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Team-Building: Leadership Retreats, Part 1: What Your Participants Want
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Team-Building: Leadership Retreats, Part 1: What Your Participants Want - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Leadership Retreats, Part 1: What Your Participants Want

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Leadership Retreats, Part 1: What Your Participants Want

A leadership retreat can be about a lot of things: long-term vision, short-term assessment, camaraderie, mission statements, and damage control among them. We’ve all been to retreats that were a lot of fun but not very productive, or retreats that were the opposite, either of which can be meaningful, depending on the purpose of that set-aside time. A retreat’s primary and secondary goals are up to you, of course, and how you plan the big-picture stuff is a topic for future conversations. As you address details in execution, however, don’t forget some of the things that will make the experience better for participants.

1. Food
Food is not everything, but it’s one of those major considerations your day is structured around. Nobody’s expecting a five-star experience at every meal; however, if your food is a disappointment, that’s what everyone will remember about the time they’ve spent. Give this detail thorough attention and leave as little to chance as possible. Your team will feel it’s being taken care of if it’s obvious that careful planning was performed in arranging the meals.

2. Sufficient Downtime
The temptation is always to get as much value out of your time as possible, especially if you’re paying someone to lead the meetings. No matter how great your speaker is, your participants are still human, and there are both long-term saturation levels and short-term attention thresholds to be mindful of. Don’t have your people sitting as audience members for longer than an hour at a time, and don’t go over ninety minutes if the activity is participatory. Schedule meaningful breaks, not just fifteen-minute bathroom runs, in order to keep things from getting old.

3. Give the Day Meaning
While many of your participants will be grateful just for the chance to get away from the office for a day or two, everyone feels better if they understand what their takeaway and contribution should be. Every participant should be able to explain what everyone’s there for, and when it’s all over everyone should be able to summarize what was accomplished. Turning purpose into meaning is one of the great, elusive skills among leaders, but those who spend the energy to provide it find participants’ eagerness easier and easier to come by. There are few compensations more rewarding to a team than the belief that what it does has real meaning.

4. Balance Structure with Spontaneity
Finding the sweet spot where structure and spontaneity complement each other can be a huge challenge, since it can vary from one team to another. One approach is to build into your plan the flexibility to move from one to another. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the group, you should be able to tell when a Nerf-dart battle is in order or when a well-defined, bulleted list of tasks should be attacked. This might mean dropping from the agenda your lowest priority, but the payoff in good feeling is usually worth it. Your participants want to feel they got something done, but they also want to experience some measure of unpredictability.

Take a moment to consider the desires of your team as you put your retreat together, and it almost doesn’t matter (to them) what the big-picture stuff is about. Your investment in seeing the experience from their point of view means that even if you don’t get everything you want out of this one, you’ll get another chance at success the next time, since what everyone really remembers about previous retreats is whether or not they enjoyed themselves.

 

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Team-Building: Leadership Retreats, Part 1: What Your Participants Want - Executive Leadership Articles

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