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May 21
The Staff Retreat: How Taking a Step Back Can Lead to Several Steps Forward

The following article appeared in MeetingsNet's May 19, 2015 enewsletter, MeetingsNet Today

staff retreat.jpg

The word retreat literally means “to withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.” There are many reasons why a staff team might hold a retreat; e.g., to avoid office chaos and distractions and address higher-level issues. But succumbing to power or defeat is not a prerequisite!

The typical work day is filled with interruptions involving urgent but unimportant matters. The pace is often frenetic; encounters with colleagues are frequent but brief. Discussions may focus on solving a problem but rarely address strategic issues that impact the business in a significant or meaningful way. Spending eight hours a day with the same people (more than with family) often results in frequent encounters without developing deep or trusting relationships.

Organizing an occasional staff retreat is an effective way to connect with team members, communicate important messages, and build morale.

Following are some additional benefits of holding a staff retreat:

  1. You get your team away from its day-to-day surroundings and into a safe harbor environment (neutral territory) to focus on key issues without interruptions.
  2. You take people away from their core responsibilities, temporarily, and expose them to the bigger picture. Helping the team understand the company’s or unit’s goals and objectives enables team members to understand how their day-to-day work contributes to the overall strategy.
  3. You celebrate recent team and organizational accomplishments, acknowledge defeats or setbacks, and learn from them.
  4. You set the tone for the future by communicating goals and expectations—and perhaps share your vision.
  5. You engage the team in brainstorming, environment scanning, or SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. These exercises can produce new insights that lead to innovation.
  6. You generate buy-in from the team because their opinions are sought and valued. Everyone has a voice. There is no hierarchy. If you’re on the team, you have an opinion and it needs to be heard.
  7. You get to know your colleagues on a personal level. The idea is to build relationships and ultimately trust.

Critics have said that not every team member wants or is able to contribute at the strategic level. That may be true. However, it is human nature to want to be in the loop, contribute, and add value.

I have proof! During a staff retreat in April, my team’s least-experienced members were rather quiet during the strategic conversations. Afterward, several thanked me for providing a higher-level view of the organization and confirmed that they had a better idea of how their work contributes to the organization’s success. They were appreciative of the opportunity to be included and feel more connected to the team.

The retreat took us out of the office for a full day and ended with cocktails and appetizers. It’s a small investment that reaps immeasurable returns. Much of the success that Financial & Insurance Conference Planners has achieved in the past 10 years is attributed to having a cohesive and aligned team that enjoys working together. It’s no secret that well-functioning teams are essential in the workplace, and they don’t function well by accident.

Is it time to schedule your staff retreat?

Executive Director, Financial & Insurance Conference Planners


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