Skip to content


The CEO Retreat New Graphic (LinkedIn Banner) 2

The CEO Retreat 2022 | Key Takeaways

May 16, 2022

On May 5th and 6th, more than 60 industry leaders came together to participate in the 2022 CEO Retreat, facilitated by Bob Moore, MA, CAE.

Seven speakers spoke on behalf of essential topics such as DEI, workforce development and crisis communications. Our lineup included Dr. Siabhan May-Washington, President of St. Teresa's Academy, Adam Miller, Director of DEI at Barkley, Erin Christensen, Program Manager at the KC Tech Council, James McQuivey, VP, Research Director at Forrester, Lee Smith, VP & Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and Josh Brewster, CMO of Trozzolo Communications Group and Megan Sevart-Culbertson, creator of Megan's Yoga Tribe.

Below, you'll find key takeaways from each of these presentations.


Dr. Siabhan May-Washington | President | St. Teresa's Academy

For our first session, Dr. May-Washington and Barkley's Adam Miller both individually spoke on DEI within their organizations. Dr. May-Washington had the unique perspective of laying a foundation for tomorrow's leaders as a high school president.

What is DEI?

  • Diversity: A fact of any group
    • Ex: race, age, sexual orientation and so much more
  • Equity: Equalizing the ability to thrive
    • Equity is different than equality. It ensures there's fairness in the procedures. For example, an employee has vertigo and is currently located on the 30th floor. To be equitable, you would move them to a lower floor.
  • Inclusion: Cultivating shared rights
    • Inclusion means fostering an environment where people can be themselves and communicate freely.

Why does DEI Matter?

DEI is a moral imperative that also helps your organization profit. Everyone should have the opportunity to work, lead and be a part of a community. DEI also prompts people to think creatively instead of making assumptions.

How to Advance DEI in Your Organization

  • Have a commitment
  • Foster learning culture
  • Collect data and use data
Dr. May-Washington Headshot
Adam Miller Headshot (1)


Adam Miller | Director of DEI | Barkley

Adam shared that it takes intentional work to add diversity to your team. However, it's very much so worth it. Since the start of COVID, employees have been evaluating their values more than ever and are seeking jobs that prioritize these values, including DEI.

Diversity is everything that makes you who you are and what makes you unique in the world around you. Identities to consider when thinking about diversity are age, communication styles, disability/impairment (e.g. physical, learning, etc.), ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity or expression, generation, education experience, national origin, native language, organization function and level, personality, political identification, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, thinking style and veteran status.

While participating in an activity, he shared that we attribute our opinions to values. However, the two are not the same. Instead of immediately being turned off by the differences in someone else's opinion, try to dig deeper and see the value in it.


Erin Christensen | Program Manager | KC Tech Council

Erin kicked us off by sharing the state of the workforce and discussing the growing disparity between the number of open tech jobs vs. those entering the workforce from traditional four-year computer science and IT programs. She then asked Neelima Parasker, SnapIT's President & CEO, and Blake Miller, Homebase's Founder, about their approaches to finding talent.

Years ago, Neelima realized that we aren't capitalizing on potential talent in the suburbs and the city as much as we should be. The privileged students have all the resources at their fingertips but typically don’t go into tech and underserved students are at a disadvantage because they aren’t exposed to tech. In response, Neelima created SnapIT Solutions to help individuals pivot their careers.

Blake found that instead of just hiring experienced individuals and placing them into roles, providing continuous training to get employees familiar with the company and their work as well as placing emphasis on hiring for cultural fits was more impactful.

Erin then asked the group of CEOs three key questions:

What competitive advantage does Kansas City have when competing with the coasts? How can this group be positioned to market this?

  • Kansas City attracts college kids coming out of the midwest.
  • KC ranks high in attracting highly educated immigrants.
  • Kansas is not just a farm and we need to let it be known through marketing.
  • Kansas City has a strong culture, however, we must prove that jobs with higher salaries under big-name companies don't equal more happiness.
  • We’re positioned in the middle of the country which means we're halfway to many places such as Mexico and Canada.

How can your roles within your organization drive change when it comes to talent management? 

  • Push everyone in your organization to "be a recruiter". Your people are your brand and they should be good ambassadors for your organization.
  • Empower your people to make decisions and have ownership. They will talk to their friends and the excitement will spread through word of mouth.
  • Have open communication with your employees. Become “sticky” as an organization and as a leader.
  • Define paths for roles. Help potential and current employees understand where they'd start and how quickly they can get from point A to point B to point C in your organization.
  • Promote the right culture.
  • Expand the definition of leadership. Give employees opportunities within the workplace outside of their typical role, but benefit the organization as a whole. 
Erin Circle (1)

What approaches can you take to attract a more diverse talent pool?

  • Participate in Apprenti KC.
  • Add key performance indicators to candidate pools. Still hire the best candidates, but make sure there is a diverse pool to choose from.
  • Think outside of the box. Ex: Adding Wellness/Summer Fridays to bring in young talent.


Bob Moore | Retreat Facilitator

Bob Moore Circle Headshot

Retreat Facilitator Bob Moore asked the executives what solution is urgently needed to advance Kansas City's tech industry. Responses can be found in the word cloud below:

Screen Shot 2022-05-09 at 3.03.15 PM

He then asked them to dream up future celebratory headlines for the KC tech community, something they wished to see in a newspaper sometime in the near future. Below are their responses:

  • KC Establishes Tech Corridor
  • KC Tech Workforce Increases 5% YOY 5/22 to 5/23
  • Local Tech Business Join Together to Create $25m Fund and Innovation Space
  • KC's No Coast Tech Event Rivals SXSW
  • How Kansas City Is Becoming the Hottest Tech Hub in the US
  • KC Announces Inaugural Crossroads KC Festival to Celebrate the Talent, Culture, Diversity and Innovation of the KC Community
  • KC Creates Unique Path to Regional Tech Power
  • KC, a Top 5 Market for Tech Talent
  • KC Tech Community Launches First of Its Kind Tech Educational Institution


James McQuivey | VP, Research Director | Forrester

James opened his presentation by sharing that 11.5 million jobs were open or "vacant" in March, however, only six million people were unemployed.

This chasm between vacancies and the underemployed is wide and growing:

Vacancies vs Unemployed

Surviving the Blast Into the Future of Work

  • The short run will be very bumpy, fighting against gravitational forces
  • Success will depend on using technology and teamwork
  • But ultimately leadership will determine whether you make it to Mars

James dove into the fact that the Great Resignation is upon us and frontline-heavy industries such as retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and accommodation and food services have had some of the highest quit rates.

As companies work to attract and retain talent, James shared that it's important to remember hybrid work is both a solution and a problem. A third of hybrid work companies will fail a it. There failures will come in three flavors:

  • Complexity
  • Grumpy executives
  • Low culture energy
James McQuivey Headshot

These short-term talent challenges require long-term focus on Employee Experience (EX). However, we have a long way to go with EX as only 48% of US companies do not have a formal initiative.

An EX initiative involves: 

  • Clearly defining what success looks like for each role
  • Measuring and rewarding people based on their success
  • Using “listening” to understand what is and is not working in the processes and policies of the org
  • Demonstrating employees were heard and that the organization can adapt

At the end of the day, basic human psychology is our best guide in the world of workforce. People want:

  • To know they can succeed
  • To see that resources are available
  • To feel that people are on their side
A. Lee Smith Headshot


Lee Smith | VP and Economist | Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Key Themes for the U.S. Economic Outlook:

  • The U.S. economy has rebounded sharply from the pandemic, fueling inflation as supply has struggled to keep up with demand.
  • Amid high inflation and a tight labor market, Federal Reserve policymakers have started to reduce policy accommodation.
  • Expectations are for economic growth to moderate and inflation to recede, though there are numerous risks to this outlook.
  • Longer-term economic consequences of the pandemic remain uncertain but could be profound.


  • A surge in demand has outpaced the recovery in supply, leading to multidecade-high inflation.
  • Expectations are for growth to moderate and inflation to recede amid tighter monetary policy.
  • The economy is in unfamiliar territory and therefore the path ahead is uncertain with risks to the outlook for both growth and inflation.
  • Longer-term consequences of the pandemic could be profound for the economy’s geography and potential growth.


Josh Brewster | CMO | Trozzolo

Throughout Josh's time in public relations, he's found that it's best to be prepared before a crisis even happens and that no situation should be underestimated, no matter how small it starts. It's important to remember that it takes a company many years to build a solid reputation, but just one moment to destroy it.


Five Reasons a Crisis May Arise: 

  1. Everyone is a content creator now. The weapon is in your purse, your pocket and your hand. It’s the Wild West.
  2. Employees and consumer are empowered (now more than ever) to speak their mind and hold companies accountable. It forces companies to react.
  3. The silent majority is out of sight and out of mind and it creates a sense of pressure on companies (and the people behind them)
  4. Human error is inevitable. That will never change. Mistakes happen. It’s how (and when) you respond that matters most.
  5. Trolls - Haters gonna hate.


When dealing with a crisis, you will first want to communicate with your internal audiences before discussing it with your partners and stakeholders and finally everyone else such as media corespondents and social media. Ahead of time, be sure to have a crisis communication plan in place. This can take shape in the form of a few sheets of paper you send to your group of people you've identified as your organization's crisis members that will help you stay transparent and productive.

Josh Brewster Headshot


Megan Sevart-Culbertson | Megan's Yoga Tribe

Megan taught the executives how to lead with peace, calm and purpose. She dove into the power of breath and the benefits of actively working to control your central nervous system.

Parasympathetic Nervous System:

  • Rest & digest
  • Reason & respond
  • Peace & calm

Sympathetic Nervous System:

  • Fight or flight
  • React & regret
  • Stressed, sick & stupid

When you take a deep breath, your vagus nerve wakes up and activates your parasympathetic nervous system.

Below are some breathing exercising that can help:

  • 54321: Deep inhale with an audible exhale (quick shift) after five seconds
  • Alternate nostril breath for calm
  • 4-7-8 breath for clarity
  • Fire it up breath for energy

For optimal results and transformation, do each breath for one minute and three rounds. 

Partner Sponsors

Associate Sponsors

Contributing Sponsors

Scroll To Top