Entrepreneurs Digest #8 - The Truth About Why Senior Executives Feel So Lonely

October 31, 2019
Tim Hartford - Chair, Vistage Michigan

By Mike Gruley

October 29, 2019

I sat down with my friend and colleague, Tim Hartford, to learn more about the world of Vistage, an executive coaching organization that specializes in exclusive peer advisory boards, executive coaching, and community building for senior leaders. Tim has been a Vistage Michigan Chair since September 2018, following an extensive career as Chief of Staff at HP, a leader at Accenture, and over 15+ years of executive coaching with Bottom Line Coaching, LLC. He’s asked me to step on board with Vistage as a Trusted Advisor, one of several experienced leaders from a variety of different industries who can provide support for Vistage’s clients. We discussed how building community at the C-Suite level works, and what senior leaders need to know about working with peers to get to the next level.  Read on,and you can connect with Tim on LinkedIn here if you’d like to learn more about Vistage yourself.


On building community in the C-Suite…


CEO's are lonely. They often don’t feel that they have people they can trust and go to. One of the key things Vistage does is to create a safe, sacred space and community for them. When I look at building community, one of the things that happens in peer groups is that folks really begin to develop deep relationships. People don’t judge them when they ask questions about things with which they need help.  When I was learning about Vistage, I talked to a senior leader who had been part of Vistage for 25+ years. He told me, “I’ve made lifelong friends and I have a place to consistently test out ideas with my community.”


On the value of constant growth...


My affinity for Vistage just comes from this joy, this passion of working on new things all the time. I’m just so driven by the excitement of working on challenging, new projects and helping leaders be the best they can be!


On the value of a Vistage Chair…


The way the Chair works is that it’s all about creating this sacred space with our clients. There’s no sense of competition, there’s no sense of feeling as if you can’t talk about certain things. One of the elements of our Proven Process is what we call “Issue Processing.” We work with our executives to help them work through an issue or a problem or goal and the key component is Peer-CEO Feedback. Imagine sitting around a room of 12-16 senior leaders, sharing your issues. Each leader has an opportunity to help you see your problem through a different lens. There’s no competition in the room, because we don’t allow duplicate industries, so it really becomes a safe place.


On interviewing potential clients…


Joining Vistage begins with a dialogue. As chair, I determine if the potential CEO or senior leader is going to be a fit. I dig deep to understand what the leader wants to accomplish personally and professionally. Not everyone wants to take on their challenges the way we do in Vistage. We’re all about having leaders who are dedicated to growing personally and contributing to other leaders, so they need to be a fit for the group and for me.


On what senior executives struggle with in 2019…


Most leaders are focused on answering these questions: How can they grow? How can they work better and smarter? How can they be effective in their roles? I’ve spent time with many of my current members working on growth planning and creating a vision, to get them ahead and looking beyond the current moment. Everyone is just so busy, and it’s easy to get caught up in what they’re working on in the moment.  Vistage challenges their long-term thinking and how they will approach their long term goals as well as what they are up against now.  


Thanks again to Tim for taking the time to chat. If you’d like to learn more about Vistage, mark your calendar for the Executive Exchange on Nov. 6 with Vistage Chief Research Officer, Joe Galvin. Joe will provide insights and local data on critical business decisions and investments for 2020 in his presentation.” Registration is required, so click here!