Working with the members of my Vistage CEO advisory board always reminds me of the power of the group and this month’s all day meeting was no exception. In the morning, we listened to Jo Haigh, an expert on valuing and selling companies, as she passed on invaluable tips for business leaders preparing for a successful exit. In the afternoon, we re-visited our courageous goals noting progress and re-establishing commitment. There was a round of feedback on member’s strengths as perceived by others in the group and finally we worked on a member challenge using a team coaching cycle. The day ended with a relaxing glass of wine in Ronnie Scott’s London club. All in all, a heady cocktail of learning, sharing, challenge and fun!
I am a great believer in the power of individual coaching but I notice that combining individual coaching with the input of expert speakers and team coaching in a confidential, non-competing peer group takes the power of coaching to a whole new level. Why is this? What is it about the group dynamics that is so unique and powerful? The clue to the group ‘X factor’ may lie in the words of the board member who this month brought his issue to the team coaching session. This was an acutely sensitive issue that took some courage to put on the table. The group worked through it using the established team coaching process that all 17,000 Vistage members use worldwide.
As we completed the coaching cycle, I asked the member what had been the most valuable take-away from the experience. I was expecting him to highlight a new insight, a creative idea or a practical action step. However, to my surprise, the member turned to the group and said ‘The most valuable part of this experience is that I felt supported’. Halfway through the sentence his voice cracked and it was then that I realised how deep this feeling of support had penetrated. To be honest, his comment caught me on the hop and I awkwardly stumbled to bring the session to a close.
It was only later, after a glass of wine or two, that the words of one of my fellow Vistage chairs came back to me – ‘the reason that our advisory boards are so powerful is that your mind is a terrible neighbourhood to wander into alone’. At the time this comment had made me chuckle yet, like a lot of good humour, it works because it hints at a profound, hidden truth. The ‘X factor’ of team coaching, in a group with strong foundations of trust, is that you suddenly do not feel alone. It is no longer you against the world, it is the rest of the world getting alongside you, rooting for you and chivvying you along. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what people in the group actually say it is simply the experience of them being with you in the midst of a storm. It is the wholehearted presence of a supportive group that is important, unique and liberating. That is the ‘X factor of team coaching.