It seems nowadays; we operate in a time of constant change and transformation. Irrespective of the organisation, we seem to work blurred boundaries of work/life balances. It’s important for leaders to understand this challenge for themselves as well as their people and put in place a framework for navigating what comes our way.
So if there’s one occasion throughout the year that can set the tone, inspire and give real-world practical tools to use every day, enter stage left; it’s the Leadership Retreat.
I’ve had the great pleasure of running these for a number of years, and each time, the difference made to a team is exponential, often with valuable takeaways to be applied in the work life as well as personal.
A recent retreat that I ran was for a Financial Services company supporting Financial Planning and Accountancy Firms. The purpose of this retreat was to provide business leaders with an environment where they could share their struggles and opportunities and learn practical and executable actions they could implement with immediate impact on the culture within their operation.
I’m going to share with you here an overview of what a typical Leadership Retreat involves:
Firstly, we head to a remote yet comfortable location, we promise no powerpoints, and we promise a few mystery challenges along the way!
It can be really hard for leaders to get away from their business, and it takes people longer to get into the zone of the retreat. The magic number, it seems, is 3 days and it always proves to be an investment worth making. On day one, I generally find that people are still somewhat connected to reality. By day two, they really relax into the process, content and environment, which starts to enhance learning and relationships. By day three, it’s really a full experience.
Let’s break down the days. The order of which is really important as well. The three leadership habits we focus on are:
1. Establish Connections
2. Provide Clarity
3. Develop Capability
Day 1- Establish Connections & Provide Clarity
The focus for day one is to give participants the opportunity to get to know one another. This day also involves the introduction of a mystery box, which is a way to work in teams to solve problems and have meaningful shared experiences.
This day also includes a delve into the neuroscience of the brain. It’s done around the theme that as a leader, you are a curator of your environment. Understanding how we work and our threat responses and the impact of those is really critical to understand, particularly from a self-awareness and self-management perspective. As a leader, how you conduct yourself sets the tone for the working environment.
Day 2- Team Culture & Developing Capability
On day 2. we analyse team culture and then put in place actions that teams can put in place over time. When we talk about attracting and retaining people, those two things are absolutely fundamental.
In the afternoon of day 2, we do a high ropes course. It provides a real-life experience of how to cope with your threat responses and work as a team to encourage and support each other through a difficult environment. The activity is there to give participants the opportunity to apply the 4 Steps of Resilience learnt on Day 1.
Team building on the high ropes course.
On the whole, we received some excellent feedback from the last Retreat. In the words of the Regional Manager, Michael, “We have had amazing feedback from all participants. There was a general desire of don’t stop now, let’s continue on with this. They weren’t just theoretical concepts. People came out with real solutions for their businesses and even their lives in some cases. A hearty thank you from me for making it all work so flawlessly.”
Working together outside the office in a different setting can help reset the focus.