Well-planned offsite leadership retreats offer a wonderful opportunity for senior team members to step away from their everyday routines to spend focused time on strategic planning and important topics, while perhaps most importantly, recharging and recommitting to shared goals.
When done right, they can be impactful events that create a stronger leadership team with a ripple effect that energizes the entire company. On the flip side, a poorly executed retreat can leave everyone frustrated.
Great retreats require thoughtful planning, a bit of creativity, a spirit of collaboration, and an openness to fun.
Here are seven of our top tips for a successful leadership retreat:
1. Venue matters. Choose your host location wisely. Whether you’re sticking close to home or traveling to a destination, pick a venue that offers first-class meeting space, with comfortable furniture, top-notch technology, and plenty of natural light. Select a place that will inspire your team. Evaluate the local surroundings for social and experiential opportunities. Some of your best team building and idea generation will happen outside the meeting room.
2. Develop an agenda. Determine your goals for the retreat and then design your agenda to meet them. Be cautious not to cram too much into each day. Steer away from presentations. Instead, focus on opportunities for collaboration and discussion. Schedule regular breaks and build in time for attendees to catch up on emails and calls. Be flexible, but also be disciplined to know when a topic is going in circles. A solid agenda keeps everyone on track.
3. Set Ground rules. Begin with agreement on meeting norms. Some of our favorites: No phones or emails during meeting time. Confidentiality ¬— what’s said in the room stays in the room. No cross-talk — one person has the floor at a time. Active participation — everyone’s input is valued. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Be curious — ask questions. Use the parking lot to keep the discussion on track. Whatever your rules, articulate them at the start and get each team member’s buy-in.
4. Share the floor. Every organization includes individuals who love to take center stage and others who prefer to stay behind-the-scenes. For a successful retreat, it’s important to give everyone a chance to participate. This might mean gently quieting the loudest voices and allowing your introverts to engage. As a leader, it’s your job to be aware of the room.
5. Make it personal. Recognize the humanity of every person in the room. Learn what’s happening in their lives outside of work. Celebrate personal accomplishments and provide a safe space for sharing life’s challenges.
6. Work all the muscles. Make space for physical activity, such as morning yoga or hikes, to energize the team before a day of meetings. Likewise, step away from strategic discussions and spend an afternoon learning or experiencing something new — a cooking class with a local chef, a gallery crawl with a celebrated artist or an afternoon with the town historian. Time outside of the meeting room will make everyone more productive during the work sessions.
7. Bookend your time together. Plan your retreat with a clear and impactful start and finish — an opening that creates an atmosphere of trust and connection and a close that acknowledges the work accomplished and includes clear action items to keep the positive momentum.
The best leadership retreats leave participants more focused, connected, motivated and inspired. That spirit gets transferred to the entire company, creating a more fertile ground for growth.
Need help making your next executive retreat transformative? Our team is ready to help.
Retreat inspiration: Explore a sample Stone Cottage itinerary.