Follow the Leaders
I recently came across a terrific article in CEO World Online Magazine written by Leo Bottary. Leo frequently writes for the magazine, and he is listed to be a member of the External Advisory Board (EAB) there. He is a staunch advocate for peer groups, and I follow his work closely.
Still, there is a nuance within a recent post about CEO roundtables where we differ.
In his post “The Power of We Begins with You,” he writes: “After four years of helping new and experienced peer advisory groups squeeze the most value out of their time together, two findings have consistently emerged. First, the strength of the overall group rests in the hands of its members. Second, there are three things members can do to up their game to everyone’s advantage: Show up. Step up. Follow up.”
I liked his explanation about showing up, writing in part: “If you believe that 80% of life is about showing up, then understand that to be an outstanding member, it’s that and then some.” Stepping up is about being prepared and bringing your A-game.
The Follow Up action is where I begin to disagree with him, but I do see where he is going. His example is based on a scenario where advice is given in a roundtable session.
Our roundtable meetings at VA Council of CEOs are purposely designed not to function that way. Giving advice is forbidden.
“Learning to participate in a group [using Gestalt Language Protocol] takes effort and practice, but it’s essential for creating a safe, rewarding experience. By avoiding advice, VA Council of CEOs peer roundtables allow CEOs to connect more deeply, creating more opportunities for growth.”
Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, VA Council of CEOs.
All VACEOs Roundtables adhere to a set of ground rules by which the group must abide. Chief among them is strict adherence to a code of confidentiality and Gestalt Language Protocol.
“The Gestalt Protocol is based on the theory that as children we were always told what to do by our parents,” explains Mo Fathelbab, Forum Resources Network president and author of Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders. “As a result, adults – especially entrepreneurs – resent being told what to do by anyone.”
The guiding principle of the protocol is to never give advice but to share related experiences instead. Participants are careful to avoid phrases such as “If I were you…” when another group member presents his or her challenge.
Learning to participate in a group this way takes effort and practice, but it’s essential for creating a safe, rewarding experience. By avoiding advice, VA Council of CEOs peer roundtables allow CEOs to connect more deeply, creating more opportunities for growth. (Read more here.)
One thing is clear to both Leo and me. Peer groups that are confidential, highly structured, and based on trust is a powerful tool for the small business owner.
Said one VACEOs Member but echoed by many: “I was looking for a peer group to help guide me as I tried to guide the firm to places we’d never been before. And I can honestly say it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Does it take commitment? You bet. Those who choose to join a peer advisory organization understand it’s an investment in their professional development that will generate a worthwhile return.
Or, as Leo so eloquently writes in his post: “The reason you’ve been invited to enjoy the privilege of being part of a peer advisory group is because there is an expectation you will bring value to the other members. You’re not there to fill a seat; you’re there to make a difference. Once you accept that responsibility as seriously as how you see your role at your own company, you’ll be on the path to receiving the kind of incalculable value you can only get from a group of your peers.”
I could not agree more!
You can read Leo Bottary’s post here.
About the Author
Scot McRoberts is the executive director of the VA Council of CEOs (VACEOs). One of the original co-founders, he has led the organization’s growth from 20 members in 2000 to more than 200 today. Utilizing a best practice model for the Council’s CEO roundtables and a dogged focus on its core purpose of connecting CEOs for the purpose of sharing experiences, McRoberts has developed an association that boasts 90% retention. Before coming to VACEOs, Scot was a senior executive at the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, where he led business councils, small business programs, and business retention efforts.
It’s no secret that CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses get a lot out of their peer advisory roundtable group. Still, some say it’s not for them. Here’s why.
If you run a small or mid-sized business, time is precious and time is money. Committing to a regular meeting with your CEO peer roundtable group could mean 4 hours a month AWAY from other activities.
The truth is, the CEOs who participate in a roundtable group have no more time than those who aren’t in one. The difference is, they choose to focus on the return they get from the confidential experience. For example, an independent study by the Knowledge Advisory Group surveying VA Council of CEOs Members suggests that CEOs and business owners in peer roundtables make better decisions and grow faster.
Simply stated, these leaders have chosen to carve out time to work ON the business rather than in it.
Having a unique business is actually a nice benefit, and in fact, the best roundtables are carefully assembled to achieve the highest degree of diversity possible. And that’s great news for everyone as it can be easy to be siloed in your particular industry or niche, or be so close to your business that you fail to see potential solutions or opportunities. The peers sitting around the table will offer a variety of perspectives focused on similar issues or opportunities that creates those “blinding glimpses of the obvious”.
As the leader of your company, there are things that you can’t discuss within your organization. Most likely, there are things that you can’t even discuss with your banker, your attorney, your accountant, or other trusted advisors. It can be a lonely place, being a CEO.
A CEO roundtable is specifically designed to help remedy that “lonely” feeling. It is a highly confidential, “safe space” where the competition is not present. Nothing is shared beyond the group. This frees up everyone to be totally open and transparent with each other about business (and oftentimes personal) matters.
Not in a peer roundtable. The sole agenda item on the part of every member of a group is to help their fellow member through shared experiences and the lessons that they have learned from their journey. They know that in return their fellow members will have a similar focus.
The cost to be a member of a peer advisory organization like Vistage, EO, or VA Council of CEOs (VACEOs) varies greatly. An international organization like Vistage can cost more than $12,000* a year. Conversely, VACEOs membership dues are a quarter of that, largely because the organization is a nonprofit that keeps its overhead low to maximize the member experience per member and sponsor dollar invested.
The bottom line? Those who choose to join a peer advisory organization understand it’s an investment in their professional development that will generate a worthwhile return.
*Learn more at: “EO vs Vistage vs VA Council of CEOs: Which is Right for Me”
Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) is a nonprofit organization connecting CEOs for learning and growth. Formed more than 20 years ago, Member benefits include placement in a peer roundtable group and access to a thought leader network, and a robust program of events for learning and growth. This is not a networking group, but rather a group of CEO peers who are invested in the success of each member.
Learn more at www.vaceos.org.
Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. How will small business CEOs manage the pandemic crisis and beyond?
Some, like Kelley Powell, CEO, MacLaurin Group, Ron Carey of Tilt Creative + Production, Connie Hom, CEO of Buckingham Greenery, and JJ White, CEO of Dale Carnegie Southeast United States have found solace in their peer advisory group.
CEO peer groups (roundtables) typically meet regularly and follow a strict code of conduct and confidentiality. Many SMBs find it to be a worthwhile experience that makes a positive impact on their business.
“This has been a fast-paced, changing environment. I’ve had to make hard decisions in regard to labor, clients and revenue, and the shared experiences have been very helpful. The virtual roundtable has truly been a breath of fresh air, and the Council membership has proven to be, for me, a port in the storm,” says Hom.
Powell agrees. Of her virtual roundtable, “We learned so much collectively this year, sharing, listening, and growing as individuals and a community.”
Carey is grateful to have someone to lean on outside the regular meetings. “I feel like I can pick up the phone and call any of my group members and bounce an idea off of them, and also get their expertise back. And so for that, it’s just been invaluable.”
White reports, “Now, more than ever, is the most critical time in your business to find people who can help you get through this, but more than just get through it – actually create something in your business so that you’ll come out of this better than you’ve ever been before.”
Powell, Carey, Hom, and White are Members of Virginia Council of CEOs, a nonprofit organization that has been connecting CEOs for learning and growth for more than 20 years. Members join the Council to be placed in a peer roundtable group and to access a thought leader network and a robust program of events.
(Read Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage: “Virginia Council of CEOs opens up to membership to top executives across the state”)
Richmond, Virginia: The Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), a nonprofit association serving more than 200 small and mid-sized business owners, announced today that is expanding its geography outside of Central Virginia and throughout the state, welcome news for many CEOs who run a small and mid-sized business in Virginia who seek the benefits of a CEO advisory group (peer roundtable).
VACEOs, a 20-year old nonprofit association, is driven by its mission is to “connect CEOs for learning and growth.” The most powerful way CEOs connect within the organization is through a confidential peer roundtable group, made up of CEOs of non-competing companies ($1 million or more in revenue/5 or more full-time employees).
Before COVID, VACEOs expansion was limited due to the perceived need to form roundtables based on geography. However, during COVID the roundtables were able to expand past geographic boundaries through the use of Zoom, WebEx, and other video platforms. Two new virtual roundtables were created during COVID and their success has now led to this aggressive expansion.
“Our existing Roundtables pivoted quickly to online meetings back in March and April,” says Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, Virginia Council of CEOs. “We think CEOs are open to this efficient, effective meeting method like never before. There is an opportunity here to serve hundreds of small business CEOs who we could not reach before. By offering roundtables to more CEOs, we are delivering on our mission.”
“I’m not sure that I could have navigated as well as I did, without my roundtable.” – Sam Stone, CEO, Stone’s Office Supply
Sam Stone, CEO of Stone’s Office Supply, is a long-time member of VA Council. Says, “We went from meeting in person, to immediately switching to Zoom meetings to cover some of the most difficult topics that I’ve had to cover in my time as a CEO. I’m not sure that I could have navigated as well as I did, without my roundtable.”
Connie Hom, CEO of Buckingham Greenery, says, “This has been a fast-paced, changing environment. There are decisions as a CEO in regard to labor, clients and revenue, and the shared experiences have been very helpful. The virtual roundtable has truly been a breath of fresh air, and the Council membership has proven to be, for me, a port in the storm.”
To fuel its growth and for a limited time only, VACEOs is offering a complimentary, two-hour confidential peer roundtable experience with a trained facilitator. After that one-time experience, CEOs can join the organization and be placed in a new roundtable while accessing other Member benefits, including online training and informational sessions, learning programs, social events, and the return to in-person meetings and retreats. Learn more: https://vaceos.org/ceo-roundtables
BREAKING NEWS: Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the Virginia Council of CEOs is expanding the geographic reach of its membership.
Writes Times reporter John Blackwell, “The rising use of virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic is one factor in that decision. While the organization is best known for a quarterly economic outlook survey conducted among its members, one of its main membership benefits is its CEO ‘peer roundtable’ groups that meet regularly so that top executives can privately discuss business issues and share ideas.”
Read Richmond Times-Dispatch “Virginia Council of CEOs opens up to membership to top executives across the state.”