For the past almost six years I have been a member of a CEO group called Vistage – www.vistage.com . I’ve alluded to my participation in the group on more than one occasion on my blog. My original reason for joining was to gain perspective on running a small business that would be difficult to obtain simply by reading newspapers, magazines, and the like. Vistage gives you the opportunity allows the CEO of a small business to get out of their fishbowl, (and committee of one), to see how others in similar situations deal with their opportunities and challenges. Before I joined the CEO that invited me to consider it mentioned that the other members of the group would ultimately become friends and confidants and he could not have been more right.
Our business has had a tough year and my company continues to undergo many changes and as such I felt the need to step away from the group to completely focus on the issues we are facing. This was not done without careful consideration. It is not inexpensive to be a part of the group. However in today’s business world every business conversations seems to begin with three letters – ROI and I can tell you that the value I have received from being a part of the group has far exceeded the financial investment.
For those of you that do not know – a Vistage group meets monthly for an entire day. Think about setting aside one day a month where you would not go to the office but actually sit in a room off-site all day, not answering emails or phone calls (or at least not constantly) and discussing issues related to everyone’s individual business. It’s always intense as we regularly have an outside speaker for 3 hours who will talk on any number of subjects, and then we meet as a group for the balance of the day going around the table updating our personal as well as individual company statuses. The meetings last 7 or 8 hours and I often found myself exhausted from processing issues and thinking deeply about subjects that were discussed at the meeting. We feel the responsibility to be accountable to one another as peers and that responsibility is not taken lightly by any of the members. It’s one big reason why it works so well.
Each CEO also meets with the ‘Chair’ or group facilitator once a month for 1 ½ hours to tackle issues directly related to our business. One responsibility of the Chair is to get a CEO to do things that he or she would prefer not to do but knows that they should. It’s probably akin to herding cats at times.
The bonds I have formed over the past six years with my fellow members run deep and that was evidenced today by the groups abject refusal to accept my stepping down in what they consider a time when I could use the collective intelligence of the group more than ever. Not only did they implore me to come back to report as a ‘guest’ and keep in touch with the group, I walked out feeling that I have 14 very smart, very dear friends for life. And that’s very personal.
What do you do to get out of your own fishbowl?