Although peer groups can be extremely useful, they aren’t very good at helping leaders improve their competencies. Groups can help spur strategic thinking, offer some perspective, and provide the opportunity to help others. But they can’t develop leadership effectiveness. Here’s why…
Leadership Competencies are Developed, Not Trained
The first issue relates to the fact that leadership competencies are developed, not trained. It takes regular focus to break ineffective habits and form new, effective ones. Meeting once a month in a round-table setting with big-picture discussions just can’t address someone’s specific development needs.
Peer Groups Don’t Assess Strengths and Weaknesses of Individuals Well
The second issue relates to assessment. Peer groups aren’t designed to assess the leadership strengths and weaknesses of individual members. That, coupled with the fact that most of us are poor at assessing the quality of our abilities, makes leadership development in a peer group pretty much impossible. (A good example of how poor we are at self-assessment is the fact that I’ve never met an executive who thought they were a poor leader. Yet, we all know executives who ARE poor leaders!)
Blind Spots are an Issue
The third issue relates to blind spots. We all have them regardless of experience, intelligence and/or education. Peer groups can help point out strategic blind spots, but aren’t very good at pointing out leadership blind spots. It really takes someone working closely, one-on-one with a leader to identify them and bring them to light.
The Challenge of Improving Personal Productivity
A fourth reason that peer groups aren’t effective at leadership development relates to personal productivity. Group discussions can be good for high-level topics pertaining to business strategies, but they don’t lend themselves to improving day-to-day functioning. Leaders need objective input from someone who has insight into how they function at work.
Executives Need Unbiased Confidants
And a fifth issue in which peer groups fall short with respect to leadership development relates to the need for an executive to have an unbiased confidant – someone with whom they can vent, admit fears and insecurities, and generally open up to. A peer group setting is simply inappropriate for that.
Finding the Best Course
What then, is the best course of action for leadership development? It used to be mentoring by fellow executives – getting insights and guidance from someone in the company who could share the benefit of their years of experience. Unfortunately, because of cost-cutting and increased work load, those days are gone.
Instead, most executives turn to executive coaching to provide the assessment, insight, and guidance needed. Peer groups have their place, but for personal development, one-on-one work is the most effective.
If you’d like help in developing your leadership effectiveness and would find a confidential sounding board useful, please give us a call at 503-928-7685.