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What CEOs Will Learn In Summer School

The next few months will give chief executives ample opportunity to learn how to roll with life's punches.

T.S. Eliot wasn’t kidding. April really was—at least in 2020—the cruelest month. Tens of thousands of Americans—many of them the weakest and most vulnerable among us—died. Unemployment skyrocketed. The virus continued to grind away. Life in the U.S. took on the feel of old newsreel footage.

No surprise, there’s increasing—and understandable—impatience for all of this to be over, to get back to something like normal. When will that be? Who knows. The hard part lies ahead, so we may as well make productive use of the time. Not just leading digital transformation or increasing workforce flexibility—but growing ourselves as people, as leaders. “This very moment is the perfect teacher,” the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in When Things Fall Apart, her classic manual for learning to roll with life’s punches. “And lucky for us, it is with us wherever we are.”

So what are we studying? A few things, for sure:

• How to be resilient (or not). I remember talking with Patrick Lencioni for the last issue of Chief Executive before all this happened, and something he said stuck out. He said that compared with the generation that went through the Depression and WWII, many Americans had grown soft. It made me grumpy, but it also rang true. We’ll get plenty of chances to work on taking a punch over the next year or more.

• How to be empathetic (or not). Weeks of bad news and constant worry will erode our patience and our ability to put ourselves in the place of our fellows. Whether they be family, neighbors, employees, co-workers, customers—we’re all spending a lot of time with the foibles of others. Can we continue to love them, or at least not strangle them? This coming election cycle will ramp up the degree of difficulty. What fun.

• How to be courageous (or not). At my summer camp in the 1970s (and yeah, it was a pretty old-school summer camp), they made us memorize “If” by Kipling. You remember: “If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” etc. We had no idea why we had to read a dead Victorian’s ode to stoicism instead of swimming. Now I get it. Thanks to coronavirus, we’ll get ample opportunity to face our fears and press on—or fold.

• How to accept reality (or not). Maybe we’ll find a vaccine for this by fall. Maybe not. Maybe it won’t spread as fast as predicted or kill as many people as we worry it could, or force the economy to close again. Maybe not. No matter what, we’ll get the chance to face what’s actually happening. First we’ll do it with undue optimism or overwrought pessimism or reflexive political partisanship or impatience or anger. And the virus won’t care. So we’ll arrive at some acceptance of reality, instead of our hopes for reality. Or not. We’ll change and grow stronger as a result. Or not.

What will we learn from coronavirus? That’s up to each of us. Class begins now.


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    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.