There’s a huge difference between networks and networking. Networking is often desperate and transactional; whereas networks are groups of peers we trust.
While few enjoy “networking,” many crave authentic conversations with peers, clients, and key stakeholders. The pace of change is accelerating, and executives need peer groups more than ever to understand what others are thinking and doing.
The most successful executives often have the best networks to share insights, provide support, and pursue common interests. However, strong peer interactions rarely happen on their own. Time, trust, and low expectations too often get in the way.
I’ve spent my career creating these networks: peer groups for C-Suite executives, and board directors—essentially hand selected discussion groups for those who don’t have many peers internally and may not realize they can benefit from them. These relationships are important, and executives need to know how to create them.
Several “building bridges” concepts should influence the design of any executive peer network. They also need to be coupled with the right tactical “how to” items. By doing both, executives can enhance the impact of their own networks—whether as a participant, convener, or sponsor.
5 principles for building effective peer groups for executives
I see five principles that are crucial for executives to be successful in building a network that works for their development:
- Leadership is more an art than a science, and it is getting more difficult all the time.
- Beliefs drive our behaviors, and behaviors drive outcomes. Beliefs matter.
- Leaders are best able to refine their beliefs through conversations with trusted peers.
- These conversations rarely happen, in part because busy executives have few opportunities to engage with their peers in a meaningful way.
- Even when a group of peers gets together, the design and nature of their interactions rarely supports an increase in trust over time.
There are more than a million conferences a year in the United States, and nearly every vendor in every industry hosts roundtable meetings, webcasts, or seminars. Some are substantive, while others are less so. But most of these events rarely address the needs of senior executives.
I believe well-designed, well-executed executive peer dialogue is possible through private, invitation-only networks.
Executives have to demand more because, in a transactional world, we all need to belong.
Today’s contributor is James Millar, the founder and president of SkyBridge Associates. James believes in the power of great conversations, in building authentic relationships, and in executives sharing valuable insights with each other.