Photo: Groundwork Deputy Director Jim Bruckbauer (right) with his Vistage coach Erik Larson.
Vistage Michigan, a chapter of the international executive coaching organization Vistage, presented Jim Bruckbauer with the Golden Key, an award that recognizes growing leaders who are applying the principles of Vistage in their organization and supporting other Vistage group members.
Operating in 20 countries, Vistage is the world’s largest leadership coaching program for small and mid-sized companies. The program helps top-level executives solve tough challenges through local peer advisory groups and individual coaching sessions. Jim was joined by five other Golden Key awardees from around the state who were selected by their regional groups.
Bruckbauer was chosen for living out the group’s leadership principles, being open to feedback and coaching, implementing ideas gathered from Vistage meetings, and supporting the other members of his local group in northern Michigan.
In addition to his administrative duties as deputy dirctor, Jim Bruckbauer applies his leadership skills in his role directing Groundworks’ Strong Cities and Towns program and the TC Mobility Lab.
Northern Michigan Vistage corporate members include Cherry Republic, Moran Iron Works, Redi-Rock, Van Dam Custom Boats, Frontier Corp, Northern Michigan Sports Medicine, Bulmann Dock, World Magnetics, and others.
We asked Jim a few questions about his experience with Vistage:
How long have you been in Vistage?
I’ve been in the group for about three years now. Hans Voss [Groundwork’s executive director] was a member for three years, and then I joined in 2016.
How does Vistage work?
It’s all about helping CEOs and managers grow personally and professionally. You’re given a coach who has regular one-to-ones to help you solve various issues and helps you see things from different perspectives. The northern Michigan chapter also convenes full-day meetings about 10 times a year with a group of about 15 small and mid-size companies in the Traverse City and Petoskey area. During those meetings, the group is helping members process and solve issues together and learn new leadership skills.
What are some of the most important insights that you’ve gained through Vistage?
The program helps with many skills, like making better decisions, managing conflict, holding people accountable, having difficult conversations, coaching and work/life balance.
What I like about the group dynamic is getting objective feedback about how Groundwork operates from a trusted group of peers. Often I come into the meetings thinking we’re different because we’re a nonprofit, when in reality—whether you’re in a private company or nonprofit—we’re leading people. It all comes down to a group of people making something happen. I also think the members are helping us apply for-profit tools to Groundwork.
The individual coaching is so helpful. My coach, Erik Larson, helps give me a different perspective and see things that I might be missing. For example, he’s helped me understand how some of the behaviors that are impacting me today often originate back all the way to my childhood experiences. Then we’ll dig deep to reconcile some issue from the past. It’s like a therapy session. But through this process, members come away with new tools to adjust the behaviors that might be holding us back from being our absolute best.
Care to expand on that?
Sure. Let’s say you’re someone who tends to avoid conflict. Your coach would help you go all the way back to the root source of why you maybe fear and avoid disagreements. Was there some experience you had with your parents as a child? Do you have a deep need to always be liked? If so, does a disagreement mean you’re no longer liked by that person? Do you need to be a people pleaser? Where does that come from? What’s the underlying fear behind the feeling and behavior? It gets deep but his process is super helpful.
We all have things that get us stuck. This process helps you manage those behaviors that get us stuck and helps you show up to be your best, create your best, and do your best every day.
ErIk is a leadership trainer by profession, with Genuine Performance, but all the Vistage coaches would be grounded in this way of leadership training.
How has Vistage helped Groundwork?
We’ve applied a lot of the concepts learned in the program. Mostly with internal structures. I also think there will be long-term impacts to Groundwork. For example, I would like to build a stronger leadership training program within Groundwork and model it closely after Vistage.