7 lessons from a 9.5/10 CEO retreat

I spent last week with our Rivendell CEO Mastermind group in the beautiful town of Chantilly, just outside of Paris. This is the community that I run for high-level chief execs, each of who is an extraordinary leader who’s up to exciting things in the world.

We were in an amazing hotel right next to the stunning Chateau, and had just over two days to work on ourselves and our businesses - whilst enjoying great company and great food!

Chateau  Castle

I have to admit to some nervousness as we kicked off! These CEOs had entrusted me with their incredibly precious time and they’d flown in from across Europe and the USA for the event.

Fast forward to the final session, however, and every single participant rated the retreat a 9 or 10 out of 10, and the atmosphere was an incredible mix of gratitude, fellowship and excitement.

Here are some top-of-mind insights from those two intense days.

  1. If you’re always underpromising and overdelivering, you’re playing too small. I pushed the group to examine their probable future, their possible future and their impossible future. The magic is in the latter: the goals that you’d absolutely love to see, but that feel completely impossible to achieve! Are you ready to commit to something great that you don’t see (yet) any way to accomplish?
  2. What looks impossible to you looks inevitable to others. As people shared what felt absolutely impossible to them, the reaction of their peers was very often: “that’s not impossible! For you, that seems extremely likely!” Where might you be dismissing a future that’s closer than you think?
  3. You’re not alone. Outside you’re the senior leader. On the inside, you’re still human with very human feelings including anxiety, doubt, fear of loss imposter syndrome or aversion to conflict. It’s okay. Give yourself some grace.
  4. There’s really nothing to lose. We learn to operate in a familiar pattern - our success formula - and it’s driven by an underlying need that we have to see life turn out a certain way. But life is unpredictable, and we can’t control how it turns out. It’s incredibly liberating to realise that life is short and that in all things good and bad, “this too shall pass”. It frees us up to play increasingly bold and ambitious “games” - and create extraordinary impact in our business and beyond. Where is fear holding you back in your own leadership?
  5. Start fast. Within minutes of the retreat beginning every member was deep in conversation, working on their most pressing leadership issues. By starting fast in the way we surfaced the top-of-mind challenges, people got immediate practical benefit, and we maximised the energy in the room. What’s the next meeting that you are running where you can do the same?
  6. Make bigger asks. When you’re a high achiever, you’ve often never needed to ask for much, for yourself. However, daring to ask actually creates new possibilities and huge new opportunities. So often we resist this, because we hate to feel needy or be a burden. But when you ask people to help you, you allow people around you to write themselves into the story of your life in a positive, heroic way - and they’re often more than happy to do that. And they can always say no. What’s a bold ask you can make of the people around you?
  7. Draw upon your peers. The Rivendell CEO programme is a small and close-knit group, with the focus being on trust and deep connections. It was incredible to see the exponential value that the group created for each other, as joint ventures were discussed, support was offered, introductions were made, and hard-won learning was shared. Where do you harness the power of peers?

There were also a whole lot of tactical discussions and learning points - from how to engage with the board more effectively, how to position your business with Private Equity, how to deal with specific leaders who are delivering results but undermining the culture, and many more.

But for now, I’ll leave you with those seven insights. Which one do you need to take to heart?

PLUS, whenever you're ready, why not hit the accelerator on your journey of exponential impact by working with us, or by picking up a copy of Making TIME For Strategy?

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