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What Makes a Great Vistage Member?

by Clark Vitulli | Posted on December 5, 2016

“In golf, as in life, you get out of it what you put into it.” Golf legend Sam Snead

What makes a great Vistage member? Intelligence? Success? Capability? A command presence and ability to lead? No. These are the “table stakes,” so to speak. Without them, you wouldn’t be in the room. To these basic requirements, an exceptional member adds engagement, dedication, preparation, and effort. In Vistage, as in golf, you get out of it what you put into it.

The Different Faces of Great

Vistage members are not cookie-cutter identical; they represent a cross-section of the business world and bring diverse backgrounds, experiences, and educations to their groups. They also contribute a wealth of different opinions, perspectives, ideas, and skills. In other words, there is a myriad of ways you can be a great Vistage member – and there are equally plentiful opportunities to realize a significant return on your investment.

That said, when members do not see value in their Vistage experience, there tends to be a few common trends. Let’s take a look.

The Habitual Meeting Misser

Meet Skip*. He put as much effort into his Vistage experience as I did into his pseudonym. Not only did he miss meetings, he either skipped his monthly one-on-one coaching sessions or came ill-prepared to discuss relevant issues affecting him and his business. At that point, it was an exercise in futility.

Skip had no “mental contract” with the group. He was making a financial commitment in becoming a member, and yet his lack of attendance and engagement eroded his potential ROI. For him, it became a simple mathematical equation: “I’m spending $X on Vistage. I’m getting little value in return.” This made it easy for him to leave the group. And, truthfully, the group was relieved. There is no value in an empty chair – for anyone.

Since then, the other group members decided to update their norms. Now, if you miss two consecutive meetings, you’re “up for discussion” by the group. Do we want this member in? Is he or she providing us with any value? If they’re missing meetings, we are probably not giving them much value, so why continue having them take up a seat?

Another addition decided on by the group: if you miss a meeting for whatever reason – a wedding, funeral, anniversary, convention, trade show, etc. – you write a note. For example, “I have an important industry convention I can’t miss; but this is what I’m working on. This is what’s working, and what’s not.” It helps us stay connected – and it encourages the one missing the meeting to take a step to remain involved.

The bottom line: you are important to the group. You can learn from them – and they can learn from you. But to do that, to realize a return, you must be there.

The There – But Not Really There – Member

Another member, Jill*, was incredibly intelligent and successful in her business. The problem was, she had meetings and events she prioritized over Vistage. And when she did show up, Jill wasn’t completely present. Her laptop was almost always open – and it wasn’t so she could take notes.

As a result of splitting her attention between the group and her email, Jill couldn’t give the value of her full attention. Some days, she was on – a great contributor. Other days, she was off and on. Some days, she was just off.

After several months of this behavior, the group spoke to Jill, and I had a private conversation with her as well. What was going on? Did she still want to be a member of our group? If so, something needed to change. In talking, Jill disclosed that she felt as if she had gotten off on the wrong foot with her current group. Now, constantly on the defensive, she just wasn’t giving her all.

Coincidentally, at the time, I was starting another group. She asked, “What if I start over from scratch?” A new group – and a new Jill? It was a great idea, and that’s exactly what happened. Jill became a “new” member and thrived. It was an unusual circumstance – and fortuitous timing for Jill.

When you don’t have the luxury of starting over with a new group, it can be helpful to start over with a new mindset. Reaffirm your commitment to your group. They are there for the fortification and success of the whole; that includes you. Start over if you need to. A member can course-correct towards great.

The Rock Star

Pete* has been a Vistage member for about three years, and he’s batting about 1000 in terms of attendance. He never misses his one-on-one sessions, and he’s always ultra-prepared to talk about his business, employees, projects, challenges, and problems.

In group meetings, Pete is as engaged when discussing other leaders’ issues as when he’s talking about his own. A “carefrontational” person, he is always compassionate and respectful. At the same time, he is able to hold people, including himself, accountable.

Seeing the value he was receiving, Pete connected two of his key support staff to Vistage. They joined a different group with their own great speakers, host presentations, and safe learning environment. He is as committed to developing others as he is to developing himself; a mark of a great leader – and a great Vistage member. This is one reason Pete’s been able to take his company from $12 million to $40 million in just a few years.

Everyone needs to see what good looks like. Pete is what good looks like. Engaged. Prepared. On. Every time.

What Great Members Look Like

We’ve seen three examples of different Vistage members – but throughout each, we’ve also seen the group. As a whole, they have been present. They have spearheaded change when they thought it necessary (e.g. instituting a guideline about missing two consecutive meetings). They have been willing to work with members, to accept them, to help them, to hold them accountable. They have been there, as a constant.

This is what great members are: part of a whole, cohesive unit that can achieve astonishing results together. They get what they put in.