The Answer to Both Questions

Last week, my post Peer or Expert? was a follow-up to a piece I wrote over the summer titled, What Does it Take to be a Great Chair?  For me, comments left by several Vistage Chairs to last week’s post answered both questions. They not only provided thoughtful answers to whether one facilitates a peer advisory group as peer or expert, but also, and even more importantly, they painted a picture of what it takes to lead a peer advisory group effectively.  Their comments are worth a post in their own right.  In no particular order, here’s what they wrote:

Jean Lauterbach -What strikes me as the greatest contribution of a Chair is somewhere between a peer and a facilitator. It’s the space where wisdom lies – wisdom that comes from not presuming to have the right answer so much as listening well enough (and with no preconceived agenda) to have the next question. Our members usually have the answers somewhere inside them, and patient, intentional listening will help them discover those answers and find the courage to make the hard decisions.

Bill Oyler – Bill commented on Jean’s post calling it “elegant and on target” and added this:  In addition, a Chair is the person who consciously understands how to create the right environment where a member feels compelled to enter into a conversation, unlike most they’ve had elsewhere, where they want to be transparent and vulnerable because they know they will be truly heard and probed for deeper clarity where ego disappears in the search for excellence and more. A Chair choreographs group energy such that safety exists for this transparency and vulnerability to be maintained from the 121 meeting into the group meeting and facilitates group think around members’ opportunities and challenges.

Steve Ramerini – A Chair is a mentor, friend, coach, Rabbi, Priest, butt kicker, confident, crucible, sounding board, orchestra leader, mild mannered reporter, super hero, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, great listener, reconciler, connector, builder, planter, harvester, shaman, leader and above all else is the one person who will look you square in the eyes and say, “those aren’t nice threads you’re wearing, you are butt naked my friend!”

Janet Fogarty – Perhaps for the folks who have not experienced the support and guidance of a Chair leading a peer group (i.e. those self managed groups) it might help to picture it. Chairs are somewhat like Personal Trainers. They help you get clarity on the goal, purpose, etc. and then keep you on course, push you and have your back. Chairs also hold the “flashlight” and help a CEO or business owner identify, face, cope with and influence the unknown. Chairs help leaders when their plans collide with reality.

Tony Lewis – The Vistage Chair is also an “Equal” as well as a “Peer” to the CEO member. For that reason we take a trusting journey with the members to a “Shared Destiny” in which we and the other members can say “Time Out” any where along that journey. As Mark Twain said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, but what you know that just ain’t true.”

Dwight Frindt – A Chair is a true friend, a partner, a committed listener, a provocateur, a pace setter, someone to laugh with, sometimes be annoyed by, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. A Chair facilitates mutual trust, respect and safety. A Chair creates a larger paradigm for each person to discover and grow their unique leadership and develop clarity about their true calling. A Chair is an everyday human being who has discovered the true joy in service.

Phil Liebman – As a Chair I am a catalyst. My job is to help lead and ideally accelerate a reaction ( to opportunities, challenges, changes or new observations about present realities) in order to produce better outcomes than would otherwise be the case – and do so without becoming part of the solution or final product. It is a way to leverage the power of people working unselfishly to a common purpose to make propels lives and the world a richer place. For me it’s about the power to help people understand that they can change what they want – and certainly what they must, first in their company, then in their life and ultimately their communities and the world. I then renew and start the next reaction, then the next and the next. I see myself as both peer and expert – the same as I see every member in my groups.

I hope you learned as much as I did.  Jean’s comment reminds me of quote from Khalil Gibran: “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

More comments welcome!

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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