Advance, Don’t Retreat
Are you starting to think about a strategy, planning, or team “off-site” for your group in 2014? Good for you, but I beg of you—refrain from calling it a retreat.
Consider calling it an advance.
I prefer to think of off-site experiences as the polar opposite of an actual retreat, most often thought of as a “pulling away.”
I do not actually know when organizational groups started calling meetings in which they plan and think together a retreat, but I guess the roots are probably connected to the notion of retreating for time to think and renew/reflect mush as one would personally—like a spa day for the organization.
But today, in every organization, whether a board of directors, corporate executive team, or cross-functional leaders in any organization, there is huge benefit to giving people a chance to think and discuss deeply things that matter to them for the year (or more) ahead. This is antithetical to the notion of a private day for renewal alone, and encompasses the power of WE for organizations. Topics that often compel groups to set aside time together include such things as:
- What market forces will impact our business goals?
- What have we learned lately that has resonance to what we do tomorrow?
- Are we organized properly to do the heavy lifting required for our goals?
- Does our culture support the values that matter to us in order to mobilize people to their highest and best work?
- Do we get along, and what barriers may interfere with our cohesion?
- What must we execute and how will we know we have succeeded (lead and lag measures?)
- What is the competition or market doing and what are the implications?
- Where exactly is it we are headed?
What then are the ingredients necessary to ensure a good use of time in a team advance for your leadership group? There are several factors that make a difference, that might justify the real lost time cost of having your top talent away from day-to-day tasks to think together to advance your company’s work. We pay particular attention to:
- A carefully designed agenda with the right amount of varied activity and time for purposeful engagement (based on the desired outcomes)
- A great venue that doesn’t have to be 4-star, but has natural light, flexible seating arrangements, and creates a new space for new thinking to inspire individuals
- Healthy food and refreshment where the emphasis is on quality not gluttony
- Planned time for individuals to process what they think and believe in order to add value to the group’s interaction
- Skilled facilitation, without powerpoint, that facilitates conversations that matter
- Pre-work that makes efficient use of people’s time
- An articulated connection between the business objectives and the advance: why are we here and what will success look like when the meeting ends?
- A plan for carrying the learning meaningfully forward through visual, verbal, and other mediums for a longer shelf life
- Ground rules created by the group to enhance the spirit of open authentic dialogue
In a nutshell, I say think of it this way. According to Webster’s, a retreat is an act of pulling back or withdrawing. To advance means to move forward in a purposeful way.
Advance with your team in 2014, and make it worth every minute.