Circle of Trust: How To Better Evaluate Tough Questions

November 23, 2015 11:00 AM
Circle of Trust: How To Better Evaluate Tough Questions

Confidential peer groups evaluate tough questions 

None of us is as smart as all of us. That’s the reason a trusting and confidential peer group can be a powerful process for innovation and for helping with opportunities, problems, challenges and issues of all sizes.  

International business coach Mark Richardson spends about half his time with Vistage International facilitating CEO and executive peer groups. The company has 15,000 members in 15 countries. 

“I never cease to be amazed at the creative problem-solving, issue resolution and innovation which routinely arises from these groups (and, not least of all, management innovation for greater business and leadership agility) because of the high functionality of the trust, transparency and dialog,” Richardson explains.  

One of the biggest benefits of a peer group is the ability to stop what Richardson calls wheel spin, which occurs when CEOs are stuck making decisions that might result in a fortune of avoidable costs. 

“A peer group process helps us diagnose and treat the sources of wheel spin in business (and life) more transparently than anything else I have ever encountered,” Richardson says. In the group, nothing is off limits. Topics include strategy, structure, culture, leadership and communication, mental models, productivity, operations management, goal-setting and resilience. 

Shine a Light. “Within that circle of trust, when non-organizational peers are shining a light into your blind spots with care-frontation, there is nowhere to hide,” he adds. “As a result, members feel more composed, confident and courageous with more balance, less stress and better perspective, translating 
everything into more traction—not least of all with cash-flow, market capitalization and stakeholder value.”

South Dakota farmer Lee Lubbers has felt that blanket of trust in his own peer group, which he joined two years ago as part of Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN) program. 

“The ability to talk about concerns or big decisions without fear of it ending up in the local coffee shop is refreshing,” explains Lubbers, who farms 20,000 acres. “Our strengths are getting stronger as a group, and by working together, we are each overcoming our weaknesses.”

Peer advisory groups represent a missing link for businesses, says Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M University economist and founder of The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP). They foster routine improvement.

“If you’re not changing at the rate of the leading edge of your competition, you’re falling behind the pack even if you’re moving ahead,” Klinefelter notes.  


Interested in Joining a Peer Group?

Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network™ (TPEN) is a strategic executive-level peer group program that provides producers with new, vital perspective from a brain trust of participants working together for the benefit of each operation.  The program facilitates group teamwork to identify effective ways to solve today’s farming operation challenge, generates executable ideas and provides accountability expectations for each member.  For more information, contact Lindsey Young at or 888-605-7138.


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