A Forum Facilitator’s Secret Weapons: Edgy Questions, Passionate “Warriors”

Business owners often avoid painful decisions or put off unpleasant tasks. Bonnie Gorbaty, along with the Forum groups that she facilitates, doesn’t let them.

Gorbaty’s goal is to help members confront and conquer difficult challenges as a way to grow productive, profitable businesses. That requires everyone to engage fully in the discussion and pose tough questions.

“The Forum isn’t a coffee klatch,” she jokes. “We’re here to make this edgy, to look at hard stuff that’ll produce real value for each member.”

Gorbaty doesn’t let anyone get away with saying, “I don’t really want to deal with that.” Instead, she encourages the group to ask each other, “What’s stopping you?” or “Why aren’t you looking at that seriously?”

She’s especially fond of members whom she calls “tough-love warriors.” They care deeply about their peers, show intellectual curiosity and dissect every issue with gusto.

“There’s nothing more exciting in any group than having a few warriors,” she says. “They jump in with great questions and aren’t afraid to poke their nose in. They energize others who also have great insights.”

Gorbaty’s approach pays off. The average participant in her three Forum groups stays for four to five years, says Gorbaty, president of Inner Resources, a CEO coaching firm in Newton.

Forum members benefit from Gorbaty’s persistence in getting them to face reality. She recalls a business owner who spent two years sharing her travails with the group.

“She gave her brother half the business and that was her first mistake,” Gorbaty says. “It took two years to sever the relationship. We kept prodding her to take hard but important steps to make changes that would ensure the future of her business while addressing family dynamics.

Another member who spoke glowingly about her business partner returned to the next meeting and admitted, “I have a little issue with my partner.” The group helped her see it was actually a big issue that demanded quick action. Within months, she resolved the issue and moved on

“She was grateful to us for helping her see,” Gorbaty says. “It was her wake-up call. Some business owners are so immersed in day-to-day, tactical issues that they don’t see the bigger, more strategic growth issues. But as a Forum, we do.