Follow the Leaders
It’s challenging to make meetings productive and efficient in any setting. Imagine a meeting with ten confident, hard-drivers who are used to running the show!
No matter the type of meeting – Roundtable or Forum – each calls for strict adherence to confidentiality and to the Gestalt Language Protocol. Getting our executives up-to-speed on meeting procedures begins as soon as they become a member. And it’s one of the four ways we help our members be successful.
FOUR WAYS VACEOs MAXIMIZES PEER TO PEER GROUP EXPERIENCE
First, each new member receives a copy of the book Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders by Mo Fathelbab, which lays out the methods and Gestalt protocols for successful executive peer groups. It’s required reading for all new members.
Secondly, every new peer group starts off with a full day training session with one of our world-class trainers. And, every group gets a half-day of refresher training every year, a chance to sharpen the saw and recommit.
Then, to make sure the meeting stay on focus, every roundtable elects a member of the group as their leader. We work hard to support these leaders through regular leader meetings, coaching sessions and feedback surveys. Like most things, leadership is key.
Finally, we have high expectations of our members. These expectations include confidentiality, culture and commitment. Commitment comes first, with the expectation that a member attends each monthly meeting and participating fully. Our members take this seriously. Every month, our attendance for more than 180 members is 94 percent. That’s commitment.
Let’s be honest: It’s not always business that causes the negative emotions you sometimes struggle with. Often, it’s life. To have a group of people who understand you as a human AND as a CEO is HUGE.
Imagine sitting around a table with several Inc. 5000 and RVA 25 business owners – each focused on your issue or opportunity – and finally realizing you’re not alone. Each VACEOs member has experienced this feeling during a Roundtable or Forum peer group session.
FORUM VERSUS ROUNDTABLE: WHAT’S THE DIFF?
All new VACEOs members are assigned to either a Roundtable or Forum peer group. Roundtable groups typically include 8-10 members and meet once a month for four hours. Forums, on the other hand, meet only once a quarter for a full day of discussion.
The biggest difference between a Roundtable and Forum is the type of CEOs sitting around the table. A typical Forum member leads a more complex business that may have multiple locations and 75 or more employees. Forum groups typically include only eight members and require the participation of a skilled facilitator to ensure these high-horsepower individuals stay on track.
“It’s a slightly different altitude because of the complexity or scope of the business,” he adds. “The management and hiring issues and competitive strategies are just a little bigger, but the business issues are remarkably similar,” explains Randy Wyckoff, VACEOs Forum Facilitator.
No matter the type of meeting – Roundtable or Forum – each calls for strict adherence to confidentiality and to the Gestalt Language Protocol. (The guiding principle of the Gestalt Language Protocol is to never give advice, but to share related experiences instead. (Read more.)
THE FORUM EXPERIENCE: BECOMING UNSTUCK
Forums quickly become a safe haven – a place to vent, ask questions, release fears and build lifelong friendships. During each quarterly day-long meeting, several members present personal or work challenges to the group.
It’s the facilitator’s responsibility to ensure the agenda is set well before the meeting occurs and to make sure the meeting and attendees follow Gestalt processes and principles. Another important role the facilitator may play is that of coach. The ultimate goal is to help the CEOs presenting their challenges get “unstuck.”
“The coach works with the presenter to set the tone for the discussion,” says Randy Wyckoff, who is also a non-profit strategy consultant and coach. “I help the presenter through the process of identifying and defining the issue. I also help them clarify anything they specifically don’t want brought up during the discussion; for example, they may have tried a specific solution to the challenge already, so they don’t want to hear about experiences that include that specific approach. I also help the presenter talk about their emotional reaction to the issue – how the issue makes them feel.”
Opening up emotionally and honestly is how members get the most out of the Forum experience. “If you come into a meeting guarded or not willing to open up, then you’re limiting your experience with the group,” says Tom Ficklin. He’s a VACEOs Forum Facilitator, a certified Christian Life Coach and a soon-to-be International Coach certificate holder.
“In the coaching world, we live for the ‘aha!’ moments,” he explains. “It’s tough for executives who are at a high level to talk about what they do with their spouse or accountant or attorney. When they get into a Forum and find out others have been down a similar path or share similar experiences, you see lights come on, and you see them think, ‘Ok, I’m not the only one.’ Then they begin to take in the experiences of the others and they begin to see how to get unstuck. They see the direction. They have a turn signal. It’s about finding the next step and taking it with a level of confidence.”
“They all have the same responsibilities that I have – the same difficulty in making decisions,” says Matthews. “There’s something about being with a group of people who do what you do. You don’t often find that. It’s very rewarding. When you’re talking about something, you don’t have to explain it in context. They get it. It’s great to have those conversations. I think that being a part of a Forum and a member of the Council has made me more confident in my decision-making.”
Matthews says his group truly enjoys their time together. “One Forum member said, ‘You know what? Even if we didn’t have presentations, I would still want to meet every quarter.’ I think that speaks volumes about how close we are as a group and how much value we find in the peer group experience.”
Imagine seated to your right is someone who has made the Inc. 5000 list not once, but EIGHT times. Seated around the table to your left are several RVA 25 CEOs representing the technology, consumer products and staffing industries. Each is focused on your question, issue or opportunity. You finally realize: you are not alone. This is the feeling each VACEOs member has experienced during a Roundtable or Forum session.
“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. You can’t share everything with your employees, partners, board members or investors. Members of a Roundtable have no personal interest in your decisions,” he adds.
Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders explains Roundtable methodology and is required reading for all new VACEOs members.
“The Council’s Roundtables have been designed intentionally around the principles found in Fathelbab’s book,” says Scot McRoberts, executive director, VACEOs. “Each member is trained about our disciplined meeting process, which follows very specific language and meeting protocols. This is to ensure that every member gets the most out of the Roundtable or Forum meetings.”
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 Fathelbab. “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.
“Advice can be flat-out wrong,” says Fathelbab. “It can be judgmental. Advice creates an unsafe environment in a Roundtable, Peer Exchange Group or Forum. Each of us is best equipped to solve our own problem. The best anyone can do is to share their experience, allowing the person with the problem to glean from that experience what is best for him or her.”
“Sharing experiences allows members of a group to get closer by learning more about one another,” he continues. “By contrast, giving advice to a single member robs the group of all of the stories that can be so educational and socially bonding.”
The Council is one of a handful of independent regional organizations of its kind in existence. Members enjoy the benefits of networking, camaraderie and the “safe haven” found in their roundtables and in their interactions with 180 other CEOs. Ready to learn more? View VACEOs membership info today.
We admit it. We ask our membership for feedback often. Call us crazy, but we want to know. We want to know things like: How’s your business doing? (Quarterly Economic Survey). Did this topic resonate with you? (Quarterly Luncheon surveys). How would you rate this speaker? (Annual Retreat Q&A).
Recently we asked, What about your VACEOs Roundtable or Forum experience is most valuable and meaningful to you? Seems our members are all on the same page. Almost every response included phrases about confidentiality, knowledge sharing and making connections.
Here’s a snap shot of some of the unedited feedback we gathered. Contact us today if you’d like to see the full set of the 100+ responses.
One of the best things about routine is breaking it. While our rhythm of highly structured and disciplined monthly CEO roundtable meetings produces great results for members, it is good change things up! That’s where roundtable retreats come in. Every roundtable gets away together once a year for a one to two night retreat. Some stay close, heading to the lake, the river, or a nearby resort. Others travel farther, as seen in this photo.
Regardless of the destination, what matters about a roundtable retreat is the chance to learn more about one another, build stronger relationships and become a more productive roundtable. Many roundtables include a regular meeting in their retreat, some build in roundtable-specific training, and others bring in a facilitator lead a learning experience. The important thing is that you break the routine together.
Our membership includes award-winning companies across industries like IT Services, Marketing & Advertising, Logistics & Transportation, Business Products & Services, Consumer Products, Human Resources, Finance, Health Services and more. Imagine what you can achieve, surrounded by CEOs like these! Learn about VACEOs membership here.