4 Elements of a Successful Retreat
A retreat is a unique opportunity to get away from distractions and get staff together to focus on key issues for the organization. This time allows your team to think creatively through issues and initiatives, revisit the strategic plan, and examine other objectives for the coming year.
1. Prep Work: Get Buy-In from Your Team – Whether for a board or staff retreat, people tend to get the most out of a retreat when allowing enough time to plan and prepare thoughtfully. Invite your team to participate in the design of the retreat. Let them contribute to developing the retreat objectives and preparation. What information might you need to consider options for those objectives? The planning team might consider collecting and analyzing informal feedback, conducting confidential surveys, and/or interviews to inform the key issues you hope to address at the retreat. The planning and preparation process not only informs the retreat design, but also allows people to feel heard and invested in the retreat experience and outcomes.
2. Location: Change It Up – A retreat should feel like a different experience. Opt for an environment outside of the workplace, the day-to-day scenery, to help open minds and encourage new ways of thinking. The retreat agenda should be interactive and allow time for breaks and for the group to have fun together. Choose a place away from work distractions that will give people the ability to work in groups, move around, put flip charts on walls, etc.
3. Set Intentions & Expectations – Begin the retreat by checking in with the group about their expectations for the day and establish guiding agreements for discussions and conversations. People are giving a block of their valuable time to participate in a retreat, whether two hours or two days. Everyone who participates in the retreat should understand the purpose and have a chance to contribute their insights and hopes for the retreat experience in a safe, supportive environment.
4. Take Notes – During the retreat, be sure to document discussions and decisions to capture strategies or solutions that may have emerged. Any assignments or subsequent action steps should have a timeline established. Within two to four weeks following the retreat, check-in with the team to discuss their key takeaways, what resonated with them, and review any decisions and action plans coming out of the retreat.
Considering hiring a facilitator?
Tip: Find someone who will not just physically show up on the day of the retreat, but someone who will be an objective party and design the day in collaboration with you and your team (board and/or staff, depending on the retreat purpose) well in advance. Chemistry and experience are key to help distill conversations, resolve conflicts, and will let participants feel they are on equal footing.
At CNM, we love working with our clients to plan and facilitate retreats. If you would like to learn more, contact Gigi Nang at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help your team get the most out of their retreat experience!