You must have someone to whom you are accountable to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. That could be a mentor, coach or peer advisory group to whom you report on a regular basis.

Peer advisory groups, such as those operated by Vistage, create an environment where individuals can find and give support, solve problems and achieve their goals among like-minded people who face similar challenges. Groups are an excellent way for senior leaders to grow without getting mired in company minutia and politics.

Dynamics of a peer advisory group. The standard model of executive development is designed to train people to be effective leaders in an event-oriented fashion. Companies send their people to offsite training seminars and expect that those meetings will have a lasting effect on their leadership skills. In reality, the attendee goes right back to pre-training behaviors within weeks.

Peer advisory groups, a popular leadership development and accountability tool since the days of the Founding Fathers, turns the established model of executive development on its ear. These groups of eight to 15 senior leaders create a cycle of learning, sharing, achieving and accountability.

Peer advisory groups may comprise business owners from similar industries and organization sizes, or they may come from diverse backgrounds. No matter what the makeup of the group, they meet regularly in a  professionally facilitated process that fuels improvement.

In the group, individuals come together as equals with the shared goals of professional and company improvement and setting a course for the future. The open dialogue in these meetings can create an environment of trust. Members feel comfortable addressing larger issues that often go beyond their personal agenda.

Members share their goals, challenges and set specific objectives. Members ask each other hard questions to help each one arrive at their own solutions instead of fitting the solution into the mold of an organization or outside consultant. Over time, this cycle of collaboration leads to problem-solving and goal achievement that creates more effective leaders who are better listeners.

Accountability in a team environment. Having one witness to a commitment or goal is helpful. Having 10 witnesses is downright powerful. Nobody wants to be the only one to show up to a peer meeting without a completed goal! Members of the group celebrate each other’s success, creating positive reinforcement and a nurturing team environment.

Individuals feel compelled to be true to their word at each meeting.They feel like a valuable part of the team. They experience the pride that comes with accomplishment and praise from valued peers.

Peer advisory groups are not necessarily groups of individuals holding hands, singing “Kumbaya” and lavishing endless praise upon one other. Members hold one another accountable. When a participant continually misses milestones, or their issues keep cropping up over and over again, the group can quickly create peer pressure that motivates the rest of the group to kick themselves into a higher gear.

Peer advisory groups are made up of business leaders with personal agendas to attend to. They expect equal time for everyone. This creates a self-policing environment. Participants feel motivated to come to each meeting having kept their word and achieved their monthly milestones.

If someone is struggling to meet a goal, the group can help determine the obstacle and suggest solutions. Through this mixture of peer pressure, praise and group brainstorming, entrepreneurs and business owners experience real and continuous professional growth.

All senior leaders can benefit from peer advisory groups. Peer advisory groups are not only for CEOs. These groups provide outside perspective that is as invaluable to the senior executive managing an international organization as it is to the startup entrepreneur new to the game. Members understand the unique challenges of leadership. They offer positive reinforcement, problem solving skills and a structure of accountability to promote meaningful and lasting change.