What gives this feedback its power however is the fact that when Brunel returns to present to the group at the next meeting, the only thing anyone will want to know is this: ‘What have you done about managing the sales team?’

“It’s healthy, it’s good,” he says. “You know you’re going to be held accountable.”

Accountability. That’s another word that crops up again and again in these discussions. Your peers are now policing your commitments to yourself and your company, and this breathes life into plans that would otherwise fade slowly into the background, to become nothing more than a vague source of guilt.

“There’s a lens now to review the plan,” says Fitzgerald, “which means it doesn’t stay stuck in a drawer gathering dust. It’s actually a living plan that is examined and to which you’re held accountable.”

“You have got to do what you say you’ll do,” says Smith, “and if you don’t have it done within a certain time then you get hauled over the coals.”

He says that the planning process sustained by the group has changed the way he thinks.

ONE-Thing Planning works backwards from a three year time horizon, enabling you to identify the actions you have to take to achieve your ultimate aim – with sufficient flexibility to adapt to the all of the things that life throws under the wheels. Smith is now feeding this approach down through the organisation.

“There’s focus and clarity. The operation in Poland is now fully up and running, I’ve moved people around the organisation, I’ve changed people’s roles recently because I have a structure in place.”

Sure, he says, these were things that would have to happen, plan or no plan, but the planning framework held together by the DeliberateCEO group places everything in that three year context. There are no tangents, no wasted effort. You do what you set out to do when you set out to do it. Everything is, well, deliberate.

“It’s funny, when I look at the plan now,” says Smith, “I go, oh great, I’ve done that, done that, done that and I’m moving in that particular direction…”

It would be wrong however to assume that the feedback is limited to simply making sure you’ve got your homework done. The self-development dynamic that runs through all of these meetings means that you are consistently challenged to live up your potential.

One of the most strident participants – O’Neill – puts it like this: “When somebody says ‘I want to be a business with revenues of 5 million’, we say ‘Well, why is it 5 million? Why isn’t it 50? Do you lack confidence in your own ability? If Richard Branson had your business today what would he be doing with it? Why shouldn’t you think like that?’”

In all of this, perhaps the most dramatic impact has been on Doyle. The process guided him slowly towards the unexpected realisation that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The group helped me decide that I wasn’t really suitable for this small business CEO role,” he says, adding that the longer he worked at it, the more he realised that he was failing. “That’s not fun for anybody. I mean there were small successes, but overall, the role wasn’t a success and doing the psychometric tests helped me realise that maybe this role would never be a success.”

That unpleasant though necessary epiphany lead Doyle out of the CEO’s seat. He’s currently transitioning to an operational role in another company. Grateful that the DeliberateCEO process helped short-circuit what would otherwise have been a long-drawn out, stress-ridden grind, the only criticism he can level at the group is the lack of coffee.

“Padraig likes his herbal teas, and that’s all well and good but at 8 o’clock in the morning, there should be coffee, and it should be strong coffee…There’s only so much peppermint tea you can take.”