In some ways yes and some ways no. The existence of the tables, rules, and members are pretty well known but what is said in the meeting is not. In order for a roundtable to be useful to the CEO it has to be kept confidential and that is one of the very few strict rules in the program. As the Program Administrator I can tell you that most of the comments made in the meetings are ones that I doubt any of the members would have issues saying out loud in a crowded room. However there are exceptions to this and that it is a critical part of the process. Confidential information is not disclosed in every meeting nor should it be. However when it happens the CEO has to feel confident that it will stay in the room. To be very clear with this the rule is everything is confidential unless the person disclosing the items specifically requests assistance in getting the information out.
There is and should be some mystery to these groups. We do not publish who is in what group, when they joined, or when they attend. When a new member is being considered for a group we disclose all the members of the group they are being proposed to and that person to everyone in the group. The challenge is that we want a room full of non-competitive peers and that non-competitive attribute is decided by each member. After a group is formed membership is entirely controlled by the group and getting admitted to a group requires 100% yes votes from the existing members before an invitation to join is extended.
New groups are different since there is no existing membership to vote on each member. What happens here is that the program administration provides all prospective members with a roster of all the other prospective members. Each member is given the opportunity to raise any concern they might have with any other prospective member. The program administration helps the groups resolve any conflict so the group can form. After that we hold a first meeting so everyone gets an opportunity to meet everyone else. If after that there are no objections from anyone the group is formed.
Once a month I write a newsletter that recaps of the topics discussed in each meeting but no details. There is no who said what and there never will be. There are no minutes or meeting notes past the general topic and attendance. This is not the way to run a meeting but it is the way to run a CEO Roundtable. People know what they know because they were in the room.
Once a month I write an article on one of the topics discussed in one of the tables and within that article could be things or perspectives that were expressed. What you will never find in one of those articles is a statement or opinion from one of the members unless they specifically wanted to be identified with the comment. The purpose of the blog is to give people an understanding of the types of topics that are discussed not to disclose any secrets.
The relationships that are built over time in the roundtables make the discussion very frank and honest. If you ever get a chance to see ten business leaders tear into an issue you will understand what this means. The value to the members is in the unvarnished opinions of people that they respect as peers and this is something that is nearly impossible for the typical CEO to get within their business. The challenge for a CEO is that they are surrounded by people they pay. They pay the wages of the employees that report to them and they pay the experts that they surround themselves with. This makes it very difficult to get an honest opinion not influenced by the agenda of that person. The CEO Roundtable is a rare opportunity to get input from peers in exchange for your opinion.
So are they secret – well yes and no.