I hope that a summer break has meant that you are able to return to work refreshed and energised for the months ahead.
That said, if you are leading your own company, or acting in a senior role in an organisation, it can feel lonely. You’re often responsible for key decisions, and knowing the buck stops with you can feel like a burden. If you’re an entrepreneur or founder, you are also used to coming up with the ideas. But sometimes it would be good to feel that someone else could contribute to problem solving.
This is particularly the case after the last 18 months. Concerns about the future of business have been combined with economic uncertainty and a background of worries about our own families.
The difficulty is knowing who is in a position to understand where you’re coming from when you talk about the business challenges you face. While they are supportive, friends and family won’t know exactly how it feels to be in your position, and you may not want to worry them if you have concerns on your mind. It might not be possible to share your thoughts and challenges with anyone in your business, for the same reasons. Equally, discussing challenges with professionals outside the business is not something many feel comfortable doing, either. We all want to be able to present our companies with confidence and it can be hard to admit when times are tough.
So what can you do at times like this? Have you considered turning to those who are in the same position as you? A peer network, or peer learning group, is an excellent way of drawing on the experience of those who share the loneliness of leadership.
Time and again we at the MD Hub have seen the benefit of MDs and C-suite executives meeting to share views and experiences. At the most recent session I facilitated, the group was reflecting how helpful they found it to share experiences and insights. They all run very different companies, varied in size, age, sector and location, but they have similar challenges and concerns.
So what can you expect from a peer network?
5 benefits of peer networks
• It is very tempting to give lots of advice about how to tackle a problem. One of the key strengths of peer learning, however, is that the purpose of questions from others is to gain insight, not information. In discussing an issue, peers are encouraged to ask questions that help you reflect constructively on your situation.
• During discussion, questions and insights from your peers can help you think about a challenge in a different way. What seemed nearly impossible at the beginning of a session can feel really achievable by the end of it.
• The different views and perspectives of those in your group can help you resolve challenges in your work. Being open and honest about differences of opinions can be difficult, but it is the role of the group facilitator to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard.
• Something I often say when working with teams on organisational and business change is that ‘no one in the room is wiser than the whole room’. The same goes for peer learning. By being open about your challenges – and insights – with the others in your group, you can all draw on a level of shared wisdom that is rarely found in business.
• Many of the peer learning groups facilitated by the MD Hub have been working together for a good many years. Lasting relationships are formed across the groups and the level of trust between members is high. And though discussion is often intense, there is a lot of laughter, too.
Sarah Willcox facilitates workgroups for the MD Hub and runs Fairisle Projects and Change, supporting clients to deliver effective change.