What Happens When Leaders Get Away, Slow Down, and Listen

It’s hard to hear when you move too fast.

Intentionally slowing down can bring clarity, peace, and connection.

Earlier this fall, I had the privilege of leading a group of over 20 business leaders, entrepreneurs, and pastors at a Refuge property in Wyoming. Some time to reflect on the trip has shed light on the power of community, conversation, and vulnerability in entrepreneurship and life.

Slow Down and Listen

Refuge carries out their mission of “keeping the best leaders in the game for the whole game” by creating shared experiences. Those shared experiences then create trust, which creates vulnerability. Vulnerability for leaders creates transformation. Why? Because leaders, entrepreneurs, and pastors are often lonely, isolated, and lacking in vulnerability and accountability. So every year, I lead a group to get away, rest, and connect.

The only requirement while there? Be at the dinner table at 7 pm.

No other needs. Leaders and entrepreneurs are needed all the time back home. But on a Refuge property, they’re explicitly told, “This week, you’re not needed.” Don’t clear the table. Don’t wash the dishes. Don’t clean the bathroom. No one needs anything from you.

Except for one thing.

Collectively, we need you to figure out what you need.

We all live busy lives and in the busyness of life, it’s easy to miss things–even things as seemingly simple as what we need. The intentionally slow pace of a week at a Refuge property combats this. When we slow down, we’re more likely to notice and hear things that were always there but we were moving too quickly to recognize their significance.

While hiking one day, I held back while my group hiked on. After my pause, I thought, “I should pick up my pace to catch up with them.” But then a still, small voice stopped me.

“The slower you go, the more you’ll hear.”

And I started noticing small things. Like a chipmunk scurrying around for food. And a brook running along my left. And feelings in myself that I hadn’t known were there.

Four Nights. Four Transforming Conversations.

When an entire group has similar experiences, the dinner table then becomes a place to process, share, and (re)learn the power of vulnerability. On night 1, we established how the entrepreneurs and leaders were not needed this week.

On night 2, we talked about what it means to carry one another’s burdens and how that blesses both the one lighting a load from another and the one experiencing someone lifting their load. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When burdens are lifted, it creates trust between the two parties. And trust creates transparency which encourages more transparency. Because when someone else shares that they’ve felt overwhelmed at work and come home and lash out in anger at their kids, even though they love their kids more than anything and they don’t know how to disrupt that cycle, you’re far more likely to admit the same if you experience that, too.

On night 3, we discussed what we’re noticing–in us, around us, mentally, spiritually, etc. It typically takes three or four days out of the hustle and bustle of daily life back home before we become more attuned to the quieter things of a slower pace. 

Here are a few things our group noticed:

  • Lack of phone distractions. Lack of anxiety about responsibilities. Lack of social media. Lack of duties. 
  • More tranquility. More silence. More slowness. More patience. More willingness to be honest.


In all of life, conditions can change quickly. The weather on Day 3 was a great example of this. We split into two groups to go on different hikes. When we left the cabin, it was 64 and sunny. The group I was in made it to our halfway point when the clouds rolled in, and sprinkles turned to rain which intensified to whipping sleet. The other group hiked up to 11,000 feet elevation and on their way back down, trudged through a new 3-inch layer of snow. We knew the weather would change so everyone was prepared, but the conditions still mattered. At the end of the day, we must be nimble and flexible when we notice conditions changing while still being prepared with a strategy and resources.

If we walk through life refusing to recognize how conditions change and how we’re responding to those changes, we’ll likely run through cycles of frustration, bitterness, and isolation. But if we embrace that conditions will change and vulnerably face how we’re adapting (or not) and how we’re feeling in those changes, we’re likely to nurture honest connections with others and mature transformation in our own hearts.

On night 4, we talked about what area of life (physical health, spiritual health, relationships, or work) we’re most likely to be taken down in. For some, they recognized if they don’t start exercising more regularly, their hearts may literally bring them down one day. For others, they saw that without more intentionally getting alone with God, their spiritual health will decline. Someone else recognized a need to more intentionally build into his relationship with his wife for the health of their marriage and family.

Bringing New Perspectives and “The Table” Back Home

Throughout the week, the filter through which everything flowed was love. The conversations, the activities, the meals shared, and the lack of structured time were all filtered through how to love God, love each other, and go back with renewed love for our families and communities. Taking the filter of love back home is difficult but necessary work. 

After a week without cellphone service, how can I filter my relationship with my phone through the lens of love? When you’re with people, probably put it away and give them full attention. How can I filter my work through love? For starters, by caring for my team well and treating my clients with respect.

Where was the filter of love most evident during our week out west? At the dinner table. The table was the gathering place where we shared a meal and then shared what was happening in our hearts, minds, and souls. It’s where relationships were deepened and personal transformation took place.

How do you take the “the table” back home?

By gathering the people closest to you, sharing meals, and building trust until transforming vulnerability starts to multiply. If you’ve ever been on a retreat, you’ve probably experienced the mountaintop high. We strive to recreate the feeling we had on the mountaintop. But it’s less about recreating the feeling and more about recreating the conditions.

Bring “the table” home by recreating the conditions: Share meals. Slow down. And share what you notice in those slow moments.

Entrepreneurs and leaders need rest and honest accountability. 

Their families, friends, teams, businesses, and congregations need them full, rested, and whole.

So get away and slow down. 

Plan it today. 

Your heart, mind, soul, mind, body, family, business, and community will all thank you for it.

Need a trip to rest and reset like this in the future? Let us know and we’ll keep you updated about upcoming retreats.

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