February 27, 2022 by Dede Henley

10 Elements Of A Great Retreat And Why Your Team Needs One

retreat-4x6-sm.jpegPreviously published on Forbes

There’s no denying that we are in the midst of a collective, global ordeal. Things are changing and they are changing fast.

The Great Resignation has people asking if their job is the right fit for them. The model of work from home/work from anywhere seems like it is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Technology has and will continue to impact the very essence of the way everyone works. And the ongoing pandemic will continue to trigger more uncertainty and more unexpected starts and stops, both personally and organizationally.

With so much noise and commotion, it’s hard to think straight. 

The antidote? Step away from it. 

The Necessity of a Good Retreat – Even with Today’s Restrictions

Most thoughtful people need time and space to think clearly, to know what’s coming and what to focus on next. They need to slow down, even when it seems like that’s impossible. Even if it means setting up an environment that meets your company’s COVID safety policies and your team’s preferences for being in person or virtual. 

Especially during this current chaotic environment, one of the most powerful things leaders can do to recapture some of that needed clarity is to step away from it all and take their team on a retreat. Or maybe they need to take only themselves on a retreat. Whatever it takes, above all, they need to get out of the fracas and into clear air. 

Everyone can benefit from a fresh perspective and a larger purview. Teams need to build capacity to see the larger patterns at play and the overall impacts of choices and changes. 

Leaders can’t afford to be constantly swept up in the minute-by-minute movements of their jobs and tasks. It’s important to take the time to see the forest for the trees. In his Harvard Business Review article, “The Work of Leadership,” Ron Heifetz emphasizes, “The only way you can gain both a clearer view of reality and some perspective on the bigger picture is by distancing yourself from the fray.”

A great retreat also has the power to transform a company’s product and processes, if not the thinking that originally went into these products and processes. 

A retreat is also a retreat from day-to-day life and responsibilities—feeding the family, folding the clothes, walking the dog, opening the mail. Time away from all of that allows people to look and see more expansively—and maybe breathe a little deeper. 

10 Elements of a Great Team Retreat

For the best results, a team should plan to go on retreat together quarterly, if possible, but at least annually to move forward and progress together. 

Here’s a helpful checklist for planning a great retreat:

1.     Know why you are retreating.

2.     Be clear about who should be there and why. Make sure those attending know why they’re invited and what to expect.

3.     Design a retreat experience that embodies your vision and values.

4.     Sprinkle in plenty of restorative activities, like walks, writing, reflection and laughter. If part or all of your team is participating virtually, this is even more important.

5.     Create a physical environment that communicates the intention of the retreat, e.g., great food, music, comfortable chairs, connection to nature, etc. Again, getting creative can make all of this possible virtually as well.

6.     Be willing to let go of your big ideas about the retreat to allow what wants to arise. Be curious and excited about what emerges, knowing that with the right people, environment and intentions, miracles can happen. New perspectives can be found, big decisions can be made from clarity and higher ground, relationships can be deepened and, as a result, so will trust, hope and energy. Your people and company will all be better for it. 

7.     Follow your sensibilities, knowing when it’s time to lay a conversation down or pick one up. 

8.     Don’t create an agenda. That will be too much like your everyday meetings. Instead, set an intention about what you want to hear from the team at the end of the experience. 

9.     Do create a list of challenges you need to tackle, ideas you want to explore and fun, new sparks of projects or products. 

10.  End the retreat with some promises or actions, but only those that can truly be delivered. This matters. It makes people feel it was worth the extra time away from home and loved ones.

It may never seem like a good time to go on retreat. You may be waiting for this to be over or when we return to normal. Don’t. Your people need this time together now more than ever. The demands of the business will try to convince leaders that it just can’t be done. Retreat anyway. Get it right, and the team will emerge inspired, unified and energized to take on the next big challenges around the corner.


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