Focusing on Your North Star

Engage with fellow CEOs and senior staff in deep-dive, interactive discussions and thought-provoking and practical exercises to help you align with your association’s North Star and define the key strategic levers that will ensure your organization's sustainability through 2021 and beyond, even as you reinvent elements of your operations, your member engagement, and your business model.

"As an association CEO, I haven't seen another program in the COVID era that has more potential for positive, long-term impact. VSAE's CEO Retreat is always excellent, but this one should be stellar."  Scot McRoberts, Virginia Council of CEOs

  6 CAE Hours


VSAE Members - $149
Non-members - $199

This retreat is limited to chief staff executives and senior staff leadership for associations and non-profits, including account executives from association management companies (AMCs).

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Wednesday, November 18

12:30–12:45    Introductions and Day 1 Schedule Review
Before diving into the work, participants will take a few moments to get oriented: Who’s in the room? What challenges are we anticipating? And how will the agenda over the next two days give the clarity and tools association CEOs and senior staff need to operate effectively?

12:45-1:45      Panel Discussion with Seth Kahan and John Sarvay
Over two days, our co-presenters – Seth Kahan and John Sarvay – will tag-team discussions on strategy and leadership. To kick things off, you’ll engage with Seth and John around the issues important to you and your association in an interactive conversation that will set the stage for our time together.

1:45-2:00       Break

2:00-3:50       Strategic Frameworks for Changing Times
As associations clarify what matters most and work to develop clear strategies to successfully anticipate and navigate change, it’s helpful to have both a clear focus and a set of frameworks to remain aligned and moving forward. Over the course of the afternoon sessions, John will create space for participants to focus on what matters most to them in developing their three strategic playbooks. Each session will be focused on one content element, with breakout time for participants to work in small groups.

Session 1: Your Strategic North Star
When we reflect on the last six months, it’s easy – and important! – to orient around lost revenue opportunities and the financial challenges we all face. But associations, and their members, are also working to navigate big questions around member, client or employee engagement; member value; and effective brand outreach. Before you set new strategies, it’s critical to be clear on your desired outcomes, or strategic priorities – for the near-term, and the long-term.

Session 2: Three Strategic Playbooks
There are three strategic windows that every organization must be prepared to respond to – reacting to sudden changes; sustaining your organization through the uncertainty of COVID and its impacts; and preparing for opportunities to transform or reinvent. John will present a framework for three Strategic Playbooks to help you and your leadership prepare for multiple contingencies.

Session 3: People, Then Strategy
We’ll conclude the afternoon with a discussion about the ways in which engagement – of your employees and your members – can either amplify or sandbag your strategies. We’ll discuss specific ways in which individuals and organizations respond to and move through change, and how you can anticipate and respond to strengthen engagement.

3:50 - 4:30     Anchoring and Pivoting for Day Two
Seth will rejoin the group as we unpack our Day 1 discoveries and prepare for our second day of content.

4:45 – 5:45    Virtual Happy Hour
The Kingsmill Resort will be sharing food and beverage ideas and tips for the holidays. Make plans to join your colleagues for virtual happy hour and get a head start on your holiday planning.

Thursday, November 19

9:00: - 9:15    Review Schedule and Goals for Day 2

9:15 – 11:00   Strategic Foresight: New Game, New Rules
We all know that staying ahead of the curve is crucial to the success of your association. But with current economic and sociopolitical turbulence, it is becoming critical that associations adopt a practice of Strategic Foresight that prioritizes immediate disruption and growth while keeping tuned to your North Star. Seth will lay out his 5-step cycle for effective Strategic Foresight and provide participants with exercises they can take to their boards and senior management teams to map out the future, its risks and opportunities, and the specific uncertainties that threaten your members and your organization.

Exercise 1: Shifting Perspectives
The Big Idea here is getting out of your own way so you can see where you need to innovate and where you need to fortify. Seth will provide a template so you can take this exercise to your volunteer and staff leaders.

Exercise 2: Judo for Disruptions
Every disruption has a silver lining that can position you to provide compelling value to your members and partners. This exercise helps you take what's wrong and turn it into what's right for your organization.

11:00 – 11:30  Full Group Share and Takeaways

11:30 -11:45   Closing Thoughts and Feedback


Widely recognized as being on the forefront of Visionary Leadership® and a trusted advisor to more than 100 association CEOs and world-class leaders like the president of the World Bank, director of the Peace Corps, and senior managers at Royal Dutch Shell, Seth Kahan is a sought-after business strategy specialist, respected thought leader, and convener on Grand Challenges. In the association world, he drives catalytic change, helping association leaders to innovate and retool for today’s disruptive and fast-moving environment. Seth has helped CEOs conceive grand challenges, execute bold national goals that address massively overarching issues, and bring high repute to the associations that lead them.

  Seth Kahan
  Founder | Visionary Leadership


John encourages both clients and his own team to make big ideas better and good ideas bigger. He displays a unique ability to weave together seemingly disparate ideas to help groups of people see their challenges in new ways. John has more than two decades of experience in leadership and team development, facilitation, strategic planning, and communications. He has worked in academia and for Fortune 500 corporations. He founded Floricane in 2008 after a decade of leadership development, facilitation and strategic communication work for Richmond-based Luck Companies. 

  John Sarvay
  Founder | Floricane