How peer advisory groups can lead to effective leadership development

Effective leadership development can mean the difference between creating invested, knowledgeable managers who can direct companies toward that next level of growth and derailing operations and souring the culture you’ve built.

McKinsey & Company conducted a study that distills the 4 main reasons why leadership development programs fail:

  1. Not allowing for context,
  2. Not linking development programs to real world projects,
  3. Underestimating what it really takes to change behaviors, and
  4. Not measuring results.

As your organization builds out , here are a few reasons why you should consider adding peer advisory groups to that strategy.


Peer advisory groups provide much-needed context for participants, and they allow group members to help shape the course of their own development.  By creating a forum for open and honest discussion among leaders, companies are leveraging the knowledge that already resides on the team.  In doing so, the conversation becomes the content, and the team benefits from the experience and context from each other.

Real-world projects

Peer advisory groups that are rooted in real discussions about the most challenging issues help cross-functional teams tackle real business problems.  Rather than relying on case studies or theoretical content, peer groups bring their own topics to the table to generate ideas and feedback from their colleagues.  Peer groups help leaders see the blind spots and unintended consequences of their actions, which helps align the entire team towards major business objectives.

Behavioral change

There’s just something about the inherent accountability that comes with publicly committing to an action in a peer group setting.  Peer groups that hold each other accountable are more likely to influence actual behavioral change.  This type of “action learning” can increase retention of key ideas by more than six times, which will accelerate behavioral change faster than a traditional training program.

Ongoing peer advisory groups can help participants identify what the McKinsey authors call “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs.  A professionally facilitated group can uncover many of the underlying reasons behind a person’s actions, which helps illuminate a path for real change.  Plus, a group that meets regularly will begin to see improved relationships (strong social ties have been proven to increase innovation), and they’ll get better at the peer advisory process over time.

ROI you can measure

The McKinsey authors found that companies pay lip service to the importance of effective leadership development but have no evidence to quantify the value of their investment.  Measuring the return on leadership development programs may not be easy, but the authors point out a few ways to demonstrate the value that that comes from executive development.  Measuring promotion rates, retention of key leaders and employee engagement scores can help demonstrate the value of the program.

Research has shown that organizations that include peer advisory groups as part of their executive development mix will enjoy a higher return on their investment.  As the group tackles real company issues, provides context for each other, and shows a real change in behavior, program sponsors will understand the value of their investment.

Perhaps the most telling of measures will be actual business results of the organization, and the areas the peer groups influence.  How does your organization leverage peer advisory groups for effective leadership development?  Leave a comment and let us know.

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: John Ruzicka

John Ruzicka is the Manager of Senior Executive Programs for Vistage Inside.  Prior to joining Vistage, John was with the University of San Diego, where he spent five years marketing for the graduate programs in the Scho

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