Posted on May 28, 2015 @ 12:36pm

Recently we were asked to answer a few questions about retreats for a magazine article.  We thought we'd share what we wrote for the article with you.

Why are corporate retreats important?
Corporate retreats are not only important, they are invaluable.   Great leadership teams are the foundation of great organizations.  And great leadership teams rarely happen organically -- rather they are the result of careful cultivation.  

Retreats are invaluable because they provide the space and time for colleagues to work both on their business and on their relationships -- which is difficult to do in the demanding day-to-day work environment. Imagine pulling together a basketball team of assorted players and asking them to produce great results without ever practicing.  Imagine telling them they must get better by only playing together during the games.  It seems absurd doesn’t it?  Well, that is what commonly happens with leadership teams.  We ask them to perform well together without ever setting up ground rules, or learning about each other strengths or establishing a collective strategy. 

Do you believe corporate retreats are especially important in today's business climate?
Today’s business climate is one of fast-paced change.  The business environment subtly encourages us to stay in the whitewater, to keep swimming frantically or risk falling behind.  It’s not easy to go against the tide of this “do it more and do it faster” mentality because we fear that if we stop, even for a moment, that others may pass us by.  It’s counter-intuitive but we at DillonMarcus believe that stopping can actually accelerate your results.  Your competitive advantage lies in your collective ability to envision a future and bring that future to life.  Your competitive advantage lies in the texture of the relationships between the individuals on your team.  Your competitive advantage lies in your ability to share your intellectual capital on-demand.  Retreats, if designed properly, can be an amazingly powerful strategic weapon. 

What are some things that can be incorporated into corporate retreats?
A great corporate retreat should have elements of visioning, business strategy, relationship-building and a shared experience where the team gets to practice working together.  If you’ve planned five hours of PowerPoint presentations topped off by a round of golf or a spa appointment – you’ve missed the boat.    

Here are some typical targets of a great corporate retreat:

  1. Clarity.   The purpose of the retreat is for people to become crystal clear the team’s purpose, their goals and strategies.  This basic understanding is an essential foundation for guiding future decisions. 

  2. Intimacy & Trust.  Retreats are a great place to cultivate increased intimacy and trust.  Teams who trust each other get more done and have more fun.  It’s a winning combination. 

  3. Inspiration.  The retreat should be a motivator.  Attendees should leave feeling pumped-up and excited to bring the future they described to life. 

  4. Learning.  In this rapidly changing business environment, there is always more to learn -- more to learn about the business, about ourselves and about collaborating with others.  Be sure to include learning segments in your agenda.    

  5. Fun & laughter.  It’s not frivolous, rather it is essential.  If laughter and fun moments are missing from your office or your retreat, we guarantee you are lacking in your ability to generate ideas and execute well.   Think of that humorless and uptight project team you were of part of.  Then think of the results that were produced.  Did you see a connection?   We believe that the entire retreat should be enjoyable – not just a pocket of fun here and there.  

Why are corporate retreats beneficial for both small and large companies?
We consult with very large and very small organizations and they all have one thing in common:  People.   People work in large organizations and people work in small organizations.  That is both the good news and the bad news.  Henry Ford once said, “Why is it that every time I hire a pair of hands, I get a whole person with them?”   The metrics are hard to refute related to engaged workforces.  They outperform their competition almost 2-1.  Retreats are a tool for revving-up and tuning-up the most important yet most overlooked component of your business – the people who make it run.   

How have corporate retreats changed over the years?
Retreats have become more purposeful and less extravagant.  Leaders are looking for a return on their investment -- they want to cultivate their collective talent and move their organizations forward in meaningful and purposeful ways.  Often times, the team building pieces have “give-back” social responsibility elements built in. 

How can you make your retreat stand out?
First, start by understanding your intended outcomes.  What do you want to accomplish?  What are you trying to create, to solve, to change or improve?   A great retreat starts with this clarity. 

Every so often, a CEO will say to us, “These retreats are of very little value to me personally” and we gently remind them that often times, “The retreat is not for you, it is for your team.”  If you as a CEO would find more value in meeting with a few on your team in a high level fashion, then we’d encourage you to do just that – but don’t make the mistake of sacrificing the retreat because you personally don’t get a great deal of value from it. 

How can you make your retreat memorable so employees take as much away from it as possible?
This answer is filled with such common sense that it is shocking how it is so not common practice:  YOU ASK THEM FOR THEIR OPINION.  The design of a retreat should take into account the needs and desires of those attending.  Asking the attendees in advance creates an early sense of involvement and excitement and eliminates the “Us vs. Them” attitude that can sometimes surface when the retreat was created “for them” and not “by them”.   And since we believe that “The Genius is in the Room” it makes absolute sense to tap into that genius when planning for your next retreat. 

We also remind meeting planners that retreats are an important piece in the ongoing and continual process of building greatness.   Imagine going to the gym once, having a great workout and then not keeping up your regimen of health.  Retreats, at their best, are part of an on-going strategy for greatness. We often recommend periodic follow-ups to keep the conversation and commitment alive over time.

Is there a memorable retreat you've been a part of?
There have been so many, from leadership lessons learned from Dog Sledding to the power & impact of giving and receiving Face-to-Face™ feedback.  One of our most requested retreats is called First™.  It is specifically designed for a newly formed leadership team.    Our backstage name for the retreat is “The Nancy Moshel Retreat” because she was the first leader we led it for.  Her retreat started at The Plaza Hotel in NYC.  We spent the first day answering a few very important and simple questions:

-          Who are we as a team? 

-          How will we agree to operate with each other?  (Our Code of Conduct) 

-          What is our value to our customers and colleagues?  

-          How do we express our value in a consistent way?    

The second day we traveled to the Whitney Museum where we had a private tour when the museum was closed and met with an artist whose work was on exhibit.  She talked to us about how she used her art to translate her ideas and her message into a tangible form.  The team realized that they were doing the same thing as she:  they were clarifying their message and wanting to translate it into a tangible form.  After that inspiring exchange, we went to the Museum’s Board Room where teams spent the afternoon turning their “purpose” into tile mosaics.  The retreat was dynamic, enlivening and right-on-point.  Nancy later told us that the retreat unleashed them. 

Fifteen years later, folks from that team still remember the retreat and the impact it had.  It was, and still is, gratifying to know that our retreat played a part in their success.






© 2012 DillonMarcus, Executive Retreats