Joining or starting an IT and Business strategy peer group offers extensive benefits to members. Participating in a group encourages personal and career development.
“So, here’s the business challenge I’d like to share with the group tonight: I need to quit my job.” That’s how Art, a member of my mid-market CIO peer group, began his presentation a while ago.
After that attention-getting opening, Art shared an in-depth analysis of the interpersonal, organizational, and leadership challenges at his approximate $1B revenue employer. Challenges prevented Art from doing his best work, impeding his team and preventing IT from partnering with business lines or lead tech innovations at the company.
Art is a member of a semi-formal CIO group I put together a couple of years ago. We meet for two to two and a half hours every other month over light appetizers to share general business updates. Additionally, one member gets an hour to share a challenge for a deep dive discussion followed by recommendations. This group was successful, so I subsequently started another group for CIOs of smaller companies.
Insights and Advice
One of the most valuable outcomes of a peer group is feedback. We offer feedback objectively, constructively, and in a focused manner on the issue has an incredible impact on the recipient. We help each other identify strategy pitfalls, technology landmines, talent issues, and more.
Tapping into collective experiences opens one up to a much broader analysis and input to a challenge. In my experience with these groups, every business challenge presented has been experienced by at least one other member of the group. Also, with a well-assembled group, the odds are good half, or more, of the members share common experiences with nearly any particular challenge.
Sometimes, it’s good to share and get something off your chest. Equally, we check egos at the door. Occasionally, it’s good to share a great success and get kudos from peers. Everyone feels a little better about themselves when someone they respect says, “Good job, that’s impressive!”
Trust among and between members of a peer group is immeasurably valuable. Except for restrictions on public company information, members are confident they can openly share essential, strategic business information with the group. A lack of trust completely undermines the entire purpose of the group: open and honest feedback from peers.
Group members ask probing questions, and they give clear advice, not exactly bluntly, but without a lot of sugar coating. However, they also don’t behave judgmentally or negatively with one another. We’re able to maintain a professional, respectful, and collegial atmosphere with strict adherence to a “no jerks” rule. New members to the group are vetted with a couple of existing members to help ensure personality compatibility as well as validating similar roles.
True Peers with Similar Challenges
There’s a definite correlation between company size and relative complexity of IT or business challenges, whether it’s talent-related, budget, or even vision. Engaging with peers from similarly-sized organizations is optimal. Similarly, participants with comparable responsibilities are valuable, too. Tactically focused CIOs and those more strategically and business growth-oriented typically don’t have sufficiently overlapping challenges to ensure a vibrant, valuable discussion over time.
So what about Art, who opened our story wanting to quit his job? Well, he followed our advice and did quit. He received an attractive offer from a high-growth company in a growing industry. However, he didn’t leave his employer. His planned departure spurred a sequence of changes that included an accelerated executive departure, realignment of reporting relationships, and ultimately more strategic engagement between IT and business lines.
If you’re interested in learning more about how a peer group might benefit you, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to share my thoughts with you.