a practical matter (also challenged to do more with less), CEOs and business leaders will likely turn to their peers for guidance  instead of paying high-priced consultants or investing in leadership training programs.  (And like their larger company colleagues, they’d be wise to do so).
  3. Today’s younger CEOs are digital natives versus digital immigrants.  They grew up with social media and are natural networkers who are much more inclined than their predecessors to engage their peers for advice and counsel.
  4. There’s been a fundamental shift in management education aimed at leveraging the experience of the increasing number of adult learners in the classroom, in both traditional and online education environments.  The practice of andragogy, or learning centered environments geared to adults, is becoming increasingly more popular, replacing pedagogy (a teaching centered/lecture-oriented approach) that relies more on the knowledge of the instructor than in the inherent experience and collective insights of the group.  It’s only a matter of time before it finds its way more prominently into private enterprise.
  5. As I pointed out in my last post, there are many similarities between learning teams and peer advisory groups.  Adult learners who’ve grown accustomed to working in peer groups in school, will seek to continue the practice in the workplace in greater numbers.  Peer groups at work will replace the learning teams they left behind.

Professionally facilitated peer groups simply make too much sense in today’s world not to catch fire – and soon!  Now I understand if you’re skeptical about a Vistage employee making the case for why professionally facilitated peer advisory groups is the next big thing.  Since it is what we do, I might be wary as well.  So I ask you to consider the argument on its merits, offer your comments (positive or negative), and understand that no self respecting advocate of peer advisory groups would ever presume to write such a post without consulting his peers.   This is not my opinion alone.  Thanks to my colleagues at Vistage and Seton Hall University for your contributions to this piece!

Thanks to Leo Bottary at Vistage International.


At the May 18 ceremony for graduating seniors, San Miguel High School announced that two students would receive scholarships provided by 2 Tucson based Vistage International CEO Peer Advisory Groups. The scholarships were awarded to Brittany Hart and Gary Allen who competed with four other students for the scholarships. Both students will attend the University of Arizona and plan to study business.

The two combined CEO Peer Advisory Groups include CEO’s, Company Presidents, and “C-level” Executives who work together to solve tough business problems, overcome isolation, and generally outperform their competitors. Combined the 20 or so companies employ more than 3,000 people nationwide and account for revenues in the hundreds of million dollars.

The groups have an affinity for San Miguel. Several of the companies employ San Miguel High School interns, who work at jobs as part of their Corporate Internship Program, a program which provides a way for students to earn their tuition for the private Catholic and Lasallian college and career prep school located on the south side of Tucson.

With more than 15,000 members worldwide, Vistage International provides unparalleled access to new business perspectives, innovative strategies and actionable ideas to chief executives and business leaders. Vistage will soon name a second Tucson group chair and expects to double its Tucson presence within twelve months.

PostHeaderIcon B2B Display Advertising: Should You Chose LinkedIn or ???

By Jessica Forrester at Hanover Research

There are many ways to use LinkedIn as a marketer and many tools available. In this post we will focus on the use of display advertising on LinkedIn, which has shown particular promise as a lead generator for B2B firms.

Case Study: Vistage International

Vistage International faces a social media marketing challenge common in the B2B space: their success is dependent on their ability to network with executives. An executive coaching and peer advisory group headquartered in San Diego, CA, Vistage targets small to medium-sized companies as clients in order to provide training in corporate leadership and effective management tactics.

Read more at the Hanover Research Blog

PostHeaderIcon Why Your Business Needs A Peer-Advisory Group

Peer-advisory groups discuss some of the tough issues that your business faces every day, such as investments, uncertainties, moral conflicts and accountability.

On this week’s episode of The CEO TV Show, Rafael Pastor, CEO of Vistage International, discusses peer-advisory groups and the CEO’s role. Rafael explains peer-advisory groups: putting executives together into a group that meets for 8 hours every month. No one can be in the group who is the same business as another group member to avoid competitiveness. And whatever is said in the room, stays in the room.

Peer advisory groups talk about things that they don’t talk about anywhere else, professional or personal. Accountability is a big part of the group. Group members will follow up at the next meeting and the chair of the meetings will visit your office for a one to one coaching session.

Rafael also mentions that the group members usually either don’t know what they should do, or want an opinion on a decision they’ve made in their mind. An advantage to having executives from very different industries is that it allows a fresh perspective that they might not be able to get within their own industry.

The breath of experience and the willingness to look at an issue in an entirely different way is very effective. Pastor says this system works for two reasons: A CEO’s most valuable commodity is their time and yet they return time and time again so they must be getting something out of it. Second, they have quantitative results. They have conducted studies that show an improvement in growth rate from before to after an executive joins the group.

Find out more about Vistage International and how they can help your business in this week’s episode of The CEO TV Show.

PostHeaderIcon What Does “Peer” Mean to You

Thanks to Leo Bottary at Vistage International for Permission to Reproduce His Content.

Let me start by saying I don’t mean “peer” the verb. I’m not asking about the creepy type of peer which is defined by as 1) to look narrowly or searchingly, as in the effort to discern clearly; 2) to peep out or appear slightly; or 3) to come into view.  I’m talking about the noun, which is also used as an adjective in the case of peer group.  The definitions are as follows: 1) a person of the same legal status: a jury of one’s peers; 2) a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status; 3) something of equal worth or quality: a sky-scraper without peer; 4) a nobleman; 5) a member of any of the five degrees of the nobility in Great Britain and Ireland (duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron).  One advantage to researching questions like this is stumbling upon cool online tools like the new visual thesaurus.  Here’s what “peer” looks like through the lens of the visual thesaurus:

So what we know about the word “peer” is that it’s rooted in nobility and common status.  We also know that while words have definitions, they also carry connotations that evolve over time and influence the very meaning of words and how they are interpreted.  So if you asked someone to define the word peer, or to describe a peer, they might respond by saying, “Someone like me.”  While that’s partly true, it doesn’t mean you can’t have peers who are very different from you as well.  When you think of the word peer in this way, you can start to consider the implicit value of peer diversity.

The very notion of peer diversity may feel like a number of successful industry-specific peer groups out there.   While industry-specific peer groups can be valuable, people typically join them because they assume they will learn more and receive the best advice from people who already understand the nuances of their business.  This is where I would suggest that there’s additional value to be gained from a peer group with greater diversity – one whose members operate outside your everyday world.

By broadening your definition of peer, it allows you to consider working with people who may be from very different industries and backgrounds, but who share common challenges and similar aspirations.   In this type of group, you become exposed to strategies and practices that are everyday occurrences in some sectors yet completely foreign to your own.   You’ll find yourself leveraging the diversity of expertise in disciplines common to your organizations (HR, communication, finance, etc.) and sharing similar experiences from your respective work environments.

To illustrate the point in a different context, let me offer a brief anecdote:  Years ago, I founded my own PR firm in Florida; I had a terrific team and a healthy list of great clients including McDonald’s, Sprint PCS, CSX Transportation, etc.  Turns out Wal-Mart needed an agency in North Florida to assist with opening a new store.  I believed that with all our team retail experience, we were the perfect fit for this assignment.  In making our case to Wal-Mart, I touted our retail experience, great list of clients, blah, blah, blah.  We lost the opportunity to work with Wal-Mart because they didn’t care about our retail experience.  (They have some of that already as you might have guessed!)  What they needed was a firm that really understood all the other issues involving the local community – areas where Wal-Mart lacked the requisite expertise.

The point is: You don’t need to surround yourself with people who know what you know; you need to engage people who know things you don’t know. When you think of it this way, it’s easy to see how much additional value you can glean from people outside your industry.  If nothing else, a peer advisory group that offers greater diversity can serve to augment the advice you’re receiving from your industry colleagues.

Peer diversity is not an oxymoron.  Whether you’re a member of an industry peer group or not part of a group at all,  consider joining a peer advisory group comprised of members outside your industry.   Give it six months and you’ll be astonished at what you will learn and how much you will contribute to others.   If you’re not convinced, consider this quote about curiosity from Seth Godin: “A fundamentalist considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it. A curious person explores first and then considers whether they want to accept the ramifications.”  Be curious!


PostHeaderIcon It’s Lonely at the Top, But It Doesn’t Have to Be

Thanks to

Let’s assume you’ve gotten the big promotion to the C-level of your company, or despite this scary uncertain economy you’ve had the courage to start your own business. Congratulations! You continue to put in more than a full day. But now something is different — you have a strong feeling of being alone.

There are few surveys of business leaders and loneliness. It’s a subject absorbed in the phrase “It’s lonely at the top.”

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”

Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, came close to a definition of executive loneliness when, in his book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance,” he wrote about being an outsider in IBM but given the responsibility to change it in the 1990s. His personal reflection was, “I never entered it. I dreaded going into that house. I had to drive change, and I knew that all the reasons not to change were in those rooms.” He felt relatively alone in breaking habits and making the hard decisions that turned IBM around.

This feeling is immediately true for many people who start a business or are promoted to a senior level. Here’s why. There’s a dramatic shift in people’s perception of you. Your position puts you at a distance from the people who encouraged you and gave you good advice before, but who now seem more reticent. This new relationship seems more tentative, more formal and less frequent than before. Information is sanitized and filtered before it reaches you.

In some cases, they are protecting their weaknesses from being visible. They don’t want to be caught making a mistake. The consequences to them are different and more significant because you are now in charge of a lot of business functions and results. More people look to you to make many of the hard decisions.

Most business owners and executives are focused entirely on their business. That’s important to survive and prosper but they often need a break. Being a well-networked executive both inside and outside the business can provide access to other people to connect with. Having a trusted confidante to share not only your business challenges but also your personal challenges, can be a plus. There are also many external organizations that provide the opportunity to be with colleagues to discuss common business conditions and solutions. Organizations like Vistage, industry peer groups, and your local chamber of commerce can provide an antidote to loneliness.

When I started a business a while ago, I quickly learned the difference between solitude and loneliness. There were times I chose solitude and its reflective quiet time to think. When I felt alone, it was more daunting. Let me be clear, I’m not writing about clinical loneliness. I’m writing about organizational loneliness. That’s seen when everyone leaves the office and you’re left to complete the day. It’s seen at home in a quiet place when you’re preparing for tomorrow. It’s seen in not wanting to feel overwhelmed and not in control.

At the top, your challenges are significant and long-term, with the solutions not always apparent. I learned when I was willing to admit what I didn’t know, my team and others surprised me with good answers.

Expanding the variety of non-work things you do can help. Activities such as regularly exercising, attending community and cultural events, pursuing hobbies, volunteering within the local charities, taking mini-vacations and having some spontaneous family time are important in combating organizational loneliness and even burnout.

The more gregarious you are the less the feeling of being alone. But you don’t have a lot of time for socializing and small talk at work. If you tend to be reserved and more introverted, you may want to work alone — but not for very long. You have to reach out to others on your team for assistance. Since there’s much you have to do on your own, to who do you turn to dispel the occasional feelings of loneliness?

You can always turn to a trusted family member or your spouse for personal advice. They know you best and will always give you a chance to vent or relax and just talk about whatever is on your mind. They are the good listeners. A close friend can fill that same role. Sometimes it’s helpful to just pick up the phone for a quick call and know they are there for you. A voice is always better than a text message or voice mail when you feel alone.

Having experienced advisers can help. Professionals with fresh perspectives to build on can help you break free of the loneliness that can accompany a tough situation to resolve. An experienced coach can be a great asset — especially one who’s available 24/7, always has a new idea, builds new competencies to apply in your circumstances, and is a source of great encouragement.

Ultimately it’s your personality and leadership style that can make a big difference. Executives who are willing to collaborate often, who encourage feedback and frequently ask their teams for their thoughts, who are more informal in their relationships, and encourage dissent tend to feel less alone than the hard driving autocrat who refuses to delegate.

It is lonely at the top, and that can be an opportunity as well; it ultimately depends on you.

Bob Vecchiotti is is a business advisor and executive coach in Peterborough. He lives in Dublin.

PostHeaderIcon How Peer Advisory Groups Can Change The World

Thanks to Leo Bottary, Vice President for Public Affairs at Vistage International

When you consider the nature of today’s public discourse – with the right screaming at the left and the left shouting at the right – you hear the noise loud and clear, but no one is ever really listening.  And if they ARE listening, it isn’t to understand the logic behind an opposing argument; it’s to collect punch lines that bolster one’s own point of view.  People listen selectively for ammunition they can repeat at cocktail parties or share in blog posts.  I call it ammunition because it rarely serves to strengthen one’s own position; instead, it’s aimed at shooting holes in another’s point of view and, too often, in a fashion that’s intellectually dishonest.

One of my favorites attributes of the Peer Advisory Group is that it is a safe haven for what scholars would describe as “skilled discussion.”   It’s a place where people see others as special rather than different. A setting where participants really listen to one another.  And more importantly, an environment that embodies Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  It’s not the place for debate – where the goal is to be right.  Nor is it the place for pure dialogue, because helping members come to a decision is an essential benefit of the interaction.  It is where skilled discussion lives and thrives!  Here’s the best definition I’ve found for it:

“A way of talking that leads to decisions. Skilled discussions are infused with rigorous critical thinking, mutual respect, weighing of options, and decision making that serves the groups’ vision, values, and goals. A skilled discussion’s goal is to reach decisions. In its Latin roots, decide means to kill choice. Thus, a discussion is aimed at eliminating some ideas from a field of possibilities so that stronger ideas will win. Groups who are skilled at discussing employ many cognitive operations related to critical thinking, but not in any particular sequence.

“In its most ineffective form, to discuss is to hurl ideas at one another. Discussing ideas, in unskilled groups, often takes the form of serial sharing or advocacy. Decisions are attempted through a variety of either voting or consensus techniques. When discussion is unskilled and dialogue is absent, decisions are often poor quality, represent the opinions of the most vocal members or the leader, lack group commitment, and do not stay made” (Garmston & Wellman, 1998).

While the noise of today’s public debate may spike television ratings, it’s a poor excuse for communication in a civilized society.   It’s a recipe for gridlock and division.  Give me skilled discussion any day.  Peer Advisory Groups can’t change the world, but what we learn from them and how we can lead and inspire others to communicate based on that experience, could make a big difference.  People who regularly participate in these groups will tell you that for them, it already has.