18 Apr How to Plan a Company Retreat
You and Your Team
If you work in a company with others, this article is talking to you. Are you the boss? Are you the owner, a VP, a senior director or manager with other managers of people reporting to you? This is will be easiest for you. Perhaps you are an associate, not a formal leader of people? Maybe you drive projects but have no formal authority? Don’t turn that dial! No matter where you are, you can awaken, energize and inspire your team right where you are now. You may have to add to your list, but you too can help your team by planning a company retreat.
It needs to be pointed out that this isn’t only the responsibility of the boss. Sure, the boss is typically the person who would set a retreat up, but maybe they haven’t considered it. Your boss may have also become skeptical of the merits of taking time away from the usual cubes or work spaces. The manager on your team may not be aware that they can or should set up a team retreat. Whether they are unaware, fearful or skeptical you can initiate the idea and be the mastermind behind your team’s upcoming success. We’ll come back to this in a bit.
Take A Break
If your team has been “nose to the grindstone” for some time a chance to get away could re-energize them. A little time, even just an afternoon to decompress, to break bread together and to laugh will work wonders on an overworked team.
Pausing between peaks of activity is also a great time to give feedback and recognition. It is also a great time to GET feedback, where you can listen and hear how everyone feels. When you step away from the office, the dynamics change, defenses are lowered. Authentic conversation is able to happen and fears can be discussed openly.
It is human nature that everyone is mostly paying attention to their stuff. It is hard to alway be mindful of others. But when you get out of the normal roles, sit in a big circle and talk through stuff and (more importantly) listen to one another, everyone had the opportunity to look into the lives of others.
If you’re a manager, this is a great time to build rapport with your team. Not in the artificial sense, like a salesman playing off of whatever details you give them. A retreat can be a two-way forum where you can get vulnerable and make your team aware of your challenges. This will build trust and help them to partner with you, rather than resisting you as an authority. You will be seen more as a teammate and not as “the man.”
If your team has squabbles because of a lot of different personality types working together, which is probably true of most teams, a personality assessment might be helpful. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a cost-effective way to help your team understand how their colleagues are different. They will come away with better understand of their neighbors’ strengths. This perspective could will also you and others understand why they aren’t getting certain things from a teammate that may seem like common sense. Understanding that everyone is wired differently and the different strengths work well to balance and help the team achieve their common goals!
This chance to talk in a neutral environment may also unlock others. The less extroverted members of the team may not have had an opportunity to share what lights them up. To introverts, blaring their own thoughts when others are leading, or to interrupt the work to elaborate on themselves would be rude. In this forum, opportunities for them to share can be encouraged. You may find that this person may be able to achieve great results if they are given a little more freedom or responsibility in an area.
It is like a genie in a bottle. There, quietly waiting, in your team could be your successor that you can mentor just before you move up to the next level on the corporate ladder. They’ve been quietly executing, trying to make their boss look good. They don’t usually asking for attention on themselves. These people are not trying to take your place. You may be doing your future self and your company a disservice by not building these teammates up.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit to opening a dialogue is that you can learn about conflict of friction happening. Becoming aware of it is the first step. Then small adjustments or a little coaching the various stakeholders toward an agreement will make huge strides to a new, stronger team.
Design It for What Your Team Needs
Earlier the idea of “managing up” was suggested. This is a valuable technique if your supervisor is just not seeing the need. You can tell stories to your supervisor about benefits of retreats that you’ve observed. If they seem jaded, associating retreats with the stereotypical trust falls and wasted afternoons, you can make them aware of many different kinds of retreats and coaching. Maybe a workshop on Situational Leadership would overcome a big problem that has been developing. A fun outing like rock-climbing, glass-blowing or driving go-carts, paired with a generous amount of down-time can really get the team talking. Plant that idea and keep sharing articles, like this one, about the many ways retreats can improve a team.
If they’re not taking the hint, you can just explain why you think a retreat would be a good idea. You could even volunteer to help plan and execute the idea. Make sure they understand that they’ll get all the credit as the leader and the improvements will help make them look good.
If you are in a higher leadership position now, when are you planning your next opportunity to strengthen your team? Is it on the calendar? You may even have oversight of less-experienced managers. A small workshop for your junior managers can help them perform far better in their new role. A good manager empowers and develops their associates. A bad manager causes attrition. So if you don’t want to keep filling positions of people who are jumping ship, you may be able to turn them back into valuable players by training their managers.
One last idea if you want to make your team feel unified. You can always slap the company logo on them by getting cool t-shirts for them. Just make sure that it is tasteful. Have the more artistic, fashion-sensitive teammates help choose what they look like. You don’t want them to roll their eyes and throw it into their box of car wash rags. If you need help with that, don’t forget that Logos@Work can help you put together a great design to energize your team!