How do I plan a leadership retreat?

Meeting room at the cove

You’ve been tasked with setting up the upcoming leadership or team building retreat.  Where do you start?!

Because so much of the value of the retreat comes from how you prepare for it, we offer here a basic primer on corporate retreats counting down to the event itself.  Of course, the timeline may vary based on your situation.

6 Months Out

  • Determine the purpose of the retreat.  This is the number one objective.  It seems simple, but most people don’t actually start here.  They start with a date and location, or maybe the attendees.  The real place to start is with the PURPOSE.  Determine what you want to leave the retreat with that’s different from what you went in with.  This will frame every part of the rest of the planning.  Have conversations about it until you can narrow down specific objectives.

5 Months Out

  • Determine who will attend in order to meet your objective.  Consider all options – maybe you want the leaders there, but maybe you also want some front line people as well.  Or maybe it’s only the front line people.  Who is actually needed in the room to reach your specific objective?  Don’t limit it based on title or budget, get the real answer.

4 Months Out

  • Hire a facilitator.  You’ll probably consider all kinds of reasons not to, but you’ll be missing a key element.
  • Work with facilitator to hone the agenda based on the key objective.  From there, determine the length of the retreat, who should attend, what other activities are needed, schedule, location, etc.  An experienced facilitator will be able to guide you through this process.
  • Based on those conversations, confirm all logistics for the event (location, invitations, travel, etc)

3 Months Out

  • Prep your team.  Have them start to gather whatever information they will need to bring to the event.  Let people know what you will expect of them: if they are making a presentation, need to bring information about their department, etc.

2 Months Out

  • Refine and confirm the logistics.
  • Send reminders to the team about the objective for the retreat: it will get them thinking about it and have them notice related issues in the coming months until then.

1 Month Out

  • Send reminders re: logistics to all attendees.  Remind them of anything they need to prepare or bring.  Encourage them to handle their responsibilities at work so that they can fully step away during the retreat time and not be handling their departments “at home” during the retreat.  Their job during that time will be to focus at the retreat itself, not split their focus with work at home.

At the Retreat

  • Be very clear about what the objective is about your time there and what metrics you intend to leave with.
  • Hand the leading over to the facilitator.
  • Be sure to schedule down time and social time, not only as a reward for people attending, but also to get the most focus and concentration out of them while they’re there.
  • Leave with specific follow up steps, including a timeframe for when you will convene to discuss when you have implemented as a result of the retreat.

After the Retreat

  • Have a specific way to keep the results of the retreat alive and present for people, including following up on promises made.
  • Reward those who attended the retreat.  Send a thank you, give a gift or time off to reward their contribution and acknowledge all they did to be able to step away for those days.
  • Plan your next retreat, as needed.  If things have been implemented that have altered the landscape, the next one may need different people at it, or a different objective, etc.

You’ve heard it said that those who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.  This is absolutely true in retreats: the better planning you have on the way in, the more assured you can be of getting the value out of it that you intend.

**In addition to the above, when Arden Coaching facilitates your retreat, we bring several key value-adds to this list.  For more details on these, or for assistance in planning your next retreat, contact us.



Arden Executive Coaching | How do I plan a leadership retreat?