The growth and development of those executives leading your company is vital to your success―they are the "boots on the ground," steering your mission and embodying company values. To that end, Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) hosts a Key Executive Forum (KEF) for the executive staff of member companies; within this program, high-ranking employees from multiple organizations use the Gestalt method of communication, sharing their professional experiences for the benefit of the group and serving as sounding boards for their fellow Forum participants. The value of a KEF for business owners lies in Forum providing a safe, confidential space in which their executives can learn and grow with a peer group. Dan McCoy is Chief Operations Officer at Harrison Financial Services in Omaha, an EO member-owned company. Dan shared his experience and take-aways from his involvement in Nebraska's KEF:
How and when did you become involved in Nebraska's Key Executive Forum?
DM/ I joined in 2016. The owner of the company, Tim Harrison, has always spoken very highly of his Forum group. Joining KEF was about helping me develop as a leader and mentor to our team members.
We have five members: a CFO of a construction firm, the president of a vehicle advertising/buying service, the regional director of a property management firm, the director of operations of a PEO, and me, the COO of a wealth management firm. We meet once a month for four hours and have a retreat once a year. We follow a standard agenda of an icebreaker, updates and peer-led presentations. We rotate through leadership and facilitator roles.
What surprised you most once you began participating in KEF?
DM/ I went into it thinking it was all about growing professionally to help our firm, but most of what I have taken from the group has been on a personal level. I was also not expecting to develop such close interpersonal relationships with what were strangers when the group formed. Now, I count my Forum mates as some of my best friends. During a very difficult time that included a divorce, when I could have easily lost my self-worth, they took time away from their families to provide me with emotional support through one of the toughest decisions of my life. These are truly altruistic individuals who only want to help.
How has sharing experiences with other key executives helped evolve your leadership role?
DM/ Sharing experiences, speaking through frustrations and talking about successes all helped rekindle my passion for leadership and helping develop the firm's strategic vision. It's also good to know I am not the only one who struggles with trying to make a serial entrepreneur happy. When I reflect back on myself before joining the Forum, being open, honest and direct was not something I always did at work. I didn't feel people needed to know anything about me personally or of my past. The only thing that mattered was whether I did my job or not. I didn't realize how impactful sharing my life experiences―both good and bad―with my team would be. Doing so has created better working and personal relationships and a stronger team, leading to better performance and collaboration so we can provide our clients with world-class service. It is helping us reach interdependence.
You shared with us that KEF helped you open up emotionally about your experience in the military, and you've now displayed your Iraq war medals at work. How did KEF help you accomplish this?
DM/ My time in the Army has always been a point of contention for me. I am very proud of my service, but I am not necessarily proud of specific things we had to do during war. In all respects, I had a very successful military career with several commendations and medals. Unfortunately, toward the end of my last tour, I was wounded in combat and did not deal with the aftermath well. Aside from the physical wounds, mentally I was struggling with survivor's guilt, new physical limitations and PTSD. At the time, I was embarrassed. I felt as though I was a weak individual with very little to give the world anymore because I was not who I used to be. I took all of my medals, put them in a box, and shoved them in the back of a closet. The thought that ran through my mind for years was, "War cost me a normal life." I was very lucky to be alive―a fact that will never be lost on me―but I was never sure the quality of my new life was worth it. I never talked about this in our Forum group, but what each of my fellow members taught me through very personal experience share is that I was doing no favors by ignoring what was a large part of my life and a very important reason behind my current success. I was not being open, honest and direct with myself, my team, family and friends. Even after getting my medals framed, they sat in my closet for a month before I finally hung them up in my office.
EO's Key Executive Forum taught me that I can either use my life experiences to become a better person than I was the day before or I could feel sorry for myself and never strive to reach my full potential. I feel very lucky that Tim saw my potential and introduced me to Forum.