According to the dictionary, a retreat is a place of privacy or safety. What they don’t tell you is just how effective retreats can be in helping to advance your business. They are an important part of bringing together key people in your company, at a well-planned destination, so that you can build camaraderie, enhance leadership, and give your team the extra push that they may be need.
I am about to embark on my annual retreat. In doing so, I am heading out with my board of directors for three days, in order to enjoy bonding and building the business. Every year, I come back with fresh perspectives and new insights, totally reinvigorated. An annual business retreat works great for me, and it might for you, as well.
Here are some tips on how to pull off the ideal business retreat:
- Hold your business retreat at least one hour away from the office. The last thing you want is it to be interrupted with excuses about needing to “take a break,” and use it to head into the office for 15 minutes. The idea of a retreat is to leave the office behind.
- To get the most bang for your buck on a business retreat, you really need to make it an overnight event. This helps keep everyone from staring at their watch all day, assuming that when 5 p.m. hits, they get to jet. Overnight retreats let people relax and not rush the experience.
- Aim to have all your meals together as a group. This will be a great time for bonding and personal insights to occur. And when people feel more connected and more trusting of each other, they will work together way better.
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- Undertake an activity or two. The retreat should not be about simply taking a break. Rather, it is about doing something where you have fun together. Where you laugh together and challenge each other. The whole idea is that, at the end of the event, you have something to talk about. You have built an experience together – a story you can share. And this means more bonding (and we just talked about the power of that, in the above point).
- Take some small toys along on the retreat – the kind that can be pulled out when you are having brainstorming sessions. You would be amazed at how well small toys, squeeze balls, and Etch-a-Sketches can help to get the creative juices flowing.
- Before you even head out to the retreat, have an agenda that everyone agrees to, in advance. Make sure you get everyone’s input on the agenda. Being able to help put their insight into the agenda will make them that much more interested in participating in the entire experience.
- Wrap up your business retreat with compliments. Have everyone sit around a conference table and, one by one, compliment each person on something specific from the retreat.
Once you get back to the office, let a week or so pass, so that any initial grievances have a chance to air out. Then follow up to see if there is anything anyone feels should be done differently next year. Whether or not your first retreat goes well, you should plan on doing it annually.
If you find that there are things that should be done differently, make a note of them for when it comes time to plan next year’s retreat. There will probably be a few kinks to work out, at first, as you are learning the ins and outs of holding a business retreat. But do it long enough and it will be on autopilot. And you will likely notice that your company sees a powerful impact from taking this retreat together.