Trick or Retreat?

| by April Anthony

Last night our house was inundated with witches, princesses, and superheroes.  I’m not sure if our trick or treaters loved the selection of candy, or maybe it was the fact that our house is in the center of the neighborhood, but our doorbell rang again and again.  We asked all the kids to say “trick or treat” if they didn’t offer it up themselves.  So far, fingers crossed, no tricks have been played on us or our home.  I think we are all more interested in the treats.

Trick or Treat? – How do you feel when your organization schedules a staff retreat or the board suggests a board retreat.  Do you feel like you are being tricked or do you look forward to the time away as a treat? The definition of retreat is ‘a period of withdrawal for meditation and/or study’ and should be exactly that. A retreat is a getaway in which the members of a group take time to form bonds with one another, contemplate their purpose and motives, and work on one or more specific goals.  It’s a time to solve key issues or re-examine goals and objectives.

Retreats should feel like a treat.  Here’s my list to make sure they do:

  1. A retreat should not be held at the office (retreats may often involve an overnight stay and are best held at a hotel or retreat center).
  2. Choose a setting where staff or board members can take some time to enjoy nature, talk with one another, think about your organization, and have fun. 
  3. Set aside some unstructured time to allow members to think and relax.  
  4. A retreat should eliminate the outside distractions of your usual daily routines.
  5. Select the setting and topics to build enthusiasm, a sense of shared experience and bonding to help people better work together.
  6. Plan some ice breakers and offer great food.

As part of the retreat planning, ask participants what they would like to accomplish during the time away.  A group needs to buy in and will be successful only if the attendees are invested in the goals and outcomes.  Hiring a facilitator is an excellent way to help ensure every participant is heard, the retreat is kept on track and on time, and important points are clarified and retained.  A facilitator also allows leadership to participate, listen, and capture ideas.  In preparation ask each participant to answer the question, “This retreat will be a success for me if _________________,”.  Send these responses to your facilitator. 

Board retreats can be a great way for an organization to start the strategic planning process. They can also help organizations to re-energize and refocus.  Retreats can bring a group back on track after a rough patch or provide an opportunity for new board members to get to know the board and take part in future planning.  A board retreat can assist an organization in examining its vision and mission, establish roles and responsibilities, change the fundraising culture of the board, improve board-staff relations, and create the future direction of the organization.

Whatever your organization is facing, a retreat may be just what you need to make things better and reinforce things that are going well.  Armstrong McGuire retreats and other facilitated work sessions with clients are designed to engage leaders in thoughtful discussion regarding the organization’s current condition and to plan future direction.  Whether setting the strategic path for the organization or addressing a specific challenge or opportunity, Armstrong McGuire’s team of experienced facilitators helps ensure objectivity and fairness as staff and board members work through important issues.   

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