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Team-Building: Overnight Company Retreats That Rock, Part 1
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Team-Building: Overnight Company Retreats That Rock, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Overnight Company Retreats That Rock, Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Overnight Company Retreats That Rock, Part 1

When you’ve been to more than a few company retreats, you stop getting excited about them, not because they can’t be awesome, but because they can be miserable disappointments. Not getting excited is a defense against that disappointment, so when a retreat is actually terrific, it’s also a terrific surprise. How great would it be if, when you announce this year’s retreat, your team could once again get excited? An overnight retreat is a team-building opportunity that’s impossible in the office, and its dividends can pay off—in tangible and intangible ways—for months after. It just takes an open mind, an open ear, and some smart planning.

Listen to your old-timers.
Some of your long-time team members are so jaded that they’ll roll their eyes at even a private, corporate Rolling Stones performance. These are not the ones you want to plan for, although it’s not a bad idea to keep one or two of them in the loop, since their experience can remind you of possible pitfalls. Some of them, however, have merely seen just about everything. They can tell you where past retreats have been most disappointing from a rank-and-file perspective, and which have been most successful. This doesn’t mean you need to be locked into old ideas, but old ideas can be a great starting point in the conversation about what to include and what to leave out.

Take advantage of extended work time.
A multi-day retreat is probably not the best place for grunt work. Roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done tasks are better at the office. Aim instead for those challenges you keep setting aside for “someday when we have time.” Systemic speed-bumps are excellent targets here, as are brainstorming for operational problems, or preventative thinking that could have mitigated an unexpected crisis from the past year. Advise your leadership ahead of time to go in with a “say yes” attitude, since it’s too easy to give reasons new ideas can’t be put into motion. If they default to yes, more opportunities will be given a fair look, and participants won’t feel the game is rigged before they even get seated at the table.

We have all been part of brainstorming and planning sessions where great ideas are created, everyone gets excited, and nothing happens. Your jaded old-timers primarily got this way because of too many years of being beaten down this way. It’s true that some great planning simply cannot come to fruition when things are seen under the fluorescent lighting of the office the following Monday, but make it a point to commit to something meaningful and to put something in motion right there at the retreat. This might mean tabling some ideas that you know aren’t possible from the moment of conception, in favor of something less far-reaching or wide-angled that can actually be accomplished immediately, but if you communicate this intention from the beginning, you’ll have buy-in from even the old-timers. More importantly, you’ll earn some credibility toward next year’s retreat, and you’ll take giant steps toward cohesive teams—as we’ve said many times, nothing builds teams as well as collaborating on meaningful work.

Balance work and play.
Let everyone know ahead of time what the schedule will look like, so they can plan for free time, especially if you’re in a location with attractive off-site activities. Look out for those who don’t latch onto groups, and make sure they have a chance to join in on something, but of course give them the option to do their own thing. Unstructured free time is strange: everyone says they prefer it over planned activities, but when left to their own devices, many don’t really know how to use it.

The way to a team’s heart is through its stomach.
This cannot be highlighted brightly enough. There must be food, and there must be plenty of it, and it must be great. You want everyone on your team to feel taken care of, and nothing accomplishes this like a good meal. Similarly, have a responsible but generous plan for alcohol consumption. If there will be drink, make sure it’s excellent and make sure there’s plenty of it, and make sure a friendly colleague or two is ready to offer loving guidance if someone’s behavior gets a little out of hand. Because the whole retreat is a company activity, you can probably get away with serving no alcohol at all, but people enjoy drinking together, and they are grateful when someone else picks up the tab.

You can please all of the people some of the time.
Team members have different expectations and needs. Your rookie accountant and your twenty-five-year secretary will respond differently to the guest speaker or work session. It’s true that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but you can make sure that some aspect of the plan will work for each of them, even if it’s just meal time. Plan for that.


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Team-Building: Overnight Company Retreats That Rock, Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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