Corporate retreats, intended to be a needed break for your team, often end up inspiring dread instead. What’s a CEO to do about it?
Maybe it’s the word ‘retreat’ itself that is a problem. According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of the noun “retreat” is: “movement by soldiers away from an enemy because the enemy is winning or has won a battle.” Only secondary definitions refer to it as a place of privacy and safety.
No wonder employees tend to flinch at the thought of an off-site. It has become so off-putting that companies have spoofed the concept of corporate retreats in ads, such as this one by American Airlines.
But retreats can boost team collaboration, creativity, and be “a fabulous way for entrepreneurs to pop the bubble they may find themselves in,” says Beth Buelow, Founder of coaching company The Introvert Entrepreneur.
One of my companies does two annual retreats a year. And our latest one, this past December, showcased a few reasons why our staff (and I) look forward to them.
Let different people lead parts of the agenda
Our culture, like many built and staffed by Millennials, runs on collaborative leadership, a style of leadership that is “anti top-down.” Roles and responsibilities fluctuate and evolve, rather than stay stringently in place.
Retreats are an ideal situation to introduce or further a collaborative leadership style, allowing more junior level employees a chance to lead a whole section of the day.
Plus, I’m pretty sure no one wants to hear me talk for seven hours straight. So, as the Founder, I get a chance to watch the leadership styles of others and how colleagues respond.
Measure the impact
Many retreats end with the Monday-morning problem: When you return to the office, forget about the retreat, and carry on with business as usual, according to HR Advisor.
How do you know if your retreat even mattered? We now find this out immediately by taking an organisational checkup, as recommended in Gino Wickman’s Traction, right before the retreat and upon wrap up. I consider Traction the bible of business, whether you have five employees or 5,000.
The checkup is a quick 20-question assessment which any staff member can answer. I hope for increased scores after a day and a half of reviewing our goals, issues, mandates and so forth.
But the numbers objectively justify wishful perceptions. In our last retreat, the scores showed that our off-site increased our organisational checkup score by 14 per cent, a hard number that shows by merely outlining and discussing our business, we became a healthier company.
Also Read: How to make your company your family
Reflect on what you learned
A study by Harvard Business School recently found that the link between learning-by-thinking and greater performance is explained by a personal evaluation of one’s capabilities to organise and execute actions to obtain designated goals. Said differently, in the words of American philosopher John Dewey, “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Every retreat, we have a discussion about what we individually and collectively learned in the past six months. Everyone is asked to prepare the learned lessons beforehand, which makes for a double dose of reflection pre- and during retreat.
Plan for unplanned time
Google is now famous for its 20-per cent rule, which allows employees to use one fifth of their time freely. What Google knows, unsurprisingly for the company ranked best in the US to work at, is that free time boosts creativity. Employees know this as well.
A recent study found that 51 per cent of respondents think that it’s necessary to have free time to be creative. During our retreats, we purposely put ‘free time’ on the agenda. Not only is the unscripted time a relief from a rigid schedule, it also yields fresh thoughts and ideas that get shared later on.
Also Read: Planning a staff retreat? Read this first
Beck Bamberger founded BAM Communications in 2007 and has since founded three other businesses, Bite San Diego, Nosh Las Vegas and Pangea Pal. In 2011, she won an Emmy for on-camera hosting in a talk show format for her show, Next 500. She is currently a board member of Gen-Next, a marketing domain expert with CONNECT’s SDSI organization and a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
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