Have you ever planned a leadership retreat only to be met with cynicism about time away from the office and average results? The following take-away tools will ensure you get the maximum return for your investment.
Set Realistic Goals
- Keeping the agenda to a single focus allows participants to achieve tangible results while avoiding a mind-numbing “laundry list” agenda. Be specific about the desired outcome, such as Create a vision for a newly integrated group or Build a unified, cohesive leadership team.
- Interview people in advance to identify what challenges and issues will be of primary importance to address. Ask participants, “Three months from now, what changes in the organization will indicate to you that the retreat was worthwhile?”
Location, location, location
- Psychological distance from daily responsibilities is an essential element of an effective off-site retreat. After all, retreats offer the rare opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture. An environment that establishes distance from the rigidity of a conference room and the traditional conversations that occur in such settings will only help facilitate honesty and participation.
Set the stage
- A great way to lay the groundwork for a retreat is to assign an article or book for attendees to read in advance. New ideas can spark innovation, so encourage your colleagues to not only read the materials, but think about how the information can be applied to your business challenges.
Invite an expert facilitator
- You need to level the playing field and a neutral party can facilitate and provide skills training, both of which are vital to a successful retreat. Participants often wait to see what opinion their bosses have before voicing their own perspectives, which is counter-productive to the retreat’s purpose. A facilitator will establish guidelines about how everyone will be heard and how decisions will be made.
Create Sustained Accountability
- Accountability should be built into the overall design of the program. Many leadership teams fail to follow-through on the insightful plans they’ve crafted over the course of a retreat. Before the retreat is over, set a date for team members to report on their actions. Contact us for ideas on how to infuse accountability into your strategic planning process and also, take ideas from our book, “Winning With Accountability, The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”.
- Encourage meaningful dialogue to determine what level of support participants have before commitments are made. Are people enthusiastic? Lukewarm? Opposed? Polling for level of commitment enables the team to openly address concerns in ways that maximize real accountability after the retreat.
For more on this topic, read our book.