In the days when I used to lecture part time at a local Business School on management style I used to say that the higher we go through an organisation the fewer people there are to tell you that you are doing a great job and that demands emotional stamina.
I am becoming more and more certain that this potentially could be a problem for many leaders in business especially those who are recently appointed.
Some time ago I had a client who had recently been appointed Chief Executive of a large manufacturing business. He had been operations director and had been part of a very effective management team.
On his appointment he told his fellow directors that he would operate in much the same way as previously but he very soon found out to his dismay that they now looked upon him as being outside the team.
He operated an open door policy but they kept away unless he specifically asked them to come in to see him. Accordingly he felt that he had no one to talk to and there was an increasing feeling of isolation.
Indeed only last week I was talking to a newly appointed CEO who told me that much to his surprise he was finding exactly the same feeling of isolation with no one to talk to. Certainly he could talk to professional advisers but it was not the same as having a trusted person with whom to discuss internal matters in the business.
I have heard on more than one occasion a CEO tell me that the only person he can talk to in the business is in fact “the issue” and that is one which needs to be solved.
It is a consistent problem and my comment about the higher you go the fewer people there are to talk to always applies.
There is no doubt that the peer group system typically that operated by Vistage is an excellent way to overcome this problem. It gives CEOs the opportunity to talk to people who really do understand their issues because almost certainly they will have experienced then themselves.
Perhaps even more importantly they have no axe to grind and no hidden agenda in discussing other people’s issues round the table. I have heard group members say that there is nothing quite so much fun as telling other people how to run their business.
The peer group is not for everybody. It demands openness and honesty and the ability to possess that level of humility that allows the individual to accept that they need advice. They find that that advice is available from a group of people who become close friends.
Perhaps the growth of Vistage in the UK to in excess of 1,000 members and worldwide to more than 20,000 is a testament to the effectiveness and value of the system.
Quite apart from the elimination of the feeling of isolation, the peer group system offers senior executives the opportunity to continue to learn in a forum in which they feel comfortable.
There is something new to learn every day from other people and from new sources and that learning process should be consciously ongoing.
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