Our Vistage group will have three new members starting tomorrow so I’m taking advice from Vistage speaker Merit Gest who gives an eye-opening presentation about on-boarding newcomers to an organization. As a result, I’m spending a little more time preparing for their arrival. (Vistage works)
Vistage itself is a rather unusual business model. The customer is also the product. Vistage is an international organization but for the member it is what we chairs show them it is in our small groups of 12-16. The loyalty is not to the brand but to their fellow members and chair. And it is the group culture that creates the member experience so it is critical we chairs select the right fit and then set the context for what’s expected of members. As for member selection, we need to make sure we have a variety of personality styles, diversity in skill-sets, gender, age, and type of business. I will have two very young entrepreneurs in my group, and although their employee-size is much smaller than many around the table, they will bring a point-of-view that will be critical in the strategic thinking process of the rest of the group.
I’ve witnessed a question from a 30-year-old to a 63-year-old alter the course of the elder’s business.
I’m assembling notebooks for not only the new members but am making one for everyone in the group as a reminder of the basics. It will include a copy of our group norms (always a good thing to revisit), forms for outlining how we process an issue and our one-to-one coaching meeting. I’ll include a template about what a Host Presentation needs to look like and an explanation of what our monthly check-in should entail. This is a good reminder for all of us.
I’m assigning an existing member to each newcomer with the task of making sure they are introduced to everyone else and have their questions answered. I’ll seat the two of them side by side.
I also sent the newcomers an email letting them know to dress casually. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s not, according to Gest. It’s important to let newcomers know the standards and culture in advance. You don’t want an employee showing up dressed casually when the culture is more formal, nor in our case, do you want someone sitting around in a coat and tie on the first day when everyone else is wearing a Polo shirt. The faster they feel as if they are one of the tribe, the faster they will open up and jump on in.
Speaker Gest makes a compelling case about the ROI of successful on-boarding of newcomers. She walks members through an exercise that demonstrates the cost of turnover and that successfully on-boarding newcomers can make a big difference in employee satisfaction and retention.
Same principle applies to new Vistage members.
Here’s our group culture guide:
1. OPENNESS. BRINGS REAL ISSUES TO THE GROUP
2. SHOWS UP. PHYSICALLY AND BY THEIR INTENTIONS
3. PRACTICES ‘CARE-FRONTATION’: DON’T HOLD BACK
4. COMMITTED TO GROWTH OF THEIR BUSINESS AS WELL AS OTHER MEMBERS IN THE GROUP
5. TAKES OWNERSHIP OF WHO JOINS THE GROUP WHEN THERE ARE OPENINGS BY INVITING CANDIDATES, INTERVIEWING PROSPECTS AND WELCOMING NEWCOMERS.
6. EACH MEMBER HAS MUCH TO CONTRIBUTE AS WELL AS GAIN.
7. HAS FUN IN AND OUTSIDE THE ROOM
8. HOLDS GROUP ANNUAL GROUP RETREAT
9. HOLDS THE MEMBERS AND CHAIR ACCOUNTABLE
Tomorrow, I’m going to ask one of the members of our group to read this list. It will be included in the notebooks I’m preparing for new and existing members. Some times I even tape it to the wall inside the restrooms where our meeting is being held.
And, yes, we DO have fun inside and outside the room together.
P.S. If you’re a chair, please add any thoughts about how you onboard new members!