Peer Advisory Groups: New Trend in Leadership Development

Whether you’re a CEO seeking a board of advisors outside your company, or an HR director trying to create greater alignment within an organization, establishing or joining a peer advisory group may be just what you need. While peer advisory groups have been around since the days of Ben Franklin, they are growing in popularity for one simple reason: they work.

One of the most powerful dynamics of peer advisory groups is the momentum created when peers engage in a cycle of learning, sharing, applying, and achieving. Whether they are executives with different skills sets from the same organization or CEOs collaborating with fellow CEOs from entirely different industries and backgrounds, they participate in a process that by its nature fuels continuous improvement. For large companies, even those with robust formal training programs, internal peer advisory groups can play a major role in maximizing collaboration and alignment within the company. For small businesses, it’s often a brilliantly effective stand-alone solution for developing people and growing the enterprise.

Here’s why this cycle in a highly functioning peer advisory group is worth some thoughtful consideration:

Learning – In Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, he describes learning organizations this way: “…where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, are where people are learning how to learn together.” Senge goes on to say that we wouldn’t suggest we learned how to ride a bicycle if we only actually rode the bike once. It’s about demonstrating the capacity to produce quality results repeatedly. It’s the difference between riding a bike and being a bicycle rider. Peer advisory groups create bicycle riders by fostering deep learning.

Sharing – Whether it’s knowledge gained from reading a book or attending an offsite training program, sharing delivers value to our peers and colleagues and, in our role as teacher or conveyor, helps us embed what we’ve learned. Peer groups not only engage in rich dialogue about cutting-edge concepts, but the group members tend to ask hard questions and challenge each other to tackle complex issues using their newfound knowledge.

Applying – It’s hard to stress the importance of applying what you’ve learned. The best of the best don’t rely on talent alone to excel. They take what they learn and apply it until it becomes second nature. Peer groups hold us accountable for practicing our craft and fine-tuning new ways of working.

Achieving – Good behaviors will replace bad ones, but only over time and after repeated success. Achieving inspires believing. And once you believe in yourself and grow to trust a newfound way of working, it fuels the hunger to learn more and the cycle continues. Achieving also inspires others to emulate your behavior.

More than 750 Chicago-area business leaders have turned to Vistage to help them align their executive development efforts with business objectives through peer advisory groups, resulting in better leaders who make better decisions and get better results.

Have you used peer advisory groups to help your business or know someone who has? Please share your success story with us by joining the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or if you are interested in learning more about peer advisory, visit www.vistage.com/inside.

Leo J. Bottary is Vice President, Public Affairs for Vistage International and an adjunct professor for Seton Hall University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership program. Read more from Leo at the Executive Street blog.


I am a former Vistage Chair and I appreciate the value of Vistage and Peer Advisory Groups… yet I left Vistage 3 years ago and have designed a “Blue Ocean Strategy” Variation on the Vistage Offerings. If you’re in need of coaching or interested in Joining a peer advisory group… Vistage is a viable choice… and if you’d like to learn more about coaching with me and my ThinkTank peer group, check out this link and/or schedule a complimentary coaching session by pressing that little red button below.