Last August as I was preparing for a much-anticipated vacation, I received an email from Tom Martin. He asked me to consider serving as a convener for a session of the Future Leaders Experience focused on leadership. If not for my respect for Tom, I might have dodged the summons citing dwindling hours and too much work. Now many months later —reflecting on the feedback from the session that recently took place in Boston, I’m so glad that I accepted the invitation. I learned so much.

Ten years ago, I was part of Page’s Future Leaders Experience (FLE) program. Honestly, I can barely remember the lessons from the classroom, but I do hold dear the relationships I forged with my class. More on them later. It was with this spirit of gratitude that I set about constructing a three-day agenda that could leave a meaningful and lasting imprint on the folks joining the session. 

If you’re not familiar with the FLE, first let me share a word about the attendees. While the program is called Future Leaders Experience, the attendees occupy some high-stakes roles in globally-significant organizations. Many of them have big teams and weighty responsibilities. It was mid-way through my own FLE experience that I got my first CCO gig and moved my family to London to work in GE’s oil and gas division. The leaders in this class, like my cohort, would have as much to teach each other as any curriculum I could pull together. Therefore, I wanted to build in as much participation as possible [read: few theater-style seated lectures, more improv and cooking classes].

We began with a day’s worth of introspection and discovery about each of our individual leadership journeys in the context of shifting leadership expectations. The day was split into two, half-day sessions because this work can be quite emotional and leave participants feeling vulnerable. Which is why it was important that the facilitator, Natacha Catalino from McKinsey, began by helping us set group agreements including expectations for confidentiality, truth and grace. This set the stage for some one-on-one and small group sharing activities to consider how we approach challenging situations and what we do to restore much-needed energy to show up day after day as our best selves.

The afternoon of the second day was spent time traveling. First, we went to the future to meet with students from Boston University. Thanks to Gary Sheffer who hand-picked these candid individuals to share their thoughts about workplace culture, organizational purpose and office expectations. This exchange helped the FLEs consider how they can inspire and motivate the talent who will soon be entering the workforce. I think some of them may have even extended job offers on the spot. Then we went back in time to meet the alums from my FLE class. My face hurt from smiling so hard as I heard each of them sharing their career journeys, what they got from FLE and what they wished they had known back then. A big takeaway for the FLEs in the room was that their path to success could take many twists and turns and as I like to say, “it’s not a ladder but a chain of lily pads” that can lead to professional fulfillment.

Our last morning was spent with recruiters Jessamyn Katz and Peter McDermott. They shared their own career journeys and did some myth-busting about the roles of recruiters. They also provided a landscape analysis of the profession and how CCO roles are adapting to changing expectations from organizations. 

I mentioned my hesitation in agreeing to be a convener. It was because I knew the responsibility and the effort it takes. I’m so grateful to the FLE cohort for their generosity of spirit to participate fully and their trust to be vulnerable with one another. One of the participants remarked to me on the last day that she didn’t fully understand the role of the convener when I introduced myself on the first day. Yet, by the end of our time together she had a great appreciation for the creativity, intention and attention spent curating the experience. Special thanks to Natalie Martinez who was my partner in organizing the session. From this experience, I learned that leadership is a bottomless well of learning and I loved it.