It’s been about four years since I started training as (and being) a Vistage chair. I don’t write much about it here.

The conversations — among CEOs, business owners, key executives — are confidential, so there isn’t much to write.

But I learn such wonderful insights. This is one, offered today with permission from a member who helped inform me.

We Need To Talk.
As a Vistage chair, I really enjoy sitting each month with dozens of CEOs and business owners to talk deeply about their concerns and opportunities. It’s a professional honor to hear the minds and hearts of business leaders (who are also family and community leaders).

But, when I was a business owner and CEO, I wasn’t good at this. I didn’t know how to go about having a conversation. You might be wondering: “What’s the difficulty?” For me? I didn’t like telling adults what to do. So I avoided conversations where I might be asked, “Hey, Artie. What do I do?”

Over time, I learned that people don’t want answers to that — or most any — question. They want more questions. They want shared experiences. They want encouragement. They want insight. (But they almost never want answers.)

Here Is How To Talk.
Through my experiences in Vistage (and at the Gestalt Institute, through Somatic coaching, and reading), I have — by desire and by necessity — developed a way to hold a monthly conversation with each ambitious, intelligent, effective, glass-half-full, candid, trustworthy business leader.

This is how.

But First, This Is How Someone Else Does It.
Everything is confidential at the Vistage table, so I asked Chuck Gibson for permission to relay this conversation.

A couple months ago, Chuck’s group (“The Completes”) discussed employee assessment. This is a recurring topic throughout Vistage, because the assessment of talent (current staff and colleagues, and candidates for employment) is a frequent challenge and a constant opportunity. Group members compared best practices: from catch-as-catch-can, organic and informal, to regularly recurring, scheduled and more formal 121 (“one-to-one”) meetings.

Chuck Gibson is the director and CEO of Worthington Libraries, a nationally renown library. (Here is a description of their latest recognition, which only 20 libraries throughout the country have ever earned.) My point: Chuck knows management. Success in Library Land — or any Land — doesn’t just happen.

On this topic — how to talk, on a regularly recurring, scheduled basis with staff members — Chuck offered these conversation starters. These are the questions he asks:

  1. Are you challenged/bored?
  2. Are you appropriately compensated?
  3. What is your dream job?
  4. Are you getting the recognition you need or want?
  5. What can I do to make your job better?
  6. What can you STOP doing, delegate or give up?

Chuck’s list was concise, direct, sensible — and instructional. I saw everyone at the table taking notes. I knew: this needs to be shared.

So, there. Shared. With you.

I bet that, if you ask these questions every month to your key reports, they will know what you are always wondering.

Wait! This Isn’t Just About Colleagues At Work.
Why is so much of our intentional behavior exhibited only at work? Why wouldn’t these questions work with friends, loved ones — and in the mirror?

I’m going to ask Mrs. Isaac these questions. (And I’m going to offer them to our children.)

Here’s Another Tool.
There’s another tool that I’ve seen shared in the community of Vistage Chairs. It’s a one-page worksheet to give to your colleague in advance — and use every month (or however often you get together) — for preparation.

This page is based on work by Greg Bustin, a Vistage Master Chair in Dallas. (Thanks, Greg!)

It is here: click here.

You only need to schedule the meetings.
I hope this is helpful to you! If you conduct deep conversations with your colleagues (and other humans), it will help. Every Vistage member I know says this works.

Protect these scheduled 121s on the calendar. Do not let them get pre-empted by important/urgent issues. These conversations important and not urgent. (But, if you neglect these conversations, they will create many important/urgent fires to put out.)