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Unleashed - How to Thrive as an Independent Professional

Oct 30, 2023

Show Notes:

In this episode of Unleashed, Will Bachman interviews Nancy Mackay, founder of MacKay CEO Forums (MC ACO), a peer advisory group that provides confidential peer support groups for CEOs and business owners across Canada. The group aims to populate the world with inspiring leaders by offering confidential peer support groups to hundreds of members. Nancy states that, in today’s challenging fast-paced business-world, and with a growing mental-health crisis, leaders need more peer support and trusted advisors. The Mackay community includes over 1200 CEOs, executives, and business owners from various industries across Canada, participating in over 114 person peer learning groups. Over 60 consultants have been trained and certified to offer peer learning support to members, and the leadership team is focused on supporting form Chairs who offer peer learning support. Nancy started her group over fifteen years ago and still Chairs the group. Her group has 14 CEOs from various industries, with revenue sizes ranging from 5 million to 5 billion plus. Most of the groups are for entrepreneurial, privately held individuals who want to grow their businesses. The meetings are confidential, non-competitive, and require six meetings a year for a day, and they hold a 2-day annual retreat. Each meeting features a one-hour speaker, followed by confidential updates where CEOs discuss their biggest issues, challenges, and opportunities related to business, family, and personal. They place issues they want help with on the table, and after the issues are discussed, the group encourages sharing experiences.

A Forum that Helps CEOs

One of the biggest objections to joining a peer group is the lack of time. However, the reality is that everyone can make time, and having a group of 14 CEOs with a growth mindset can save time and provide support for all issues, including business, family, and personal. All the forum Chairs at MacKay are modern, trusted advisors with extensive experience working with CEOs, executives, and business owners, playing a crucial role in Chairing meetings and retreats, creating a confidential space for CEOs and executives to be vulnerable and succeed in their careers without sacrificing their health and important personal and family relationships.


Nancy shares examples of how peer groups have helped individuals navigate their transitions, such as selling their business, scaling their business, finding talent, and recession and succession planning. 

Nancy highlights the importance of segmenting peer groups, with specific groups catering to different types of CEOs, CFOs, HR Rows, and cross-functional executives. These groups ensure that each member's background experience is taken into account, ensuring that everyone is a best fit for the group. The group also address personal and family issues, allowing members to discuss their challenges and successes without sacrificing their health or family relationships. Members can build lifelong friendships and support networks to help them navigate their careers and personal lives.

Three Tips to Being an Effective Chair of a Peer Learning Group

To be an effective Chair of a peer learning group, Nancy shares three key tips: not being the "star in the room", it should be all about the members. The second tip is to ensure that you create a space of vulnerability where members can share their experiences and mistakes, and remembering that no-one is the "smartest person in the room." The leadership philosophy is about judgment-free and sharing experiences, helping CEOs and executives become masterful at telling stories and being vulnerable; the third tip is to remember that being a Chair is focused on helping people and not just being nice. It’s more about challenging them and holding them accountable.

 In conclusion, peer learning support provides valuable advice and mindset shifts for CEOs and executives, helping them navigate their transitions, find talent, and build successful cultures. By taking a step back and focusing on the members, Chair members can create a supportive environment for their peers and achieve success in their respective fields.

Nancy explains who could apply to become a Chair with the organization. Chairs must have had their own independent consulting practice for at least three years and have over 18 years of experience working with CEOs, executives, and business owners from various industries. The most successful Chairs are partnering with the MacKay CEO Forums and signing up for their certification program to build world-class peer learning groups for CEOs and executives. The MacKay CEO Forums have launched over 100 groups and are constantly evolving and improving. The best fit Chairs have a proven roadmap to success on how to build these groups and achieve Chair mastery. The certification program is experiential learning, not a bootcamp approach, and includes one-on-one coaching, pure learning on a weekly basis, observation, co-Chairing, and they can move on to the Chair Mastery program. 

Nancy explains the benefits to joining the MacKay CEO Forums, which provides access to current, relevant, and high-level information through access to a peer group, an annual summit, conferences, content, and expand their business network. In summary, it provides connectivity across forums. Being part of the broader network of the MacKay CEO Forums provides a proven roadmap to success. Forum Chairs are highly rated speakers with MacKay CEO Forums, making it a lucrative opportunity for members to expand their business network and engage with people in the community. 

The Origin Story of MacKay CEO Forums

Nancy shares the story behind founding the company. She was invited to speak at a CEO peer group meeting in Vancouver. She was the first female speaker invited into the CEO group, and after her presentation, the Chair asked her if she’d like to become the forum Chair. This was at a time when they didn’t let women in. However, Nancy instigated the progression to allowing women into the forum. The organization has since grown to include multiple forums and an institution that supports successful consultants and business leaders.


MacKay CEO Forums is a beneficial corporation.  It takes a stand on diversity, equality, and inclusion. For the first five years, she ran the business together with her husband and business partner. She decided that the world needed more peer support and focused on building ten of these CEO groups across Canada. The goal is to populate the world with inspiring leaders, to find other like-minded consultants who have a passion for helping business leaders, and she wants to help them achieve success with their business. They are currently on the path to having 10,000 members across the world. 

The MacKay peer learning group for business leaders is primarily based in Canada. They have a Chair capability assessment that allows individuals to self-assess their suitability for the role. The forum is currently looking to partner with consultants based in BC, Alberta, and Ontario as its primary areas for growth over the next year.

Common Mistakes Consultants Make

Nancy shares the common errors consultants make and emphasizes the importance of sharing experiences and stories, rather than giving advice or telling people what to do. This creates a space for a different approach to influencing and creates more inspiration for people to take action. The forum's leadership philosophy includes the Mackay Mastery Model for Inspired Leadership, which focuses on inspiring oneself every day. Chairs are trained in time mastery, Eagle mastery, passion, mastering innovation, mastery, social contribution, mastery, and Health Mastery. To keep meetings on track, Chairs should use the right language when a conversation feels meandering or getting off track. They should start and end on time, respect people's time, and be intentional about how they spend their time. Time mastery and goal setting are part of the organization's culture, and members expect the Chair to use a timer during peer group meetings. For those interested in learning more about the forum, contact Nancy directly at Mackay CEO or visit their website. 


01:11 CEO peer support groups in Canada

04:48 Leadership, business growth, and personal development for CEOs and executives

11:12 Running effective peer learning groups for executives

17:51 Building and leading peer learning groups for CEOs

23:41 Starting and scaling a peer learning group for CEOs

29:32 Leadership philosophy and effective meetings





Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which has a mission of connecting independent management consultants with one another, creating opportunities for members to meet, build relationships, and share lessons learned. Learn more at