Making A Peer To Peer Group Work
I’ve been in several peer-to-peer groups over the years. These groups have ranged from ad hoc groups that were put together, industry specific groups, and formal groups in YPO (Young Presidents Organization).
All of them have one thing in common: They never work well until someone decides to take a risk. The risk that has to be taken is when one of the members of the group spills something to the rest of the group that is both embarrassing and confidential.
Most of us don’t want others to think ill of us. As a result, when peer-to-peer groups start, the conversations often stay very superficial. They will stay that way until one of the members takes a risk and “spills the beans”.
After the other members see that happen they often will start to open up as well. That’s when the group starts to become really valuable. Until someone assumes that confidentiality and trust is a reality the group can be useful but not especially valuable for talking about issues that are causing you pain.
Getting real value is about taking a risk. If you’re in a peer-to-peer group and no one has volunteered an embarrassing story, you should be the one that tries. You’ll likely find that after you open up others do also. Remember that if someone decides to talk your world won’t come to an end.
When someone talks about their real issues they are saying to the rest of the group, “I trust you and want your feedback, but I want your feedback in a constructive manner”.
What to do when someone else opens up. CEO’s are often called on to solve problems and not be great listeners. When someone else opens up you have the opportunity to learn a new skill; being a good listener.
The first thing I recommend is that you take the time to fully hear out the person talking. Try not to make recommendations or talk about solutions until you fully understand the issue. The best way to achieve this is through asking four or five questions on the same topic.
As the group peels away levels of the problem you will often find the core issue. Once the core issue is identified a quality conversation can start about how to solve the problem.
You’ll likely find that when the first person opens up that sets the stage for others to do the same as well. We all have issues that are at least embarrassing if not a little destructive. Having the courage to talk about them is where your peer-to-peer group can show real value.
If your group hasn’t opened up yet, why don’t you be the first to jump in? You and the rest of the group will gain a great deal from your courage.
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