Follow the Leaders
An article in the June issue of Inc. Magazine recently caught my eye. It was titled “This Secret 1930s Tradition Is Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs,” and it was written by Kate Rockwood, contributing editor at Inc.
The article is about “mastermind groups,” or what we call Roundtables at the Virginia Council of CEOs. What I found interesting was the fact that the author used “Suddenly All the Rage with CEOs” in her headline. Funny – we’ve been forming mastermind groups since our organization’s inception in 2000! Still, I’m thrilled to see the power of this peer-to-peer format promoted in the media.
Rockwood and other sources credit Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, as the founder of peer-to-peer sharing groups. So what are they?
CEO Roundtables typically include eight to 10 individuals from non-competing industries who are committed to meeting on a regular basis – typically once a month. The confidential forum allows members to speak openly about the challenges they face as business owners. Members in VACEOs Roundtable groups follow a highly structured meeting protocol in which no advice is given – only experiences shared. VACEOs members are trained on the protocol before they’re assigned to a group.
“Peer roundtables are important because they provide a unique opportunity to share and learn with a group of peers in a completely safe environment,” says Mo Fathelbab, Forum Resources Network president and author of Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders.
“As a CEO, it’s often lonely at the top,” explains Fathelbab. “You can’t share everything with your employees, partners, board members or investors. Members of a Roundtable have no personal interest in your decisions.”
Our members quickly find Roundtables to be a confidential safe haven where anything they’d like to talk about is fair game. Discussions topics can range from “I have a new acquisition possibility I’m looking at” to “I have a teenager I don’t know how to deal with, and it’s affecting my work life.”
“The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement” – Henry Clifford, President, Livewire.
Jeffery Beir, a CEO operating out of the Boston area, found the guidance he needed to deal with a difficult situation with a key executive – and help with financial matters and working more effectively with board members. “I just feel more confident that I’m not alone in facing these issues,” Beir told Harvard Business Review. Linda Hutchinson, another CEO featured in the same article, found the guidance she needed to complete her new business development plan.
Our members find that there are many benefits to the peer sharing experience. “The Roundtable format is like an instant Board of Directors and a constant monthly reminder to be driving for continuous improvement,” says Livewire President Henry Clifford.
“My roundtable has been my sounding board and provided me with a lot of mentorship,“ says Travis Hamilton, owner of U-Fab Interiors. “I haven’t had a boss since my early 20s, so this has been crucial for my personal development. It’s pushed me to further grow my company and be a better leader.”
For others, the experience helps them feel less lonely. “For me, the opportunity to connect and share similar experiences with other CEOs has been invaluable,” explains Robyn Zacharias, president, Barber Martin Agency. “It removes the ‘It’s lonely at the top’ feeling and gives you an abundance of friendships, support and objectivity.”
Here are a few benefits to being part of a CEO peer group:
In the closing of her article, Kate Rockwood advises readers who want to join a group to follow a few important guidelines, including avoiding groups with members in competing industries, finding CEOs with similar “metabolisms,” and making sure to keep conversations flowing by connecting outside of your group, to name a few. The great news is, we do all that hard work for you at VACEOs! Interested in learning more? Contact us.
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