One of the real privileges of being an Australian TEC chair is to build an expert speaker program every year for my CEO members. So it is with real relish, that I get to plan out my ideal line up of speakers for my monthly meetings each year. I thought I'd share my thoughts and see who you might throw into the mix.
For those of you unfamiliar with the TEC or Vistage format, we spend much of our time helping each other with our issues but during most meetings we also focus a discussion around a topic of interest, facilitated in a workshop format by an outside expert. The art of the chair is to get the balance right between academia, war stories and implement-ability. Its the last that usually is the most important providing the much prized "take-aways" that members commit to.
What are the big topics on everyone's minds this year?
While we usually start with a questionnaire to tease out topics we always discuss what this means. For example, the title "Mergers and Acquisitions" might be of interest to some who are planning their "exits" or those who are already advanced in their thinking. Others are acquiring other businesses and expanding geographically. And perhaps half haven't even considered what might be involved. Not for profit members for example are facing massive consolidation issues as the sources of funding changes and mergers are a hot topic. And, yes, the baby boomer sell-off, postponed from 2009, is happening.
The findings for 2017 for my groups are similar to most previous years. With continued economic uncertainty, TEC members don't participate in recessions, they exploit them.
The theme emerging from the members is not just about raising performance but actually raising the stakes.
That needs agility and an understanding of economic drivers, especially cashflow. So it is no surprise that at the top of the list for my members was a need to better understand finance from the CEOs perspective.
The other top topics include the effects of disruption, especially from the opportunities this creates. Innovation is the buzzword but for a TEC member its about the process and the commercial realities. Sales processes and the connection to marketing, branding are all great topics. Add to this the underpinning needs to improve CEOs' Emotional Intelligence, Risk awareness and Compliance. And of course every member wants to get better at personal effectiveness and get a good life balance! A focus on their roles as CEOs, retention and attraction of excellent managers all need to be covered.
In 2016, we had a great speakers. Matt Tice reminded us of the five questions we all need to answer to create a winning strategy. Dan Collins, with his sports excellence background provoked us into considering how to embed an Accountability Culture. Tim Kastelle talked about Innovation and the Lean Launchpad, Colin Chodos on Harnessing the power of people, Peter Fisher on the CEO as a communicator and story teller, Dr Tony Watt on creating Value through Values and Tim Martin, (featured above) worked with both my groups together on the basics of Digital Marketing. It doesn't mean these issues are gone, but there's a fair bit of processing going on.
The challenge of prioritising topics and who to deliver them
The challenge for every Chair is what to include as a "must have" because we "only" meet 12 times a year. We need to avoid the risk of members taking on too much - drinking from a fire hose has its problems! It is great that we are blessed with great speakers already on our circuit with a great feedback process - not always the biggest names or with the loudest voices - but they all ooze class. So I'm spoilt for choice but we always look for new speakers, greater insight, clearer take-aways.
My process is to narrow down the topics, cluster a few of them and then start putting specific names to them. Most of the speakers we use tailor their talks for the groups so after a rough program I then sequence them so there is a thread running through the program with the previous speaker building or complementing the one before.
My Top Five Choices for this year from Australian TEC speakers
- Nick Setchell - Gives a great workshop called "Real Time CEO" focusing the CEO onto what the Numbers tell you in order to make decisions. This is built on hundreds of TEC / Vistage talks over the years on "Fiscal Focus"
- Colin Chodos - A superb facilitator who will deliver a workshop focused on "Harnessing the power of your people" where he takes some key elements out of the Harvard Service Profit Chain.
- Mark Rehn - "Implementing Business Excellence". A tireless champion of Process Improvement for the small and Medium sized business Mark focuses on the key business processes all businesses have to master.
- Trudy MacDonald - a clear and concise presenter who shares tons of material from an experienced strategic HR perspective. In 2017 I'll be asking her to focus on "Retention Strategies" and "Creating a culture of accountability by managing and measuring performance"
- Greg Donlan - I'll be asking Greg to focus on the topic of "coaching and leading a dynamic sales team". Greg's been delivering this material for years but has always ensured it is up to date and relevant.
I also will have speakers on Improving Personal Performance, Family relationships, Turning Managers into Leaders, Predatory Marketing, Use of Social media, an Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Your Future and The Global Outsourcing Phenomenon
Who would you have speak to your peer group? What topics would they cover? What glaring gap have I missed?
This isn't an academic exercise - I, my fellow chairs and the speaker team at The Executive Connection are always interested in great subject experts. Please don't self promote here - I'm interested in fellow professionals sharing who they have actually seen that would fit a workshop model. Old War Horses, Keynote Gurus and Pure Academics aren't what we are looking for.