Exkalibur Leadership Forum | Discussion Topics

The Exkalibur Leadership Forum is a peer group of CEOs and senior leaders. It offers a penalty-free environment where business leaders can exchange ideas, help each other with challenging issues and share best practices, all in a confidential setting that encourages open communication, and honest, candid feedback.

Please visit our Exkalibur Leadership Forum main page for further information.


Leadership Discussions

Over the years, our conversations have covered a seemingly endless range of subjects, much like the countless challenges you face every day as a leader of your company.

I have summarized some of them below to give you a flavor of some of the subjects we cover.

You should treat this as a representative sample of discussion topics rather than a definitive list as we have covered so much over the years. I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions about specific topics in which you have a particular interest.

I’ve also broken this down into two general categories:

  • Discussion Topics, where the structure and source materials take many forms, and
  • Workshops, which I lead and in which we share best practices and action plans around a specific topic.


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Great Customer Service

During one recent meeting, we focused our Best Practices series on customer service, more broadly, on the service” aspect of our businesses: how do we make sure we’re always serving our clients and adding value to their businesses?

We discussed several video presentations about great service companies like Amazon, the Container Store and Zappos where service is a cornerstone of their culture, which served to re-ignite earlier conversations: Can an “employee-first” company can truly make certain that customers are also “first”? How do we embed the notion of a “great customer experience” throughout our companies?

The Key Attributes of Successful Businesses

We’ve also focused intently on some of the key attributes of successful companies:

  • What makes them great?
  • What do they do differently from others?

We discussed a variety of articles about the leadership and cultural characteristics that set apart high-performance companies like Apple, Caterpillar and Ford.

It generated a lot of conversation that ended up on our white board as we identified the most important characteristics of these successful businesses and their leaders.

Exkalibur Leadership Forum Mission

What is Strategy?

We have also spent time discussing Strategy:

  • What is it?
  • How is it created?
  • How is it executed?

Library shelves are overflowing with books about strategy, so we focused on a few of the landmark articles that capture the essence of strategy and why the most successful companies focus so intently on strategy formulation and execution.

This is an important theme as you consider proven ways to engage your leadership team to create a powerful strategy and take the actions needed to implement it across the company.

Incentive Plans

We’ve also focused our Best Practices series on incentive plans and their value in stimulating superior performance.

We discussed relevant excerpts from the updated book, SuperFreakonomics by Levitt & Dubner, who believe that “incentives are the cornerstone of life”.

Each member was asked to examine the principal incentive plan in his or her respective company, discuss its features with the other members. Each member took away valuable ideas about how to modify those plans to achieve the desired results.

The Key Attributes of Successful Leadership Teams

What are the key attributes of successful leadership teams?

How can we improve our recruiting and retention plans to enhance our organizational effectiveness?

We listened to several experts and considered the latest research from leading universities:

  • Why aren’t we very good at judging talent?
  • What can we do to improve our chances of hiring top performers for key positions?
  • What biases do we bring to that process and how can we overcome those limitations in judging talent for the pivotal roles in our organizations?

Communication Action Plan

Our Best Practices series has also focused on Communication.

Each member prepared a Communication Action Plan for the year, carefully considering all of the constituencies with which regular communication is required:

  • What should be regularly communicated to each constituency
  • With what frequency?
  • Using what tools and platforms to ensure that regular communication isn’t compromised.

You’ll find some suggestions about how to get started with your own Communication Action Plan here. It includes a valuable Communication Matrix that will help you consider the breadth and depth of your communication needs.

Warren Buffett’s Letter to Shareholders

On several occasions, we have read and discussed the Letter to Shareholders from Warren Buffet that accompanies the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report.

His annual letters are legendary and run to 30 pages of folksy wisdom, financial insight, and practical business principles, a far cry from the traditional, boring and CYA letters published by most public companies.

Financial Literacy

During one period, each of the members completed a Financial Literacy test.

We reviewed the test results in detail, clarifying the relevant terms and definitions that underly the core principles of business finance.

We discussed detailed illustrations of how business decisions impact monthly financial reporting, some of which formed the basis for materials I’ve presented in Exkalibur’s Cash Flow Workshop, It’s Almost Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Cash Is?

Does Culture Matter?

6 Keys You Can Use to Rock Your Company Culture
6 Keys You Can Use to Rock Your Company Culture

We’ve also discussed the performance impact of differing cultural environments in a variety of retail and industrial companies.

  • Can an “employee-first” company join the top ranks of companies where customers reign supreme?
  • How does that environment differ from a customer-centric culture?
  • Is there a single approach that’s more likely to encourage a collaborative culture and superior performance?
  • Are there elements from different cultures that can be blended into a powerful service culture that celebrates both the employee and the customer?


Learn & LeadI’ve shared a lot of information about our Discussion Topics with you, but let me just add a short checklist of some of the workshops we’ve conducted.

I think everyone in the Exkalibur Leadership Forum realizes that the time they’ve set aside for our monthly meetings is not only sacred but a chance to work ON their business instead of just IN their business.

It’s also a rare time explore new tools and techniques in greater detail and take the time to dig deeper so they can immediately implement those practical strategies.

These are some of the workshops I’ve led during our meetings:

  • Building a Communication Plan
  • Creating he Accountable Organization
  • Meeting Management
  • How to set Goals you can actually achieve

Other Practical Strategies

Here are some of the other practical strategies that we’ve covered over the years:

—  The value of positive feedback and how to deliver it … to not only take corrective actions … but to improve individual performance so that teammates can accelerate their contributions by capitalizing on their strengths.

—  Proven Personal Productivity tips and techniques are often part of our meetings, as each of us struggle to deal with the flow of information, email, social media and other time-eating distractions that impede our progress toward our goals and a meaningful work/life balance.

—  The value of a personal database to support the collection and searchability of the disparate information that we need to organize and access every day, including some concrete, hands-on experience with several platforms.

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