Engaging in regular, structured peer group meetings could be the answer to up-leveling your team, your effectiveness and ultimately your career.

In the craziness of running a spa, we often find ourselves struggling to address the challenges and issues that most impact the effectiveness of our operations. On those occasions, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you have already scheduled structured time with a group of brilliant, caring peers who can help you prioritize, focus and brainstorm? People who understand what you are dealing with and who can offer solutions, honest feedback and support?

As a former spa director and spa owner, I know how enticing this sounds. I can tell you from experience, having a supportive peer group offers all that and more. In the mid-2000s as our industry was growing at a rapid rate, we spa leaders raced to put in the right systems and strategies not only to sustain the double-digit growth in our businesses, but also to keep up with the demands of our spa-savvy resort guests.

At the time, I worked for a resort management company that had 14 spas scattered throughout the United States. Five of the company’s directors, myself included, were selected to form a spa leadership team. Our goal was to share best practices and create common business standards for our collection of spas. We discovered the most effective way to accomplish this was to set up biweekly calls to brainstorm, share our challenges and provide feedback. Each spa director had an area of expertise that she brought to the table. Our topics included retail, human resources, finance, customer service and training.

Our monthly meetings provided space where we could openly share the critical issues in our operations. In turn, we gained peer support and insight in addressing these challenges. The power of this collective wisdom, combined with the support of the group, transformed the way we showed up as leaders. As a result, there was a palpable difference in the quality of our work and our effectiveness.

Why is this relevant today? Our industry is still growing and evolving at a rapid rate. We are called upon to develop innovative business strategies and create inspired guest experiences. We must possess the ability to pivot, while simultaneously being daring enough to try new things.

Finally, let’s not forget the stunning financial results we are consistently expected to deliver, and the winning teams we must lead. Those demands can be overwhelming. That’s precisely why we spa industry leaders must use all resources available to us to keep up, and why a peer group is key to our success and sanity.

Before you decide whether to take the time to implement this into your already-packed schedule, consider the following benefits of a structured peer group:

1. Connection

You can consistently engage with individuals who are in the trenches just like you. They are familiar with your daily struggles, which allows you to openly discuss the issues you face. Throughout my career in resort spa, I had access to brilliant, successful managers in the food-and-beverage, golf and the rooms divisions. However, when it was time to problem-solve for the spa, these groups did not understand the specific challenges I tackled in my department. To be in a group of peers that understands you banishes the feeling of, “I am in this alone.”

2. New ideas and strategies

The spa directors in our group each had an area of expertise they were willing to share. Our calls were structured to focus on one person’s specific topic each meeting. For example, one of our directors had significant success in retail; during her spotlight, she shared her best tips and tricks about running a successful retail operation.

3. License to think bigger

Being in a peer group turbo charges your ability to aim high. My experience has been that the members in the group will not hesitate to help you re-frame your goals to make them challenging. For myself, having the support of the group motivated me to work harder, stay focused and reach for my most daunting goals.

4. Accountability

Let’s face it, when we are left to our own devices, we concentrate on putting out fires. As a result, the important stuff often falls to the bottom of our to-do list. During the times in my career that I operated without the support of a group, I had several projects that would have made a significant difference in sales, service or even the bottom line that never saw the light of day. I am confident that I would have gotten those projects done and implemented with the engagement of my peer group.

The meaningful projects often require us to learn something new or to move out of our comfort zone and that is hard. However, knowing that you will be reporting to your peer group on
your progress will give you that extra motivation to get it done.

5. Networking

Ten years after this peer group disbanded, I can still pick up the phone and call any one of my peers for advice or support. We shared a significant experience that keeps us connected. During last year’s ISPA Conference, I ran into one of the directors who had been part of our group and it was like I had just seen her yesterday. Even after all this time, I know I could call her with any question or request and tap her expertise.

Think about it. Are you really doing so well that you wouldn’t profit from a regular dose of free insights and ideas? Even the best of us can’t be great at everything. Harness the collective wisdom in your organization, or connect with ISPA peers throughout the world and you’ll be amazed at the rewards you will reap. Not only will your days be more productive, but you will outperform the expectations of your respective teams and guests.