Management Information

Planning a Productive Retreat

What value is there in leadership or team-building retreats? Just consider the following.

  • An executive committee of an association, deliberating on strategic planning issues, identified "who we are" in terms of their membership. By focusing on the challenges and opportunities represented by certain membership segments, the committee created specific strategic initiatives for the upcoming year.
  • A 17 person CPA firm structured their most recent annual meeting to encourage greater teamwork by addressing the issues of 1) misinformation between management and staff and 2) lack of clarity around the firm's goals, direction, and image. The results included improved productivity, enhanced esprit-de-corps, and most important, the understanding by every person of his or her role in supporting the firm's strategic business objectives.
  • Encouraged by the informal setting of a retreat, a team, behind schedule on an important project, finally brought out into the open its concerns about the leader's way of handling disagreements. By examining the different methods of managing conflicts, the team came up with a process that would encourage divergent thinking and, at the same time, focus on how to make well-thought out decisions regarding the project.
  • Leadership or team-building retreats for an executive committee, a board of directors or a project team can provide substantial return on investment for an organization or business, especially during times of change. Here's how to plan a productive retreat that ensures meaningful interaction, as well as, lasting results.

    Create a special environment.
    Participants need to feel relaxed and comfortable. The informal atmosphere lets them be themselves and interact in a more natural way. Don't just think meeting room. Think meeting place. It can be a resort, a historic inn, a conference reality, any setting that allows for time out and getting away from the everyday routine.

    Determine success indicators.
    If a company doesn't have specific written objectives, it is wasting its money. In fact, Meeting Professionals International recently surveyed companies who had held retreats or off-site meetings within the past year. The survey found that more than half of these companies measured the results of the retreat against specific objectives to track their return on investment.

    Build in structure.
    The key to the structure of any retreat is a well thought -out agenda. Preparation before the meeting will enhance the 'buy-in' and eventual commitment to the results of the retreat.

    Provide an external influence.
    This person might be an expert in group facilitation, an expert in a particular area or technical specialty, or perhaps a futurist or strategic planner. This is not an area to skimp on. A professional can take your retreat from just another meeting to a winning endeavor.

    As the popularity of team-building and leadership retreats grows, businesses and organizations that take the time to plan their retreats properly will be way ahead of the game. As one participant of a recent retreat said, "We reached new heights in terms of where we're going, the kinds of goals and objectives we need, and the leadership direction we need to be headed in." That is the sign of a productive retreat.

    Marcia Zidle, the 'people smarts' coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ­ to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to and get the bonus report "61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers". Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ­ resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ­ fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.

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