What Makes a Great Vistage Chair and Executive Coach?

What Makes a Great Vistage Chair and Executive Coach?

Since 1957, Vistage has been bringing together successful CEOs, executives, and business owners into private peer advisory groups. From the beginning, Chairs have been the heart of what makes the Vistage experience so valuable to its members.

“Chair” (short for Chairperson) is the title of the person who leads a Vistage peer advisory group during its monthly meeting. The Chair also serves as an Executive Coach who meets with each member between meetings for individual coaching sessions. So, what makes a great Vistage Chair?

With thanks to some of my fellow Chairs for their input, the best Vistage Chairs:

1. Select great members.

Good fit and chemistry between members and their Vistage Chair are critical to a well-functioning peer group. Chairs have a well-developed process for vetting prospective members.

2. Foster accountability.

Leo Bottary and Leon Shapiro, authors of The Power of Peers, describe a group culture of accountability as when:

“group members hold one another accountable for doing what they say they will do to achieve their goals.  This accountability doesn’t come from a place of calling people out; it comes from a place of members believing in each other and truly caring about their respective success.”

3. Are servant leaders and purpose driven.

Their drive to help others succeed is more important than any personal gain. They are humble, driven to help, and they have passion for what they do.

4. Take a holistic approach.

Recognizing that the same person sits at both the dining room and conference room tables, they focus on the whole person and are comfortable facilitating both personal and business discussions.

5. Have an advanced level of emotional intelligence.

They feel and convey genuine empathy and sincerity. They are comfortable with their own emotions and comfortable when members express theirs.

6. Have personal integrity.

They maintain confidentiality and act ethically, aligning their words and actions.

7. Are great listeners and question askers.

They hear what is not said and uncover the underlying meaning behind the words. They ask tough questions that others won’t which promote reflection and problem solving.

8. Have stamina and persistence.

Being empathetic and deeply caring for others has a downside; great Chairs personally experience their members’ emotions. They must practice self-care to maintain their emotional stamina.

 9. Are lifelong learners with deep curiosity.

Self-motivated, they actively pursue learning and development for both personal and professional reasons.

10. Run purposeful, powerful, meetings.

They know how to guide a discussion while being unobtrusive and Socratic, and drawing all members into it. They facilitate and challenge the group to do the “heavy lifting”. Their processes and demeanor create a safe and confidential environment where members can be vulnerable while working on their toughest business and personal issues.

11. Are patiently persistent.

Often, people are not ready to address a topic. Chairs gently, but persistently ask, “Is it ok if I keep bringing this subject up?”

12. Are intuitive.

Like a mother’s intuition, great coaches have innate radar that senses unstated struggles and issues.

13. Offer a fresh perspective.

Through skilled questioning and candid feedback, they serve as a catalyst and help members look at both their business and personal lives through new eyes and see different possibilities. They make the invisible visible so that the member has a clearer view of the real issue. They notice the best qualities of each member, especially those of which the member is unaware!

14. Are Present.

They are expert at focusing their full attention on their members, and they actively manage their own internal chatter and distractions.

15. Are Self-confident.

Great Chairs view themselves as peers to CEOs. They can, and do, confront them when necessary. They courageously initiate highly uncomfortable discussions and challenge members’ thinking and perspectives.

16. Open-minded and flexible:

They understand and appreciate different viewpoints and can quickly adapt to new situations are they arise. They routinely challenge their belief systems and assumptions to become more flexible and open-minded.

The “Silver Bullet”

If I had to boil it down to one thing that makes a great Chair or Executive Coach, it is insatiable desire to improve oneself by embracing vulnerability. Just like an experienced guide or Sherpa, the most effective Vistage Chairs can lead members into vulnerability because they have gone there first. Those who embrace vulnerability lose their fear of the unknown and operate from an expanded comfort zone.

By expertly guiding you through vulnerability, a qualified Vistage Chair, who embodies these preceding 16 qualities, can help you significantly improve your personal and professional lives.

One thing that makes a great Chair or Executive Coach, it is insatiable desire to improve oneself by embracing vulnerability. Click To Tweet
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2 thoughts on “What Makes a Great Vistage Chair and Executive Coach?”

  1. Joseph Valentic says:


    I am considering becoming a Vistage Chair and Jane Owen of Michigan Vistage shared this with me. Thank you for putting this together. It was very helpful and inspiring. I particularly love the essence of your Silver Bullet :..it is insatiable desire to improve oneself by embracing vulnerability.”. This is not only the essence of Vistage, but it is essential to any real growth in life and is so often the missing link as to why people won’t make changes in their lives.

    Again – thank you for sharing this!
    Joe Valentic

  2. You are welcome. Good luck in your journey to become a Chair.

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