3 Ways EO Member-Facilitated Strategy Summits Can Be Transformative (and Why Every Chapter Benefits from Them)

As an EO strategy summit facilitator, I have witnessed first-hand the value of these events for the community. Strategy summits are opportunities for growth, connection, putting steel to the grindstone, and sharpening processes to drive transformation.

Whether your chapter holds regular strategy summits (like EO Cape Town, photo above) or is considering doing so, here are three things the most successful summits can do for your leadership board—all of which create a remarkable ripple effect across membership as a whole.

1. Alignment

Jim Collins of Good to Great famously states that vision has a 1 percent impact on success.

The other 99 percent? Alignment.

A facilitator’s job is to steward a leadership team of decision-makers. The most effective facilitators I’ve had the privilege of learning from guide leadership boards toward a vision of the future while commemorating and leveraging all that has been built in the past.

Accordingly, the best strategy summits—the ones that create remarkable impact for a chapter—seek to build unity of purpose. They are an excellent opportunity to reach mutual consensus and align on key initiatives.

Everyone must be engaged, invested in the vision, and willing to contribute. Facilitators and leaders work together to align on and refine the key initiatives and big goals the board agrees to work toward.

For example, during a recent Seattle chapter strategy summit which I was fortunate to facilitate, the board aligned itself behind one significant goal to prioritize for the year: No Seattle EO member would leave the chapter over value. Once the board aligned on that fantastic vision, the path toward making it a reality quickly materialized. The metric of every member receiving a quantifiable minimum 10X return on their time and dues spent on EO became the minimum value proposition.

2. Buy-In

Alignment is critical—but not even the highest level of alignment can move the needle on priorities without buy-in.

When participants say, “Wow, I took so much away from that,” it makes my day as a facilitator. A summit that demonstrates real value creates more than just excitement; it empowers members to buy into the vision in a tangible way.

Some of that buy-in can start the night before the summit with a dinner hosted for participants.

It is the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, socialize, and connect. In addition, a well-run single conversation can remind all of us why we take time away from our businesses and loved ones to volunteer to run chapters. At these dinners, I ask three questions of every person around the table:

  • “How many years have you been in EO?”
  • “What is the most impactful experience you’ve had in EO?”
  • And my new favorite: “But for EO?” (Responses to this are often moving, heartfelt, and inspiring)

Walls, posturing, or baggage we may carry into the summit often evaporate as we realize the magnitude EO has had on so many of us, and the duty of carry we have to pay it forward for the next year. The greater the understanding of and investment in one another, the more present and the more buy-in we display during the summit.

Another practice I feel is critical for buy-in is an address delivered by the current chapter president. The best president addresses honor the previous board, acknowledging the work done before them. A talk by the current president is a small gesture with a significant impact: It demonstrates investment, inspires motivation, and reminds us all of the legacy upon which we are building. After all, we can’t build the 75th floor of a skyscraper if the 74th doesn’t exist.

3. Path to Execution

Once you establish alignment and buy-in, it is time to carve out the path to execution. Often, this means taking a big vision and reverse-engineering it into smaller and smaller action items.

Planning for execution comes down to fundamentals:

  • Align resources in the room with key initiatives
  • Clarify everyone’s duties (short, medium, and long-term)
  • Create a follow-up system: progress meetings, dedicated communication channels for sharing feedback or roadblocks, and accountability partners

However, there are ways to think beyond simple tasks. During a recent strategy summit, one EO member leader put forth the practice of “layering.” It stuck with me, as I strive to do it for events but had not heard it called by that term. Layering involves saying “Yes, and…”

The goal is to spark bigger thinking, more sophisticated ideas, and more unexpected ways to elevate the execution we are already mapping out.

A real-life example went something like this:

  • “Yes, let’s have dinner and a speaker at the stadium.”
  • “Yes, and let’s host a cocktail reception at the 12th man fan deck.”
  • “Yes, and we could place a gift on the seat of each participant which they would never expect.”
  • “Yes, and let’s get everyone’s company logo up on the big screen at the stadium during the event on a continuous loop.”
  • “Yes, and let’s get everyone to the team locker room and down onto the field after dinner.”

Once alignment and buy-in are at their strongest, execution is where we can leap from great to world-class and on the best of occasions, once-in-a-lifetime.


At the June strategy summit in Columbus, I had the joy of reconnecting with their past president and incoming president, returning board members, and the regional leadership, all at a deep level. I even left with a few new best friends. And of course, the summit itself was a success because they have a high-functioning, well-aligned board. One of the rewards of summit facilitation is the opportunity to make deep connections with people I would not otherwise get to meet.

Successful strategy summits often include the right dedicated venue, light meals conducive to a working lunch, no outside distractions, and a structured agenda. But ultimately they need dedicated, inspired leaders who are willing to align around cause, purpose, and execution.

Why not book your chapter’s strategy summit today?

Contributed to EO by Erick Slabaugh, a long-standing member leader of EO Seattle and former director on the EO Global Board, who is a serial entrepreneur, board member and advisor. He serves as the CEO of Absco Solutions, a 45+ year market veteran in the facility security and fire-life safety industry, as well as CEO of FCP Insight, a cloud-based enterprise software solution for electrical contracting businesses. Erick recently shared 5 Timeless Principles of Entrepreneurial Success on EO’s Inc.com channel, plus Reflections on the Origin Story of EO Global Leadership Academy, 5 Entrepreneurial Trends That Never Go Out of Fashion and 3 Surefire Ways to Surprise and Delight Your Customers on EO Blog.

Photo courtesy of EO Cape Town during a recent Strategy Summit.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog

Categories: Best Practices LEADERSHIP Legacy STRATEGY


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