Companies invest significant time and capital into planning and participating in Company Retreats, with the hope that breaking away from day-to-day operations will give fresh vision to solve difficult challenges, bring teams together, and move the business forward in a more advantageous way.
As a baseline, effective Company Retreats should always include:
A clear objective for the outcome of the retreat, shared in advance. All participants, not just the leaders, should have clarity on the purpose and expectations for the event.
This objective should then be shared with all participants in advance of the retreat so they can begin formulating ideas and develop the appropriate mindset to meet it.
All the right people. Key decision makers and stakeholders should all be in attendance. If an important player is not available for the event date, it is better to change the event date - it is that important.
To be effective, decisions will need to be made and the time will be wasted if that person (or persons) isn’t included in the conversation. This leads to frustration among the other attendees, which infects culture once everyone gets back to the regular operations.
A plan that is curated to the needs of all participants. If someone in the group has special dietary requirements (gluten-free, vegan, allergic to nuts, etc.) or has religious preferences (i.e., doesn’t eat pork or needs to have a prayer area) or isn’t able to participate in strenuous physical activity, then these needs should be accommodated.
Also, if any of your participants experience ADHD/ADD symptoms it is important to adjust the workflow cadence to allow their full participation. This can include creating quiet workspaces for ideation, setting timers to keep tasks within shorter timeframes, divide activities into ‘sprints’ to keep things moving in a more interesting way, and keep group activities highly organized.
Being accommodated means that person is seen. Their feelings and preferences matter. It will allow them to feel like they’re part of the group rather than on the outside looking in, and they are much more likely to contribute fully.
A balance of work, fun, relationship building and personal reflection. An over-packed agenda leaves little time for ideation and creative problem solving, both of which are long-term benefits that can result from a well-planned Retreat.
There is value in fun activities, personal quiet time, and 1:1 interactions between team members. When participants get to know one another on a deeper level, it fosters trust and cooperation in the work environment. People want to support people they know, like and trust. The Retreat is the perfect opportunity to develop those relationships.
A great location. The venue for your Retreat should feel special with comfortable accommodations and allow plenty of space for group discussions, personal contemplation and fun adventures.
But those are just the baseline requirements.
The #1 game-changer behind the most successful company retreats is the presence of an exceptional professional Facilitator.
If you’re not familiar, a Facilitator is specifically trained to lead solution-focused discussions, visualize conversations, and lead groups through critical thinking and problem-solving exercises that leads to a specific plan of action or desired result.
When you try to lead a Company Retreat with internal resources, you re-create the same team dynamics off-site as you experience in the day-to-day operations.
And nothing changes.
As CEO, do you want frank and open discussion where everyone feels free to speak and be heard? Because that’s the only way to drive real change.
Do you think your team is open and honest with you right now? Wonderful. A Facilitator will nurture that culture.
But if not, a Facilitator can help neutralize challenging dynamics and manage conversations in a controlled, safe, productive manner that builds trust and team cohesiveness.
Which directly leads to positive, long-term change and achievement of the primary objective.
As a Master-level, internationally trained Facilitator, what I have found to be most valuable to clients on retreat is my objectivity.
I’m not involved in the office politics, and I find that because I’m objective people find it easy to be open with me about their ideas and concerns. They will always tell me things they would never feel safe saying to their manager or company leadership.
Then I can bring these voices to the table in a safe, effective way to the benefit of the entire team.
And one thing I know for sure: The loudest voices in the room do not always have the best ideas.
Another misconception: People often confuse Facilitators with Consultants. These are not the same thing.
A Facilitator leads discussion toward a stated objective, with the belief that you have all the answers to your problems within your internal teams. You just need a better way to extract that information and get buy-in on the best ideas to move forward.
On the other hand, a Consultant comes to the table with recommended solutions.
At Pivot North Consulting, we offer both types of services. We have tremendous expertise in the Food, Beverage and Hospitality industry, and our clients trust us to provide advice and direction on a variety of topics related to strategy and innovation.
But when it comes to Company Retreat Facilitation, we are a neutral third party with a proven framework designed to guide teams to an established destination in a way they could never achieve on their own.
We ask great questions that lead teams to the answers they need most, now.
Our proprietary Facilitation Framework provides many benefits to teams on retreat:
Organized, smooth, results-oriented discussions;
Minimizes negative power dymanics and creates an equalized, interactive playing field to maximize participation and contribution;
Creates team buy-in of quality ideas, solutions and plans to move forward;
Diverge, then converge. We leverage the power of working together, separately, to build trust and openness in the process;
Allows every voice to be heard, even the most typically quiet ones, in a way that feels organic and supportive;
Keeps the energy flowing - our work sessions are FUN (and effective) because we love what we do!
Allows leaders and participants to focus on each other, strategy, and meaningful conversations rather than worrying about breaks, food, agendas and administrative tasks related to bringing groups together.
A daily recap of the sessions, with a detailed, written plan-of-action to exit the retreat.
Sometimes, we are called upon to act as a referee or help resolve conflict. We are prepared for this and our solutions are extremely effective in dialing down the heat to find common ground and bring people together.
Bottom line: Before you invest time and capital in venue, catering, travel and activities for your Company Retreat, schedule a professional Facilitator to make sure this investment is returned both financially and in the accomplishments your team will achieve as a result. It is the game-changer behind successful Company and Leadership Retreats.
👉 If you are planning a Company or Leadership Retreat, we have created a Company Retreat Planning Checklist. Click here to download your free copy.
👉 We also offer a special All-Inclusive Company Retreat Package that includes a Master-level Facilitator, Venue, Catering, Travel and Activities Planning for your team.
👉 Have you found this article helpful? Please let us know in the comments.
Author: Gail Kurpgeweit
Gail Kurpgeweit, CEO of Pivot North Consulting,
is a Master Level Facilitator and
Strategy and Innovation Consultant to the
Food, Beverage and Hospitality Industry