The Power of Peer Advisory Groups


Does your organization need a peer advisory group? If you are a senior leader in your organization or hope to be one, then this is one type of learning experience that you should consider pursuing.

Are You Ready to Be Challenged? Are you feeling a bit lonely at the top of your organization? As a leader, who can you turn to for trusted advice, perspective, experience, and accountability? When you have important decisions to make, who can you trust to check your thinking?

Imagine having over a dozen peer organizational executives and leaders acting as a type of trusted board of advisers, helping you sort out and resolve the toughest issues in your professional and personal life. Organization leaders all over the world are beginning to turn to peer advisory groups to share hard-won knowledge and work together on their toughest challenges. These groups work on the principle that more brains are better than one; that an honest exchange of ideas and experiences among peers can benefit almost anyone; and that the isolation and loneliness that executive leaders feel can be overcome to produce exceptional results.

A peer advisory group is a group of 8-16 executives from diverse organizations who get together on a monthly basis to solve problems, share best practices, hold each other accountable, and offer each other support. They have been a part of the business community for over 50 years, and are known by various names: Vistage International, WPO, The Alternative Board, C12, Convene, CEO Clubs, and Leader2Leader (more on this last group in a minute).

According to Leo Bottary, writing for Startup America,

“Peer advisory groups turn the traditional executive development model on its head. 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. 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 advisory groups are different from networking groups, seminar groups, or casual gatherings of organization peers. They are covenant groups that have defined membership qualifications. They hold one another accountable for commitments or goals shared in the meetings. The groups share sensitive information in a highly confidential environment and are managed by a trained facilitator or “chair” to insure that they stay on track and that every member participates.

These groups work because they offer promises of real results that members will experience:

  1. Fresh thinking. Executive peer advisory groups inspire best thinking, challenge assumptions and offer a platform to implement insights with confidence and precision.
  2. Enhanced decision-making. For tough decisions, there’s no better sounding board than fellow executives who have met and overcome the same challenges one is facing. It’s like getting the “trial” without the “error.”
  3. Accountability for success. With no agenda except to help each member succeed, a peer advisory group tests assumptions, uncover opportunities and holds each member accountable for taking action.
  4. Improved performance. In the end, these groups are about improving performance so member organizations can perform better. It’s about continuous, practical learning and turning good intentions into great results.

Peer advisory groups provide its members a way to grow in their knowledge of one another and their respective organizations as they spend time together, thus becoming more effective advisers and accountability partners over time. If you are a senior leader in your organization or hope to be one, then this is one type of learning experience you should consider pursuing.

Written by Dr. Kent R. Wilson

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