15 heads ARE better than one


Arguably the most important role in any company, many CEOs are finding it difficult to address their own needs for professional and personal development.  Increasing demand for this type of resource for CEOs has seen rapid growth of an organisation called The Executive Connection (TEC).

TEC is an international peer group networking organisation for CEOs, offering executives at the CEO/MD level a professional development program addressing the pressures that are unique to their type of business and to their role as leaders.

TEC has been operating in Australia since 1986 and currently has more that 650 CEO members.  Membership is by invitation only for the CEOs of companies whose annual turnover exceeds $3.5 million.  TEC members participate in monthly confidential group meetings with 12-15 fellow CEO members, all from non-competing businesses.

Dr Adrian Geering, Regional Chair for TEC in South Australia, says it is a forum for active businesses that want to grow, not for sick businesses seeking help.

He says TEC impacts executives in five areas – decision-making, personal and professional growth, accountability for follow-through and focus on strategic issues, overcoming isolation and networking.  The group also acts as a representative cross-section of the business community, allowing members a resource to keep abreast of the latest business trends, technology innovation and management practice.

Groups of 13-15 CEOs from non-competing companies meet for a full day each month.  In the morning, each group works with a Resource Speaker, either from overseas or Australia, on a topic of immediate relevance to members.  In the afternoon, in an Executive Session, four or five members raise issues about the running of their business and the other members contribute their ideas and share their experiences about that issue.

Special activities during the TEC year are designed to build on this process.  Each member undertakes a 2 hour coaching one-on-one monthly with their Chairman and networks with the members internationally.

Adrian Geering maintains that all businesses are “90% the same”, facing similar challenges of workforce, capital and systems problems.

“There is very specific expertise in certain industries which is integral to success, but people are what make it all happen.  If you put the right people in the right positions, with the right motivations, you’re half way to growing a successful business”, he says.  “One of our members was struggling with a 1950s/1960s type dictatorial management structure which had existed for decades and which he inherited when he took over as CEO.  He recognised a need to streamline the organisation and reduce the layers of management, but didn’t have personal experience in a restructuring of that scale.  Through the input of his TEC group and Chair and the strategic planning advice which evolved, he successfully reorganised eight levels of management down to four.  As a result, the company now enjoys a leaner and more productive management model with everyone encouraged to share in the ownership of the management process.”  Members can interact in a way that Adrian describes as “robust”; if the peer group doesn’t think much of a member’s action after advice, he hears about it!

TEC began in the USA in 1957 and has since spread to Canada, the UK, Malaysia and Australia.  Groups have recently been established in South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Argentina, China, Germany, Ireland, The Philippines and Singapore.  In Australia, The Executive Connection Pty Ltd is a private company owned by Dr Phil Meddings.  It holds the licence for TEC in Australia and New Zealand.

Adrian Geering has published several business books and will release “Business Diagnostics:  how to grow and evaluate your business” this month which is a collaborative effort with two Canadian TEC colleagues.