Effective leaders make a point of continually growing in both character and competency and working to maximize their effectiveness. They are high in self-awareness, understanding their strengths and weaknesses. They establish personal goals for growth and work towards achieving those goals.
One effective tool for growth is participation in a peer group. A strong peer group can help a leader recognize areas for growth and achieve goals. A peer group can be effective in overcoming some of the hurdles that a leader might face in going at it alone in the growing struggle.
The most effective peer group is small, perhaps committed business leaders with a range of experience, expertise and personalities. The group need not include any competitors or any other source of conflict of interest. The members must all be trustworthy and able to hold confidential all of what the group shares. The most important ingredient is the desire and willingness to have a positive impact on each other’s lives. Some of the advantages of participating in a good peer group include:
Escaping the isolation trap of leadership. “It’s lonely at the top” is more than a cliche. Leaders can easily become isolated because they have no trusted peers within their organization with whom they can dig deep or share feelings—and there are many business and leadership issues that they cannot profitably share at home. A group of peers can understand, accept and respond appropriately to the struggles that a leader might face.
Gaining different perspectives. We each see issues and challenges from a viewpoint that is based on our unique experiences and knowledge. Though a group may be composed of peers, each peer will have a different perspective based on their history. There is great value in hearing and considering a range of perspectives and alternative paths as we consider a decision.
Absorbing emotional nutrients. Leaders are generally wired in such a way that they pour into other people’s lives. But they often are so busy doing so that they don’t have the time or the people to pour into their lives. All humans have emotional needs for acceptance, affirmation, containment, empathy, etc. Without any inflow, our emotional tanks run dry—and we feel we have little or nothing left to give. A group of peers can keep your tank full.
Learning from others’ competencies. With a group that has a mix of skills and backgrounds, there is much to gain in both experience and depth of knowledge. For instance, CFOs can learn from sales and marketing experts (and vice versa), and technical leaders can provide valuable advice from an IT or engineering perspective.
Increasing self-awareness. One of the great values of a peer group is that it helps members dig deeper into understanding themselves. This is accomplished by the group asking thought-provoking questions rather than simply providing answers and advice.
Benefiting from accountability relationships. The best groups develop trusting relationships where the members can present a balance of grace and truth to each other. Committing to goals within a group that will hold us accountable makes the likelihood of achieving those goals vastly greater than our own private efforts.
Creating a laboratory practice. An upcoming difficult conversation can create a great deal of anxiety. We might question the right way to approach the discussion, or whether we can be effective in presenting the information. In those circumstances, the chance to think through what that conversation might look like and even to practice it can reduce anxiety and provide valuable prep work for a positive and successful dialogue.
Enjoying confidentiality. Leaders often deal with sensitive issues regarding the people around them. Outside input or perspective can be helpful, but leaders often have nowhere to discuss private information. A peer group that consists of trusted advisors who are able to maintain strict confidentiality is a valuable sounding board.
Receiving guidance from a personal board of advisors. Organizations value a board of advisors that can become familiar with the organization and then provide suggestions and advice about future direction and decisions. In a similar way, a peer group can serve as an advisory board at the personal level for each of the group’s members. They can develop a deep knowledge of each other and provide input into the growing needs and plans of their compatriots.
Do you have a group of peers that is helping you maximize your growth and effectiveness? Do you have peers that encourage you and hold you accountable?