“Uh, what?” I’d just finished what I thought was a TedTalk-level promotional report for a new client and there was something about the way he asked me the question that stopped me cold.
Now, for his company, the next step was going to be a series of small videos showing the fabulous tastiness of his restaurant. But it hit me: what’s next for me?
At some point in even the most focused career, we flounder. We shift around our options and mull the possibilities. And sometimes, we just sit there. Yeah, I’m raising my hand because I’m in that third group, where apparently my most decisive thought about my career’s future is, “Huh?”
This is where Chocolate Villa’s executive women retreats come in. The retreat really has nothing to do with chocolate – aside from the spectacular cake the villa’s chef makes. But it’s been a pivotal moment in countless careers. Merrilee Buchanan – the founder – has gently guided, coached, and sometimes prodded professional women into their next step with her consulting firm. With a dual background in organizational development and behavioral health, Merrilee brings years of experience and perspective to Villa Leadership to help companies open the next chapter to their success. Need more convincing? Merrilee’s coaching is so powerful that male business owners in regions like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt pay to have her come coach their female executives. If Merrilee can make CEO’s see the importance of women-focused coaching on that part of the globe, I’m guessing she’s terrifyingly effective.
Why a women’s only retreat? The short answer is, women think differently. There are pressures many men in the workforce don’t face. The way women communicate and support each other – when guided in the right atmosphere – changes who we are when the barriers are let down for a change.
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Tracy, a marketing executive for a global consultancy firm, says she still uses skills she learned at a Chocolate Villa retreat eight years ago. “It’s like core strength! There are times where you’re just going to be off-balance, like sitting on a yoga ball with your feet off the floor. But you have tools now that when you feel yourself getting off-balance, you know how to get yourself back up.”
“What’s my superpower?” Carol Storey is a licensed clinical social worker, “I came away from the retreat with the intention to leap from my current clinical work to opening my own business. My superpower was more confidence in myself. I have this. I can do this.”
“There’s this natural trust that happens,” Meagan, is a Villa consultant, “I have been able to become much more vulnerable, honest and real in these past ten years, working with Merrilee and developing these ideas and tools.”
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This is important: the retreat works, the attendees say, because they’re able to let down their guard and be honest with each other, sharing their hopes and fears, trying to find a balance when life is pulling them in every direction. Many of the women keep in touch with each other – years later – checking in on progress and sharing successes, encouraging each other when forward movement seems so hard.
“We see that a lot,” agreed Merrilee, “when you’ve come away from a retreat where you’ve really allowed yourself to be open – your heart and soul bared, almost – there’s a strong bond between you and these other women, these other executives who understand the pressures of the business world.”
Now that I’ve been to Chocolate Villa- four glorious days of an experience that was not only career-changing, but life-changing- I’ll have a lot to tell you next week. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Chocolate Villa retreat and some of Villa Leadership programs here and here.