Top Five Mistakes When Planning Corporate Retreats
As a Retreat Facilitator, I am privileged to see the inner workings of many companies. As you might imagine, exactly what type of family a given company is becomes very apparent during a leadership retreat, and the planning for it.
Here are some of the most common errors I see:
- Not enough time. It’s challenging to step away from the office for a chunk of time, I get it, especially when the people stepping away are the most senior leaders you have. But if you can get away for a day and a half, you can get away for two days. No one has ever said to me at the end of a retreat that it was too long. Once people get rolling on the big issues, they see the impact that it has and want to keep going. Those last couple hours are where the gold is. You work hard to get to those hours: don’t cut them short.
- Too tightly scheduled. Related to the issue above, many people schedule retreats so tightly that you might as well have had them in the conference room in the office. One of the benefits of getting away from the office is that it provides a perspective, an altitude, which you don’t get when you’re in the day to day and sitting in the same conference room as the last upt-teen staff meetings. You know how it takes you three days to decompress when you go on vacation, and how you start to think differently after that? It’s the same for retreats, though of course not with the same objective. Giving people some breathing room and a more casual pace at least leading up to and after the retreat has people actually think differently and make different connections than they normally would. That’s the type of creativity you want to inspire: give people some entry and re-entry time.
- Not enough preparation. If you’ve hired an experienced retreat facilitator (good for you, you’re ahead of the game!) make sure that facilitator is fully up to speed on your team walking into the retreat. Allow them access to the participants prior to the retreat, and be sure to plan the agenda hand in hand with them. The best retreats are not cookie-cutter: they deal with your specific issues and personalities. An experienced retreat facilitator will ask lots of questions; this takes more than a one-hour planning meeting. Retreats take effort and coordination: be sure to maximize your work by getting the facilitator fully briefed.
- Planning the leadership retreat in the wrong order. The venue or the dates are actually not the first elements to plan. Start with your objective: what do you want to walk away with at the end of the retreat? Answering that question (perhaps with the assistance of an Executive COACH/FACILITATOR) will determine who should be there, when it needs to be, for how long, etc. Start with the biggest picture first and then fill in the details.
- Lack of follow up. The leadership retreat itself is like a pit stop. You’ve gotten your tires rotated and oil changed. Now it’s time to hit the road. The real work starts after the retreat to integrate the work and plans you created during the offsite. This is why our retreat facilitators give you a written report outlining what you decided and how you got there over the course of the retreat, so that you have a map. Use the map and have someone accountable to follow up with the team members about taking the actions they promised.
As with many elements of business, the planning and follow-through are what will make the difference. Contact our experienced team of facilitators for guidance on making the most out of your next retreat.