CEOs “Find Their Tribe” at the Raffoni Group’s 9th Annual CEO Collective Retreat

“I have found my tribe.”

This was my favorite response to this year’s CEO Retreat.

It came from one of our top CEOs. He followed with, “It was so refreshing to listen to other people who struggle with the same decisions, questions and frankly, emotions that I typically take on alone.”

After working with the Raffoni team to create a memorable and valuable experience for the several dozen CEOs who joined us for the two-day event, hearing this made me smile.

What caused this CEO and others to have this realization? Here are the highlights of our time together...

Carol Kaufman, Founder of the Institute of Coaching at Harvard University and long-term faculty member at Harvard Medical School, kicked us off with The Truth About Leadership Development. Carol’s roster of senior leaders she coaches continues to impress me, as does her thinking and practical approach that our CEOs respect. As I looked around the table, I saw CEO members making lists of things they want to do better to become better leaders and to create better environments for their teams. They concurred that this topic never gets the attention it deserves. But on this day, it did.

Next, I had the privilege of facilitating a panel with Josh McCall, CEO of Jack Morton and Peter Bransfield, CEO of Rypos. These guys are two of my favorite leaders. I asked them, “Describe your best leaders and how you got and kept them? Tell us about your best leadership teams and how they became so great.”

The pro-activeness of these two leaders in developing their leadership teams is damn impressive. A spark is ignited. “Does an ivy league education matter?” is the question, leading to a series of controversial topics. Good fun.

Year-over-year our CEOs say, “more panels, more swapping of stories!” Where else does this happen?

This lively session was followed by Mark Kasdorf, CEO of Intrepid; Mike Dreese, CEO of Newbury Comics; and Ted Nelson, CEO of Mechanica. Wow. What happens when a leading mobile app development firm CEO, a leading provocative retailer, and one of the best marketing strategist I know talk about what every CEO should know about consumer trends on the internet and content marketing? Great discussion, new ideas, sharing, sharing, and more sharing.

To ground our excitement (chuckle), we welcomed Tom Fay, Regional President of BNY Mellon Wealth Management to give us an inside peek at the economic forecast ahead. We were pleased with the outlook. It is positive.

We allowed plenty of time to network and have real discussion. We went from a community-service-based social… to a pre-party…to a delectable dinner… to organized speed networking… to collaborative group activities…to unstructured breaks.

We did our best to create an environment that brought forth truth, encouraged transparency, promoted collaboration and fostered innovation.

And we even got a little more creative this year. One third of our attendees opted into a collaboration exercise that included abstract painting, accompanied by a jazz quintet. More than half of the attendees showed up at 7AM for a guided meditation led by a Buddhist meditation master. And 100% of our CEOs failed the Marshmallow Challenge (I’m told you can watch on it YouTube).

We circled back to leadership, well-being, and creating environments that stimulate productivity and happiness. Ideas ranged from community service programs, to yoga on-site, to executive health benefits. We discussed many new ideas and ways for CEOs to demonstrate and invest in improving well-being for themselves and their teams.

As I write this and read the evaluations of the day, they unanimously point to one thing – the value of CEOs connecting with other CEOs.  Something we focused on going into the retreat and that was validated throughout.

If each CEO member implements one new idea from this enlightening time with their peers, I’m convinced their companies will be better for it.

At Raffoni, we will continue this important work in the CEO Collective over the next 12 months and anticipate the 10th annual retreat next fall. If you missed it this year, make sure to join us in 2015. You’ll be glad you did.

>Learn more about the CEO Retreat