We spoke with several colleagues to gather input and have hosted a variety of team meetings, appreciation events, and team building retreats ourselves over the years. In this week’s post, we share some of the key elements that lead to a successful team retreat. Whether you’re planning your first one, or considering giving some new life to a tried and true method, take a look at these tips.
- Parking lot. While all ideas are welcome when you have open sessions, not all ideas merit being discussed at that very moment. Utilize the parking lot to stay on task and on time.
- An agenda. While it sounds obvious, many often leave retreats unscheduled, hoping the venue, or simply being out of the office is enough to produce a high functioning team. An agenda will also help your team know what to expect of the time together. Sharing the agenda ahead of time is also usually best (and of course fun surprises can be held back).
- Transparency in the numbers. Use the retreat as a way to celebrate your work, particularly if your nonprofit or foundation works in an issue area that is particularly difficult. Let the team know where they excelled but also fell short, and what the organization needs to do to remedy or reach goals. Organizations that hide finances from their employees allow for misunderstandings to turn into resentment. Communicate the most important numbers with everyone. This will allow all members of the team, not just front line staff, to serve as ambassadors for your mission.
- But highlight people. Reinvigorate your team with reminders that they are helping people. Try to incorporate a service recipient in the retreat, if appropriate. Tell a story that highlights not only the amazing work your team does, but also the amazing people on your team.
- Free time and/or social time. Some don’t socialize with coworkers. Others can’t imagine working somewhere without close collegial friends. Depending on what your organization’s norm is, consider building out time for ‘hallway conversations’, silliness and levity, and potentially bonding across departments to break silos. In any culture, getting to know your colleagues beyond typical work related discussions is helpful.
- Recognize and appreciate the team. Think of ways to thank your team for all of their hard work and dedication to your organization’s mission and work. Treat everyone to special experiences.
- Possibly family time. Depending on the culture of your organization, it might make sense to include your team’s family in all/part of the retreat. When deciding this, consider if the work often takes your employees away from their families and if they might appreciate your organization recognizing that and providing a venue to share that experience. Similarly, consider how often family members might be helping behind the scenes: stuffing envelopes, loading cars for an event, etc…
- One and not done. Don’t let this be an annual event and forget about it. Successful retreats carry themes and takeaways with them throughout the year. They build on each other and are both responsive to the previous year and set the tone for the coming year. Consider hosting quarterly mini retreats to carry on the learning, bonding, and overall organizational trajectory.
What have you seen or done that has worked really well? We’re eager to hear from both the attendees and those that plan retreats on their perspectives about what makes an amazing retreat. Email us or share your thoughts on twitter.
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