How to advance? Retreat!

These days, we’re busy—very busy—at the business of trying to get better, faster, more productive, more successful. We meet to discuss deliverables, and make plans for delivering more deliverables. We sit at desks—much of the time alone—and grind away at individual tasks that (hopefully) move the ball forward.

Much of the time, we’re so busy doing stuff that we don’t think about how well we’re doing it or even why we’re doing it—or why we should care about doing it).

And a lot of the time, deep in the task of crossing things off our own to do list, we neglect to see how what we are doing affects or is affected by our colleagues’ work, and how it connects to the overall organizational outcome.  

And then, sometimes, someone in a leadership role says—let’s have a retreat!

This suggestion can evoke a few responses:

“Goody—a retreat! A day off of work—I’ll just look like I’m listening but I’ll really just zone out. I don’t have to participate because whatever we talk about will be forgotten in a few days anyway.”

OR, more often:

“Ugh—a retreat. I don’t have time for this—my desk is piled high already and being away from it for even a day is going to set me even further back. And, whatever we talk about will be forgotten in a few days anyway.”

Last month I had the challenge and the pleasure of creating and facilitating two offsite retreats for a large local organization. I’m certain more than a few of the participants started the day with one of the aforementioned attitudes (one manager actually recited response #2 to me word for word!). But happily (for me and for the organization), we actually experienced two fun, collaborative and productive days.

Our work, in a nutshell:

  1. As a group, we tackled one of the most fundamental questions an organization can discuss: Why do we do what we do?
  2. Employees from the organization’s multiple divisions “collided,” learning about each other through DiSC type analysis, personal story sharing and just plain mixing and mingling.
  3. In small work groups, folks hammered out solutions and action plans to address shared organizational challenges.
  4. Retreat participants were open, direct, and non-defensive, which stimulated truth-telling and increased levels of trust—the foundation of any high-functioning team.
  5. Great amounts of coffee and chocolate were consumed (which is always good).

I’m certain there were individuals who returned to work relieved to be back at their desks. And yes, I’m sure some of the content we worked on will be forgotten—either right away or down the line. But I’m equally sure that the time this group took to retreat will pay off in multiple ways—in both the short and long run.

Retreat literally means pulling back. That said, I like to think of the notion of retreat as pulling over—taking a break from the urgency of daily operations to raise consciousness on important, bigger, deeper thoughts and questions, and share and interact face to face—ultimately, allowing teams to advance. So remember...

If you want to advance, retreat!

Reach out to me if you’d like to talk more about it!