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Executive Retreats: Get Outside the C-Suite

There are lots of different ways for c-suite leaders can get together, and they should get together even outside of the boardroom. The executive team of Mitel makes it a point to get together on a regular basis. The executive team of CrossFit takes their board meetings to the beach, BBQ, or anywhere else that isn’t a boardroom. One of the ways I do this is through my ‘executive retreat’ in South Dakota (another term for a hunting club). I have a list of leaders who like to hunt that I have been keeping a list of for decades, and they get invited to our hunt each year.

Pheasant Hunting Executive RetreatI recommend that c-suite leaders, either from the same company or others, get together outside of the boardroom because there is a lot you can learn about someone once out of the office. For some, it’s through a round of golf. For me, it’s hunting. It takes a lot to trust someone with your life when that person is sitting yards away from you and has the ability to kill you. You want to make sure you pick those people carefully!

I’ve always found there’s a certain thing about hunters that’s different from people who play golf. The rules are different. They have a different respect for the land, a different respect for humans and relationships – and I’ve always found it to be a deeper thing than a golf game. You’re standing next to someone you’ve literally shot over their head!

It’s an experience to get away from the office, plus the thrill of being outside and comrade with one another is something I look forward to every year. More so, it’s about what happens afterward the hunt. When you’re sitting around the fire in the evening with a glass of limoncello (or beverage of your choice), talking about the various business problems, issues, and opportunities of the day, that’s when you start to cement the relationships that go even deeper than hunting game together. It is during these times that I find my greatest source of learning, to the point where I event started bringing my son with early on. I would have brought my daughter too, had she shown any proclivity towards wanting to hunt. She was always a pristine, young woman who cared more about her shoes than she would have cared about taking a bird in the field. My son was certainly on the path to becoming a hunter from the time he picked up his first cap gun at the age of one.

I knew the value I was receiving from this executive retreat, so starting at the age of five all the way to present day, my son has been attending them as well. I would even take him out of school to attend simply because I knew the education he would get by sitting around the fire or while at lunch, even just talking about the news of the day. The education you get from business school is not the same type of education you get from being around that caliber of leadership.

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