Three Things You Must Determine Before Announcing Your Next Retreat

planninginprogressWe’re almost at the new year, which means it’s time to start thinking about your 2017 leadership retreat.

(music cue) Dun dun DUNNNNNNN.

Now I’m a social worker so I like getting messy. I love getting away from it all and facilitating those “elephant in the room” discussions.

But I know from my clients that retreat planning is often a low priority and has most people running in the other direction.

However, leadership off sites and retreats are a vitally important practice to support the long-term sustainability of your organization. Day-to-day, we’re so busy working in leadership that we rarely have time to work ON leadership.

Retreats allow you to step away from what’s screaming the loudest and reflect on what’s most important.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the retreat planning process, let’s get back to basics.

Before you call in a consultant, there are three areas where you need to get clarity.

1. Define your retreat’s purpose

To plan a successful retreat, you need to know more than how you want to spend the day. Get clear on what you actually want to accomplish.

What’s the primary goal of your retreat?

Will you be teaching something?

Do employees need to improve a specific skill?

Will you discuss, plan, and strategize together?

Do you have a problem you need to solve?

Is the focus predominantly on personal or professional development?

Do you need to work on your collaboration as a team?

Defining what you want to accomplish first will guide the rest of your retreat planning.

2. Get clear on logistics

Once you’ve defined the retreat’s overall purpose, let’s get down to details. Map out things like:

  • Who you are inviting:  Based on the retreat goals, who is the right audience for the retreat? What layers of leadership are we talking about? Senior executives? Directors? Managers? Supervisors? Team leads? Define the exact type of team members who will be included in this retreat.
  • How much time you will dedicate: Will your retreat be three hours, three days, or somewhere in between? Get clear on how much time you need to achieve the goals and how much time your team can actually devote to the purpose. You may find that you need to break the retreat up over time.
    • How many people you want at the retreat: The more people you have, the more complex it gets. If there are safety features (especially emotional safety,) it can get tricky with too many people. Additionally, if there are power dynamics within your organization, you have to consider that when selecting your size.
  • Where you will hold the event: It’s always nice to get out of the office if you can because it eliminates distractions and sends the message that the retreat is the priority of the day.  Environment matters. Would someone’s home, a retreat center, boardroom, or hotel be best?

3. Decide whether you need an internal or external facilitator

The upside of facilitating the retreat in-house is that you’re most familiar with and connected to what’s going on. But the downside is that you’re most familiar with and connected to what’s going on. It’s a double-edged sword!

Here are a few questions to help you decide whether to host internally or externally:

Do you have the capacity on your team to have someone step out and be the facilitator? Can someone wear that hat? Or can you take turns wearing that hat?

Are there good trainers on your team who could lead the retreat?

Does someone have the specialized knowledge to successfully train?

Can that team member stay calm and objective in emotionally-charged situations?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, hosting your retreat in-house may be a good choice.

If you answered “no,” ask yourself:

Do you need help getting clear on which objectives would produce the biggest result for your organization?

Are there strange power dynamics within your team?

Have you exhausted your problem-solving methodologies and capabilities but still feel stuck on an issue?

Do you need an expert to guide in-depth learning?

Is your main goal for the retreat team development? (It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.)

If so, using an external facilitator is likely the right fit for your retreat.

Leadership retreats are one small step for man…one giant leap for your organization.

I have a client who, as a new CEO, committed to developing her leaders by hosting a retreat for the first time in the organization’s history about three years ago.  The experience launched the organization through a powerful transformation.

Creating a culture of leadership, accountability and results became a part of the organization’s strategic plan. Activities included an update of the organization’s core values, revamping of the agency’s performance management system, and ongoing investing in management training — not only in a once-annual retreat but throughout the year.

Of course, with this kind of shift, some turnover is expected. In this case, my client turned over more than 50% of her C-Suite. This turnover was successful in building a stronger, more cohesive team that has freed up her time to set a powerful vision for the organization’s future.  

And it all started with one CEO’s decision to set aside time for a leadership retreat. Your retreat truly has the power to make an incredible difference in your ongoing success.

Do you plan retreats for your leadership team? What have you found to be most helpful? Where have you fallen short of your expectations?

The Painefree Group offers a variety of retreat facilitation services — from training to team development to problem-solving to strategic planning — in both on-site and off-site settings.

Schedule a complimentary Painefree Conversation to learn more about how we can help make your 2017 retreat a powerful transformation for your leadership team.

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Phone: 314.492.4404