The Power in Taking Time to Think

By Patrick Thean

dateWed, Jan 11, 2023 @ 11:21 AM

As a write, I am on my way to Chicago to meet with my forum group. A forum is a small group, usually 8 to 12 like-minded CEOs and entrepreneurs, who get together on a regular basis. Business leadership organizations, like Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), Young President’s Organization (YPO), and Vistage, all provide forum groups as a way for members to share challenges and successes, both personally and professionally, in a trusted, confidential setting to help each other get better.

I am in an EO Forum that brings 9 of us together from Montreal, DC, Greenville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Miami, and we meet in a different location once per quarter. Everyone gives and receives, but no matter what, you always leave feeling that you received much more than you gave because you can learn something from every person in the room. I’ve always loved going to my forum because of the tremendous value I receive. 

I’ve found that by going to a different city for a forum, I am forced to leave my familiar location and travel alone, which gives me the gift of think time, to really think deeply. I think about my team, my company, but also my life, my wife, and my children. I spend this time thinking about how to harness the special gift of time further. Like many of you, managing a company and being there for my family keeps me so busy that it’s hard even to find time to workout, let alone have an hour or so of undisturbed think time. 

My think time allows me to make clearer decisions and to think creatively on new concepts. I think about the work we do and make adjustments for stronger outcomes. I also look for bright spots and minor majors, minor changes that have the potential to make major results. My thinking time helps me to recharge my brain. I return home excited, full of new ideas, and feeling more grounded.

When things in life are moving a mile a minute, you need to make time to stop, reflect and think. Forum has forced me to have think time because it takes me away from my business and family for a few days. Believe it or not, you can create the same magic for yourself.

First, schedule a time months in advance. Once you have it on your calendar, don’t reschedule! It should be untouchable, something as important as a big sales meeting or quarterly planning session. If you don’t treat it this way, you won’t stick to it. 

Now that you’ve got it on your schedule prepare by deciding what general topics you are going to think about. And, no, it doesn’t always have to be about work. Leaders who are more self-aware are better leaders and understand their own special mission in life, which makes them better visionaries for their team. Don’t just think, but also be sure to journal what you’ve learned and worked on during your time. Taking time to invest in yourself will better equip you to lead the company to higher places. 

Don’t treat your think time as a one-time event. Get into a regular rhythm of setting aside think time once a month. If you can’t fit your think rhythm in once per month, try every other month and at minimum once per quarter. Just get started. I’ve found that once you start to receive value, you will somehow make time. By the way, “I don’t have time” really means “it’s not a priority right now.” Somehow, when something, “important” comes up, you are able to part the waters to make it happen, right?

So are you ready to think? Now, get out and go somewhere! Maybe you sit outside at your favorite park or visit your local Starbucks; it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s somewhere with little distractions - hint: not your home or office! You never know, you just may find a bright spot.

YPO vs Vistage vs EO

YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) and Vistage are both prominent global networks for business leaders, but they cater to different audiences and offer unique benefits. YPO primarily targets younger executives, typically presidents or CEOs under 45, from diverse industries. Its focus is on fostering leadership through a personal and professional growth journey. YPO members usually lead larger organizations, and the group emphasizes peer learning, mentorship, and family events, promoting a work-life balance approach. The exclusivity and global reach of YPO make it appealing for younger, dynamic leaders seeking international connections and a broad range of perspectives.

Vistage, on the other hand, is geared towards leaders of small and mid-sized businesses. It offers a more focused approach on business growth and executive coaching. Vistage emphasizes one-to-one mentorship and small group meetings, where members can delve into specific business challenges and opportunities. Its primary appeal lies in providing practical, actionable advice and a tight-knit community of peers facing similar business scenarios. Vistage is more accessible in terms of membership criteria and tends to attract a diverse range of business leaders, including those beyond the CEO role.

The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is another key player in the landscape of executive networks, specifically tailored for entrepreneurs. Unlike YPO and Vistage, which are more inclusive of various leadership roles, EO focuses exclusively on entrepreneurs, offering a platform for business owners to learn, grow, and collaborate. EO members typically lead smaller, entrepreneur-driven businesses. This community emphasizes peer-to-peer learning in small groups, known as forums, where entrepreneurs share experiences, challenges, and strategies in a confidential setting. The organization also provides access to global events, leadership development programs, and mentorship opportunities. Its strength lies in its ability to foster a sense of community and support among entrepreneurs, who often face unique challenges in scaling and managing their businesses. EO is particularly valuable for those seeking a network of peers who understand the entrepreneurial journey and can offer relevant, experience-based advice.

While both organizations aim to develop leadership skills and business acumen, the choice between YPO and Vistage often depends on the individual's business size, leadership stage, and specific needs for growth and networking.

CEO Survival Guide


Patrick Thean


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