Stepping down from a position as a company leader can come with mixed emotions. The thought of enjoying free time with fewer responsibilities may be relished by some - but others may find the change of pace more than a little underwhelming.
The Vistage Chair role offers a whole host of personal benefits, from continued learning to helping the next generation of business leaders to flourish. The best part? It's manageable too, whether you're cutting back your hours, taking up a consultative role or retiring from the workplace altogether. Here, we talk through the main responsibilities of the Vistage Chair role - and how it can fit seamlessly into your future plans.
Just as Vistage Chairs are there to support business leaders to achieve their very best, so Vistage themselves invest a great deal in enabling new Chairs to succeed.
In the first year alone, Vistage provides around 150 hours of training for a new Chair - and it's far from standard. With a dedicated team across the UK and the States that develops the content, this training is delivered to Chairs, by Chairs: the whole emphasis is on action learning, making our training some of the most varied, exciting and challenging you’ll ever undertake.
As well as the existing training and field support, Vistage is working to bring on board a Chair Development Partner, to sales-coach new Chairs, help them build and launch their group effectively, role play member selection processes and more.
Once a Chair is established, there are plenty of additional opportunities. Vistage Chair group meetings bring together all of the Chairs in a region to learn from one another, while there are also a couple of big annual events for Chair development - both in the UK and in San Diego.
Once the training is complete, the role involves hosting monthly group meetings, as well as one-to-one coaching sessions with every member to go deeper on their opportunities, and meeting other prospective members. But in order for those to be successful (successful Chairs can earn in excess of £150,000), there's more that needs to be done.
What a Chair needs to do well to be successful involves three different elements. It's like the three legs of a stool: take one away, and it just won't work.
So what are those three elements, and what do they involve?
#1: Engaging with people
Having the right people in your Vistage group is vital: members who are supportive, receptive, open to sharing their own experiences and opinions, and who work well in a group environment.
It's up to each Chair to find those people for their own group. A good Chair must be naturally interested in meeting people, and enjoy those conversations with fast-growing SME businesses. Without that, a group won't work.
Running a monthly Chair group meeting is a key element of every Chair's role - which is why the initial training includes a full day on running great meetings. But in addition to the training, Chairs must demonstrate that they have the skills, personality and experience to facilitate these meetings and make them worthwhile for Vistage members.
Part of this will be down to the speaker at each meeting, part will come from the other members, but without the spark and energy to make the monthly meeting exciting, and the ability to hold the room, a Chair will find it tough going and members won’t get full value. .
It's the Chair's role to make sure people's voices are heard in a room full of strong characters, with nobody monopolising the meeting's time. It's the Chair's role to keep the meeting on track, as well as to have the emotional intelligence to spot the quieter or more reticent people in the room who have something they want to share or add.
#3: Coaching and mentoring
Those facilitation skills also carry through to the ability to coach and mentor individual group members. Listening skills, the ability to challenge and ask great questions, the tenacity required to get to the crux of the real issues, plus holding people accountable are some of the key attributes that are needed.
“You need to - in a nice way - make people just that little bit uncomfortable,” says Chair Development Director Ian Lloyd. “I was talking to a guy just the other day who had recently joined Vistage, and I asked what it was that made him join. He said, ‘Well, the Chair in question came to me for a meeting in my board room. It was the only time in my board room that I’ve been asked questions I was a little squirmy and uncomfortable answering, because I just didn’t always know the answers’.”
This accountability - having someone who will challenge them and push them to achieve more - is part of the reason our members join Vistage and remain part of it.
What about time?
While it may seem like there’s enough involved in a Vistage Chair role to fill full-time hours, that’s certainly not the case. We’re aware that those who come into the role generally aren’t looking to replace their old 9 to 5. So, we leave the structure of the role down to individual Chairs.
The base level for a great Chair, however, is 25 hours a week, Ian says. But you can fit those hours in however it works best for the individual. It’s a role best suited to those who are quite new to a portfolio career – with two or three other really established roles taking up large chunks of a person’s time, it could make it hard to build up enough Vistage momentum to get the group up and running.
That’s not to say that we expect the Vistage Chair role to be the only thing an individual does with their time. There’s still a great opportunity to be involved in other passions and projects, which is just one of the reasons why our existing Chairs love it so much.
The Vistage Chair role is a varied one that can fit perfectly alongside other consultancy work, board positions or retirement activities. With world-class training, the ability to learn from other Chairs and the satisfaction of seeing your group members flourish, it could just be the new challenge you’ve been looking for.
Want to find out more? Hear from existing Vistage Chairs about how the role has benefitted them personally.