As a life-long Clevelander, I've never been shy about sharing my opinion about what I think the region's future should be. So the opportunity to network with my peers to discuss issues of interest was appealing.
At my first meeting in February, about 20 of us met with Dave Abbott, the new head of the George Gund Foundation to hear his views about Cleveland and the regional economy, as well as pick his brain without the restraints that accompany a public forum.
As a journalist, I frequently meet with business leaders one-on-one for in-depth conversations. I also regularly attend large-scale conferences and events with speakers who present their views to a captive -- and sometimes interactive -- audience.
But it is rare to be part of a conversation involving 20 or fewer people, engaging in a free-flowing roundtable-type exchange.
Abbott offered a short presentation. We then launched into a thoughtful and provocative 45-minute dialogue. About a dozen people joined in, each passionate about Cleveland and the region.
The questions and comments displayed a sense of commitment and concern about the area, and a desire to define and understand the roles each person could play in its future.
Nearly every executive I speak with networks with their peers in some way. Some enjoy networking events, such as cocktail receptions, lunches or after-hours programs. Others opt for country club memberships or groups of executives who get together and trade war stories about their businesses.
Then there are those who belong to social or professional associations, sit on nonprofit boards or get involved with their communities, churches, mosques or temples, and get their satisfaction from a sense of commitment, learning, giving and belonging.
The key is to find -- and join -- the right groups, rather than associate with every group that opens its doors to you. Your time is too precious to waste.