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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Peer Group Pressure? No, It’s Peer Group Power!

One of the most significant issues for any leader is that of apparent isolation.  In other words, the average leader just doesn’t have anyone to talk to.

It is obviously difficult, if not impossible, to talk totally frankly to the team.  It is equally difficult for a hired gun, for example, to talk to another layer of management upwards with the feeling that this may disclose weakness, true or only perceived.

I recall a situation where a brand new member of my Vistage group called me the evening before his first meeting and asked if he bring up an issue for discussion.

“Of course you can” I said: “Do you want to tell me about it now so that I can prepared?”

“Oh no” he said, ”I can’t discuss it on the telephone – let me talk about it at the group meeting tomorrow”

Somewhat surprised I agreed and he stood up in front of a dozen people he didn’t know and told his story.

In essence he had taken over running the business (a very successful engineering company) from his father who insisted that he bring in his younger son as well to “help”.

The problem for my member was that his brother was a totally disruptive influence in the business and caused a vast amount of trouble and distress when, on the face of it, the member felt that nothing could be done to improve the situation, and said so.

The situation was, in fact, so bad that my new member had had a cardiac arrest and was developing other symptoms, all because of the stress.

“So why are you bringing this to the group if nothing can be done about?” he was asked.

“Just talking about it helps” he said: “In truth, I haven’t mentioned it before to anyone since it all blew up, ten years ago!”

There was something of a shocked silence and then my Vistage group got to grips with the task.  In half an hour of questioning and discussion, they came up with a solution.  Open an office in Spain in a nice area by the sea, buy him a house (which the company could easily afford) and send him off as Export Director, Europe.

In the event it all came off, the brother was happily exiled to Spain where he blossomed and was successful in opening up the European market while back at the ranch, peace reigned for the first time for ten years,

And the moral of the story?  It is one that I have mentioned previously that “No-one is as smart as all of us” especially where emotions are concerned, and strong familial emotions at that.

It demonstrated for me the power of the Vistage peer group which can operate without that emotional input and can give tremendous support in the solution of very difficult and seemingly insoluble problems.

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