Close this search box.
Close this search box.

It’s Commencement Season. What Will You Begin?

© AdobeStock
CEOs have a unique opportunity to identify and embrace the unexpected opportunities that have emerged. Will they?

The season of commencement, meaning ‘a beginning’ or ‘a new start,’ is well under way.  High school and university graduates are beginning new chapters in their lives and careers. This year, business is experiencing a similar opportunity. We’re emerging from persistent crisis and rethinking how and where we work. We’re highlighting what we achieved and re-envisioning the future, once again embracing a longer view. For graduates and business alike, it’s commencement season.

A new beginning benefits from defining where you’re headed. In fact, I am supporting many of my executive clients as they decide what comes next, and rather than simply returning to pre-crisis norms, I encourage them to identify and embrace the unexpected opportunities that have emerged. Consider these:

• What parts of the playing field have been leveled over the last year?

• What has accelerated?

• What has stalled?

These three questions apply equally to both internal and external shifts. They inform immediate decisions, like your return-to-office plans. (See here and here.) They also illuminate important external shifts—changes to the competitive playing field, accelerating market trends or different customer needs. For example:

• Structure: Video tools literally created new windows into the lives of our leaders and staff. We invited everyone into our homes, perhaps for the first time. Formality and hierarchy gave way to familiarity and common ground.

• Relationships: Of necessity, we learned to relate differently to each other, our customers and stakeholders. Learning and adapting on the fly became critical to establish a new rhythm.

• Competitive landscape: After a drop in M&A activity early in the pandemic, opportunities and deals gained momentum during the second half of 2020, exceeding prior year’s activity rates. Merging companies figured out how to integrate businesses and create new cultures even while navigating a pandemic.

• Business models: Certainly, we can all cite examples of products and services that succeeded or failed during the crises. The systemic nature of the crises also had a profound effect on business models. In-person services, experiences and events rapidly gave way to other formats, creating new opportunities to generate revenue and capture customers. Consider the blend of old and new that makes sense for those you serve and your businesses.

Taking a moment to reflect on the three questions helps CEOs and executives to applaud accomplishments while also looking ahead. Identify the implications of these shifts to determine the actions needed to move beyond today. Prior ideas may have become irrelevant. New insights may elevate the potential for something sitting on the shelf. Or, innovation may take a new turn.

It’s commencement season. What will you begin?


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.