March 1, 2016
The Power of Retreats
Let’s be honest, company and leader retreats have been given a bad rap. When “trust falls” and “team-building” exercises don’t translate into long-term behavior change; or, when painstaking strategic planning turns into yet another binder collecting dust on the shelf, leaders often roll their eyes at the suggestion of a retreat.
As leaders we want to know that our precious time and resources are going towards initiatives that significantly impact our success, and we also want the outcomes that a good retreat promises. Don’t all the experts tell us how important time away to work ON our business is? Even our own instincts tell us that when we step back to reflect, learn, appreciate and refocus that we’re all the better for it.
So how do we create useful, meaningful impact from retreats that actually translate to sustainable change when we get back to the office?
Here are a few ideas:
- No retreat should be one-size-fits-all. Choose a facilitator who will design a unique retreat based on your team dynamics and the current business opportunities and challenges you’re facing. Give participants a safe and simple way to voice concerns and desires as you plan. Your facilitator should find out from your team what a “great retreat” would produce and aim to deliver.
- Design clear outcomes and measures of success. Many meetings or retreats are designed to cover a list of topics people want to “cover” but that don’t create the results the retreat should yield. Without a clear map of outcomes, teams talk endlessly without focus and feel deflated by the lack of clear decisions or accomplishments by the end of the day. Without clear success metrics, it’s difficult for you to hold your facilitator to account for the outcomes you want.
- Go for it! Don’t settle for a retreat that doesn’t get you what you really want. Create outcomes that increase your effectiveness as a team and focus your business better. A good retreat can and should create more trust, appreciation, open communication and respect among leaders, and it should also strategically focus the business and give your team a practical roadmap for action.
- Spend the last 90 minutes of the retreat recapping important decisions you’ve made, assumptions you’ve dispelled, alignment you’ve created, relationship dynamics you’ve shifted and new strategies or tactics you want to implement. Document and create a specific action plan for the next four to six weeks. Define the progress you will have made as a team on your new initiatives and plan to regroup to account for your promises. Put that follow-up meeting in the calendar before you leave the retreat.
If designed and facilitated powerfully, by experts who understand team dynamics and business strategy, a leader or company retreat is an incredibly valuable investment. An effective retreat can even significantly shift the course and extent of success for you, your team and your business.