Joining a CEO peer advisory group may seem like a “can’t miss” opportunity, but the confidential peer learning experience isn’t right for everyone. There are some important reasons why a CEO may choose not to join a group (or at least not now) or may leave a group they’ve already joined. Let’s look at these reasons in more detail.
The primary value derived from membership in a CEO advisory group is the opportunity to get advice from peers. It helps to solve the problem of feeling “alone” or like there’s no one to talk to about key decisions. So it’s essential to choose a group of peers who you respect and can learn from. If this element is missing, it’s not a good fit. Some factors to consider are company size, company life stage (start-up or mature), appetite for growth, and the experience level of the CEO. The best peer groups are comprised of CEO’s from diverse backgrounds who are running similarly sized, but non competing businesses. The more diverse the members are in terms of demographics, experience, and functional background, the better the learning opportunity.
Many CEO’s are motivated to join a peer advisory group to network and develop business opportunities with other members, but this should not be the primary driver. New members to a CEO peer group may be quickly disappointed because it’s unlikely they will find enough prospects in the group to meet their expectations. More importantly, their early advances may be unwelcome since established members regard this as “selling”, and selling is not the value of the advisory group experience. Some CEO’s may join because they want to be part of an elite group of business “shakers and movers”. These CEO’s will use their air time at initial meetings bragging about their success to affirm their worthiness, and this approach also will not be readily embraced by established members. Finally, some CEO’s may want the meeting discussion time to be “all about them” and become impatient listening to the problems of other members. None of these potential expectations are consistent with the focus on learning to be a better leader, so those CEO’s who join a peer group for these reasons are likely to be disappointed.
CEO’s are very busy people and joining a group is valuable only if you can attend a high percentage of the meetings to benefit from the learning experience there. If you are unable to attend at least 75% of the meetings, then joining now may not be the right move for you. Some key factors affecting attendance are how much travel you are required to do, your daily responsibilities related to operations or business development, and your role in client and employee meetings. If you travel nationally or internationally on a frequent basis, find yourself “elbow deep” in operations or business development activities, or experience frequent unplanned/emergency client and employee meetings, then you should reconsider joining at this time. Your attendance is critical to realizing the full value of the experience, and the group members are counting on you to contribute to the value of their experience as well.
In summary, finding a group that provides the right fit, setting realistic expectations for the experience, and choosing a time when you can commit are all critical variables for insuring a valuable experience.