Management retreats are tremendous
opportunities to review, assess, align and
move your team forward. Get the most out of
your next retreat through effective planning
These ten keys can help
you unlock the amazing power of your
Select your site
Your management retreat can be held
on-site (at your place of work), or
off-site (at a home, hotel or conference
venue). Each has its advantages:
On-site events keep costs low and
familiar business facilities close at
Off-site events reduce distraction and
can promote a ‘big picture’ perspective.
Be careful not to mismatch your event
theme and conference facility. If your
theme is ‘nose to the grindstone’, don’t
hold your retreat at Disneyland. If your
theme is ‘stepping back to view the
horizon’, don’t hold your retreat in a
busy downtown conference center.
sequence with care.
The timing of your entire agenda is key
to your success. Decide early whether
you want a high-intensity working event,
a laid-back and relaxing retreat or a
balanced program combining both styles.
If you intend to combine work and play,
carefully consider which should be
‘Work first, play later’ gives
participants something to look forward
to, and a reason to get through business
‘Play first, work later’ sets a tone of
enjoyment for the program and puts work
issues closer to your return to the
‘Work, play, work’ lets you get started
on business issues, take a break and
then come back to complete your work
after gaining some recreational
Let people know what your objectives are
for the retreat and the sequence of the
program they will attend.
Give everyone an opportunity to prepare
for full and constructive participation.
If they need to bring information, give
a presentation, participate in a panel
or work on a team, let them know well in
Use breaks to your
Use meals and coffee-breaks to make
progress in your program. Arrange
seating at meals to foster
communication. Turn some coffee breaks
into ‘working breaks’ with refreshments
inside the conference room.
Select food very carefully. Avoid fried
foods and heavy gravies – both put
participants to sleep!
Start lunches with salad, not soup.
Salad can be served in an instant or be
on the table when your participants
arrive. Soup takes time to come hot from
the kitchen, gets cold quickly and can
set your entire agenda back by 10–20
minutes if it is not ready on time.
If you plan to serve alcohol during
dinner, let the evening events be pure
fun. Alcohol and focused attention don’t
mix well together.
Create a perspective not usually seen at
the office. Bring in examples from
outside your industry to highlight key
points. Engage external speakers to
share cross-industry knowledge and
as your guests.
Bring in customers for specific portions
of your retreat. Golf games are
traditional, but customer panels and
discussion groups can also yield
as your guests.
Strengthening your partnership with
suppliers makes good business sense.
Suppliers can add unique value to your
management retreat by sharing their
perspective and competitive industry
post-retreat actions and agreements.
Put decisions and new action plans in
writing. Send copies to retreat
participants with an encouraging or
congratulatory note from the top.
Gather input and
After the event, or before everyone
departs, gather their ideas for further
improvement. Ask what participants want
more of, and less of, at your next
Use an outside
It can be useful to engage a
professional facilitator to help with
your retreat. Outside talent can bring
years of experience to help design your
event. A competent external facilitator
can also serve as a ‘neutral party’,
making sure that everyone speaks and is
If you do engage an outside facilitator,
don’t let him or her get caught
uninformed! Be sure to provide detailed
information about your business – and
about the personalities attending your
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