Today I was fortunate to participate in a day-long retreat for one of the volunteer organization boards on which I am privileged to sit. We were aided by two exemplary facilitators.

This experience motivated me think back to the many team retreats I helped plan and implement during my time as a leader at Georgetown Law. We strived to hold these retreats on an annual basis. Many were held on site. Many were held off-site at local facilities we had researched and visited in advance. When we went off site, we made sure to collect references from other organizations that had used the same facility for their retreats. A few were conducted out of town in times of robust financial health. Very few!

As I reflected on my retreat experiences, I thought about the reasons why good leaders plan and execute retreats with their teammates:

-Retreats are an excellent way to get team members involved in strategic planning
-They afford teammates an opportunity to highlight their own jobs and projects
-Retreats give teammates a chance to take a break from the daily routine
-They give leaders a chance to articulate medium-term and long-term priorities
-Retreats can strengthen professional and personal connections among team members
-They can encourage out-of-the box thinking among your team members
-A well-planned retreat can enhance team morale
-Team retreats can address broad culture issues within your team or department
-Retreats can help newer team members feel comfortable with their fit and help longer-serving team members overcome burnout
-Teammates will often speak more openly and honestly than they would in the office

Here are a few tips for planning an effective team retreat:

-Know ahead of time what you wish to accomplish and articulate your goals
-Spend considerable time choosing the venue
-Carefully plan the agenda and assign people specific roles
-Involve your teammates during that planning phase
-Decide how much time will be devoted to work issues vs. socialization
-Do not run the entire retreat yourself
-Rather, rely on your team members and let them shine
-Consider using an outside facilitator if you have the requisite budget
-Make sure you have all necessary office supplies lined up and ready to go
-Take care of all food and beverage needs well in advance
-As the leader, show up as positive and energized throughout the day because your teammates will feed off you
-Set ground rules at the outset of the retreat
-Share expectations with all participants
-Carefully document all decisions made during the retreat
-Make sure you plan how follow-up will be conducted after the retreat
-Publicize that follow-up to all relevant parties
-Collect feedback from all teammates about the effectiveness of the retreat
-Document that feedback and utilize it in planning future retreats

These are merely a few suggestions for your consideration. Team retreats can be wonderful opportunities for leaders and their teammates to come together in positive and productive ways. Like so many other team-building activities, they require attention to detail, excellent planning, careful execution and robust follow-up.

If you possess the resources and the time, retreats can even burnish your own leadership!

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