How Peer Groups can Save You Time, Money, and Stress

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

One of the most valuable returns on my time has been from being part of peer groups, both informal and formal. I have navigated difficult, stressful situations much quicker and with more confidence after hearing from peers who have "been there and done that" on the issues that I was facing. This past week I have had the fortunate position of chairing two different CEO peer group meetings. My groups each have up to 14 CEOs who meet for a full day every two months.

It is a huge ask in terms of time for a busy CEO to give up a whole day. For one of the groups, it was an annual retreat, where they had to "give up" a whole weekend. Yet they do it.

Why? They do it because of the value they get from their peers.

Leadership can be lonely. Sometimes you have issues you are struggling with that you could benefit from getting an outside perspective on. This often leads to you solving the issues quicker, better, and with more courage. Your peers are a sounding board. It can be like having a personal board of directors to help you on business, family and personal topics. When I first took the COO role at Demonware, I felt a healthy dose of imposter syndrome. There were many issues and challenges I had never faced before.

When I moved home from Dublin to Vancouver and joined a peer group, it was incredible!

I had a confidential, safe and trusted place where I could bring up work, personal and family topics.

I received encouraging support and healthy challenge from the group.

My confidence grew immeasurably through the support of the group. I've had support on high stakes decisions. Communication. Strategy. Purpose. Health. Career transition. And many of the important but not urgent areas of life. I was also able to contribute to other people’s issues. It felt great to do so and to make a small difference, a small contribution to them solving their challenges. In the process, I built deep friendships that have lasted after I left the formal group. Here are three ways I’ve availed peer support. I hope they spark ideas for you.

Formal peer group

If you are a CEO or executive, you can join something like Mackay CEO Forums, where I chair two peer groups. I was in a group for over five years, and I guest speak to dozens of groups on topics like CEO Productivity and Leading Highly Productive Teams.

Informal peer group in your workplace

When I worked at Rackspace in London, six of us formed an informal peer group to work on public speaking and presentation skills. We met once a month to learn and practice, and give each other constructive feedback on our progress.

Informal peer group in your industry or interest area

I meet every two weeks with three other consultants. We support each other on everything related to being consultants.

I am in Vancouver, one member is in Munich, one in Orlando, and one in Ottawa. I eagerly look forward to our calls and I always learn something that accelerates what I am working on.

Would you like to be part of a CEO peer group? Book time with me (at no cost) to have a conversation about formal or informal peer groups and how they might support you.

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