For many organizations, the late summer and early fall months are prime retreat seasons. I love leading retreats because so much growth can happen in a very short time. I’m excited to share some findings on the immense benefits of these events and why organizations need them now more than ever.
Retreats are designed to target the needs and goals of an organization or a department, so each is unique, but their overall results are often the same: strengthening the team and implementing strategies to carry over into the future. Below are four ways all organizations can benefit from hosting and participating in a professional retreat.
Often, organizational departments don’t collaborate as often as they would like, and can work in “silos.” And in some cases, there are divides between talent within the same work unit. These gaps can slow effectiveness and create miscommunication and isolation. Talent may feel less connected and that their work is not as highly valued.
Retreats are an excellent opportunity to unite teams, bolster communication, and, yes, have fun together! With space and time to talk and laugh together, engage in collaborative activities, and brainstorm new ideas, talent interacts in new and exciting ways. This creates strengthened bonds that naturally carry over to the everyday workplace.
Reduce Stress and Boost Morale
While work can be rewarding, it can also be stressful, particularly if the culture is fast-paced or high-pressure. If done well, in the non-work context of retreats, talent feels seen and heard, which reaffirms their sense of belonging and appreciation. Similarly, they have the chance to engage in a low-stakes environment which encourages relaxation and feelings of gratitude.
Identify Unseen Strengths and Challenges
I regularly notice that retreats bring out a new side of team members. Depending on the activity or discussion, talent may express or demonstrate a skill set or quality that their leaders or colleagues were unaware of. Sometimes this may be a strength that is greatly needed such as inspiring a group of their peers, or creatively conceptualizing ideas.
On the flip side, a retreat can also reveal dislikes or discreet preferences. For example, a staff member may reveal they feel uncomfortable with certain learning styles or language, and learning this can encourage colleagues and leaders to implement crucial changes.
As I touched upon, retreats provide new ways for talent to interact. They are given the opportunity to listen and speak to each other on a personal level that encourages healthy vulnerability. I encourage staff to share about themselves, which is freeing if the setting feels safe. In a workplace, we can get stuck in a routine of surface-level interactions. Retreats provide talent with the space to share what’s on their minds and sometimes in their hearts. These honest and deeper discussions can lead to increased trust, which is the foundation for a collaborative, creative, and productive environment. As talent grows more comfortable sharing and communicating with each other, they are able to resolve challenges and conflicts faster and more effectively when they arise.
Planning a Successful Retreat
As with most endeavors, planning is the foundation of a successful retreat. Leaders need to take the time to concretely define what they’d like to accomplish in the near and more distant future. This will help shape an understanding of the type of activities and discussions they’d like to focus on in a retreat.
It is also important for leaders to ask team members for their opinions. Consider forming a short-term task force where interested talent can be involved in the planning. A successful organization empowers its talent to contribute in new ways. It is also reflective of its talents’ strengths, values, and aspirations. Allowing talent to express what they’d like to learn and experience creates a more directed and successful retreat.
Continuing the Success
If you had a successful retreat, you may be wondering: What’s next? After the day or weekend is over there is still much to be learned. Circulate feedback forms to best understand the team’s takeaways, i.e.what they enjoyed and learned from the retreat, and suggestions for improving the next one. In a follow-up meeting, share the results and ask for comments/reflections.
Retreats at their best are not a one-and-done experience, but rather a part of an organization’s ongoing growth.
Please contact me to help visualize and design your next retreat, I’d love to work with you!