One of the most powerful ways to develop your skills as a business leader is to join a CEO peer group--which is something I have written about in a prior post.
But if you're sold on the logic of joining a peer group, then how do you decide on which one to join since they are many out there to choose from? Not all CEO Peer groups are the same but it can hard to tell the differences.
Here are four factors to consider as you make your choice:
1. The Schedule.
We are all busy and have endless demands on our time even as we strive to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle that includes our friends and family. That means you need to pick a peer group with a time commitment and schedule that works best for you while giving you the flexibility you need to meet the other demands on your time like taking vacations and attending board meetings. The two primary options most peer groups operate on are:
· A full day once a month, usually local
· A two-day session once a quarter, usually with some travel
The monthly option equates to 12 days a year while the quarterly adds up to eight days a year. I found that a quarterly approached worked better for my busy schedule, but it's up to you to decide which option is the better fit.
2. The Coach.
It's critical to know the caliber of the coach in your peer group. Many CEO peer groups are run by certified coaches who are great at answering questions but who also have limited experience running and scaling companies on their own. The better ones have actually run small businesses. While they can provide a lot of value, you need to decide if you would prefer to learn from someone who has actually lived through very similar experience to what you are going through in running your business. The very best have coaches that have run businesses at a scale similar or larger than yours and if you are public, they have that special experience as well.
One question you can help to make your decision is to ask whether you would hire the coach as an employee in your business. If you're not sure you would (or you are sure you wouldn't), then you probably shouldn't join that peer group. On the other hand, if you think you could never afford the person or give them enough challenges to keep them interested, then you might have found the perfect advisor.
3. The Quality Of The People Around You.
CEO peer groups come in two forms: heterogeneous and homogeneous.
A Heterogeneous group is made up of CEO from companies of all sizes and from a variety of industries. Homogeneous groups are comprised of leaders from similarly sized companies facing similarly complex issues.
When you consider that we become a reflection of the 10 people we spend the most time with, which kind of peer group is the better fit for you?
There is definitely a lot of value in joining a peer group made up of CEO from different industries because that's how you can get innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas. Most groups do this to avoid competitive issues.
But if you are in a group with companies that are at very different growth stages than you are, you might find it frustrating because your peers just aren't dealing with the same issues you are in terms of scaling or managing people.
That's why, in the end, you're likely to find a better fit and more learning with a homogeneous sized, but industry diverse peer group.
CEO peer groups are generally run in one of two ways. Either they rely on bringing in external speakers that bring in their expertise to the group. Or, the group focuses on doing deep dives into each other's businesses similar to the case study approach anyone who attended business school would be familiar with.
Each approach has its merits. External speakers can bring a variety of experiences to the table that can help you in building your business. Case method groups, on the other hand, have the opportunity to both get great feedback and insight into solving their own immediate challenges while also learning from how their peers are dealing with issues inside their businesses as well. If it is a homogeneous group, these are issues you are likely to face in the future.
I generally advise CEOs to try and find a case method group because in addition to the learning from others on relevant issues, you get the quick impact of working on a current issue.
So, when it comes to deciding on what kind of CEO peer group you should join, consider these four factors as you go about making your decision: the flexibility of the schedule, the quality of the coach, the caliber of your potential peers, and the methodology of its approach.
Disclaimer: The author has personally benefitted from a number of CEO peer groups over the years and he currently runs a peer group for the CEOs of fast-growth companies called: The Inc. CEO Project.