August 30

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The case for joining a CEO community

  • When you’re at the top of your organisation, who supports and challenges you?
  • Who’s your role model and inspiration?
  • Who are the people who have your back?
  • Who’s your tribe where you can relax amongst peers?

The difficulties of finding CEO community

As you rise through an organisation and assume increasing responsibilities, it can be harder to find peers who can challenge your thinking and provide fresh input into your toughest problems.

And the unique challenge you have as a CEO is there’s only one of you - unlike most other people in the organisation (from account managers to C-Suite leaders) you don’t have an internal peer group to compare notes with and be inspired and challenged by.

  • Your family and friends may not operate at the level you do, and in any case you don’t want to overburden them repeatedly with your professional challenges.
  • Your board, colleagues, customers & partners all have valuable input, but they are all part of the system and they all have their own agenda.
  • An external CEO coach/advisor can definitely be an incredibly useful sounding board - but that relationship doesn’t replace having a community of peers.

As a result of this, too many CEOs (and other high-performing leaders) are isolated and woefully short on peer community.

Why every CEO needs a peer community

However, as the saying goes, “you become the average of the people you spend the most time with.” Which means, if you’re the smartest (or most accomplished) person in the room, you’re in the wrong room…

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Community is one of the biggest levers of transformation I know. Personally speaking, when I shifted from the corporate world to the world of entrepreneurship, I immersed myself in entrepreneur communities. This gave me access to people further in the journey than me - as well as peers to share and learn with. Indeed, I joined one of the highest-level coaching masterminds in the world: suddenly I was immersed in a group who played a bigger game than I did, and it forced me to step up.

These are important questions because, as leadership author John C Maxwell puts it, “the leader is the lid” on the organisation. If you want your organisation to step up, you need to be growing as a leader yourself.

Ultimately, being unable to step back and reflect with peers will absolutely feed down to business metrics.

“You become the average of the people you spend the most time with.” Which means, if you’re the smartest (or most accomplished) person in the room, you’re in the wrong room…

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Different options for CEO communities

So, who are you surrounding yourself with to challenge and inspire you, to help you play a bigger game as CEO, and to raise the quality of your thinking and your leadership?

How do you find a room where you’re not the most accomplished leader present? Well, here are some different ways to get started.

CEO content

The first option isn’t really a CEO community at all, but it is a simple and accessible option. It’s to surround yourself with the wisdom of CEO peers and mentors through published media. Find a great CEO biography or book, or subscribe to a great CEO podcast or two.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Zero commitment

Cons

  • It’s a one-way conversation, and transformation is far slower than engaging in a true peer CEO community

Best for:

Every CEO should be reading and learning, but this is not recommended for any CEO as a substitute for true community.

Associations

There are plenty of associations and organisations keen to welcome CEOs; for example the UK’s Institute of Directors. These provide plenty of content, resources, training programmes, and networking events.

Pros

  • Ability to offer specialist advice (e.g. legal) and training programmes
  • Access to brand-name speakers

Cons

  • Cost
  • Provides information and events more than opportunities to build deep and trusted peer relationships

Best for:

CEOs looking for specialist resources and “breadth rather than depth” of relationships.

Informal CEO masterminds

A CEO mastermind is a group of peer CEOs who get together on a regular basis to collaborate and share wisdom on each other’s top business challenges. The format varies, but often members take it in turns to bring a thorny topic to the table - and the whole group brings their perspective and ideas.

An informal mastermind occurs when a group of people get together to organise this: “hey, why don’t we meet for a couple of hours each month as a mastermind?”

Pros

  • Low/no cost
  • Choose your own peers
  • Sessions are focused on top business issues

Cons

  • Low barrier to entry - can be difficult to create a committed group
  • Management overhead - who will do all the organisation?
  • Facilitation skills are often lacking - meetings not run professionally
  • Tend to have a short life-span

Best for:

Cash-strapped individuals who have the time and motivation to recruit, manage and facilitate mastermind sessions.

Paid CEO masterminds

As explained above, a CEO mastermind is a group of peer CEOs who get together regularly to collaborate and share wisdom on each other’s top business and leadership challenges.

A paid CEO mastermind is professionally organised and facilitated. It may involve face-to-face interactions or it could be purely virtual, although many paid masterminds have some kind of annual retreat or away-day.

Care needs to be taken on choosing a mastermind that has the right focus. For example, Xquadrant’s CEO Mastermind focuses on top CEOs running established companies in the tech/digital space. Other masterminds will cater to start-ups, small businesses, consultancies, etc. Look for the “Goldilocks principle” - not too dissimilar but not too competitive either!

Pros

  • Sessions are focused on top business issues
  • Professionally facilitated: time is used effectively
  • High quality of participants

Cons

  • Cost
  • Need to treat sessions as a priority

Best for:

CEOs who are serious about growing their personal impact and business results. This is the gold standard.

Finding a CEO community

Once you’ve decided which type of community you’re interested in, I recommend making some immediate enquiries so it’s not another thing to “get to someday”.

If you’re a tech/digital sector CEO/President looking for a paid and professional mastermind, Xquadrant’s own CEO Mastermind may be relevant. If not, you should be able to find interesting options through peer contacts, by asking your executive coach, or on the web.


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