Why REF Is Committed to Ensuring Global Executives Don't Miss Peer Forum Experiences
7 Minutes read
Global Executives now have a global forum to harness the Collective Intelligence of their peers.
I missed out on a peer forum experience when I was a global executive. Partly because I was constantly traveling the world on business trips to visit clients, attend conferences, and have meetings at our global HQ. Partly because I was unaware of peer advisory boards as an emerging category of leadership development. When I left the corporate world and became independent 20 years ago, the leading providers had been evolving the category for many decades but were still relatively unknown. REF (formerly Renaissance Executive Forums) is among them, founded in the USA in 1994 and now in more than 20 countries.
I became a peer forum leader in 2003 and led 4 forums of Executives and CEOs for 15 years, also speaking to 400 forums globally on my specialty topic of agility. It was such an enriching experience all-round.
I quickly realized how invaluable it was and how much I had missed out on during my corporate career. While it is a bit of a cliché that it is "lonely at the top," it was also a reality. I was running high-technology aerospace hardware and software companies, serving global airframe manufacturers, airlines, and militaries with innovative integrated systems and meeting exacting regulatory standards. New to Leadership? Here’s How to Address Loneliness
All very entrepreneurial endeavors in a public corporation and share-price-sensitive environment. I felt like I lived in a pressure cooker, with no release valve. Of course, I was surrounded by family and friends but no one who could relate and would give me the time and space to share openly, confidentially, and holistically, with the entanglement of business, professional, personal, and life issues I was dealing with. Not least of all, I was constantly jet-lagged most of the time and woefully absent as a father and a husband. Thank goodness for my rock of a supportive wife.
Philip Guarino can relate. He was fortunate early in his career to learn the power of sharing perspectives and learning from others. Philip was leading the development of a large corporation across 25 countries in Latin America with vastly different economic structures and challenges. Often his corporate HQ simply wasn't aware of some of the challenges its partners faced country by country, so listening and improving lines of communication was a key factor in improving their business success.
Something else happened as well. As Philip built a community of company owners across the region, relationships developed, and best practices were shared. He saw first-hand how collective intelligence was a catalyst for their success, locally and across the entire region. Philip found it immensely gratifying to see it in action.
Later as an entrepreneur, Philip experienced first-hand what it meant to be "lonely at the top." He had founded a successful design business as the first company to bring contemporary kitchen design to Boston. But he quickly realized that he didn't have all of the tools nor certainly all of the answers himself. So he joined a peer forum. Over four years, they met monthly and shared their challenges in a confidential environment, both business and personal. They shared perspectives, celebrated successes, and navigated difficulties in a way that would have never been possible alone. Philip found it to be a tremendously enriching experience, and to this day, the members remain in contact.
Here's what Philip says about the experience. "Learning from others, being vulnerable, sharing perspectives was invaluable, like nothing else I had experienced before. Having experienced it firsthand, I fully appreciate the deep impact it has."
After 15 years of helping other executives and CEOs be agile with their businesses, I had an itch I wanted to scratch of going back to being a global executive again as a real-time agility case study. In 2018 something crossed my path. In conversation with my wife, we decided it was too good not to roll the dice on. It turned into the agility case study I was looking for X10, not least of all because of the COVID pandemic. When I pivoted back from that late in 2021, I went looking for the organization and community on the leading edge of what's next in the peer forums category. REF came on my radar from 2 directions simultaneously.
Firstly, two of my long-time CEO peer group members, Mark Neilson and Susan Kuruvilla, were so passionate about their experience of the power of peers that they acquired the San Diego franchise of REF, which they have been growing as a vibrant community ever since. Read more here: REF San Diego: A Vibrant & Growing Community.
Secondly, one of my close colleagues, Leo Bottary, had become a thought leader for the category, writing 3 books, including doing work with REF.
What really caught my attention was REF's mission of "Leaders Powered by Collective Intelligence." From my previous experiences, I had seen that the ecosystem of collective intelligence in between the monthly meetings and outside of the individual peer groups was virtually nonexistent. REF's commitment is very different. We are thought leaders on the leading edge of Collective Intelligence. Our commitment to our members is to help them evolve an intelligence advantage of Collective Intelligence = Human Intelligence + Artificial Intelligence. Not least of all, REF is committed to integrating its speakers, strategic alliance partners, and ambassadors into its global ecosystem of Collective Intelligence for the benefit of its members.
There is no category of our membership for which a global ecosystem of collective intelligence is more crucial than our global executive members. They are dealing with added levels of complexity in business, including:
I distinctly remember flying blind when I was trying to enter new markets, form local entities, acquire existing ones, build partnerships, integrate teams into a larger ecosystem, navigate local complexities (macroeconomic, currency, political), and evolve my leadership skills and our business practices to optimize performance across a global footprint.
That is why REF is dedicated to offering Global Executive forums designed for you with the flexibility you need, spearheaded by Philip Guarino. REF already has a membership base of your peers, expanding every day. We are currently forming Global Executive Forums. Find out more here: https://ref.global/global-executives/.
“I’m delighted to spearhead REF’s Global Executive Virtual Forum. Global executives face unique challenges working internationally, often having to navigate very different business contexts with complex dynamics. REF’s transformative peer forums, based on collective intelligence, allow executives to gain cutting-edge insights, to build trusted, lasting relationships, and to become more effective and impactful leaders.” Philip Guarino.