Team Effectiveness

5 Ways to Use a Retreat to Improve Teams

arcade shot Photo by Sean Thomas on Unsplash

Optimize your next team retreat by planning for results

Whether they are intact or remote, ineffective and inefficient teams are a common malady of companies today. A successful team commits to a common vision, comes together to solve problems, and agrees to hold one another accountable to results. But not all teams are able to do so without some guidance.

Team retreats are a creative and productive way to build more effective teams or begin the process of onboarding a new leader to set the team up for success. Retreats can build stronger connections, strengthen the team’s communication, and unite team members around a common vision.

If done well, a retreat can promote an environment of trust and build team members’ skills so that they can openly address strengths, challenges, and ways to work together better.

Here are five ways to make sure your team retreat is a win for each team member and the organization:

  1. Gain buy-in from senior leaders: Before even getting started, ensure senior leadership is on board and demonstrates buy-in. Results won’t last if the team returns to the office primed for change and encounters the same silos or roadblocks.
  1. Set the stage for openness and vulnerability: Through an opening exercise or an address by the leader, let the team know that success is only achieved with honesty and openness. What happens at the retreat stays at the retreat. When titles are set aside, collaboration happens.
  1. Use tools, not gimmicks: Every team has something holding it back. It may be lack of trust or poor relationships. It may be poor leadership or lack of commitment. Deal with it head on by providing a learning environment and deploying a proven assessment. Only after dealing with difficult issues can a team truly create trust, accountability, and results. 
  1. Use an outside facilitator to investigate relationships: A fresh set of eyes and ears can observe things that are brewing below the surface. Facilitators can prompt important discussions by asking key questions, help move conversations forward, and identify the key learning points for the team that might not otherwise be addressed.
  1. Don’t forget about results: You were put together as a team because there is a goal, something to be accomplished. Re-establish a focus on the outcome you are working towards – but don’t skip the ground work. See that the big picture is painted in vivid color so that each team member sees his or her part of a much better whole and understands the team won’t make it there if they don’t have trust, the ability to navigate conflict, commitment, or accountability first.

Team retreats done well are an incredible force that can drive your organization to new levels of success. They are so much more than fun or team-building games. Is your team ready to take this big step?

*This blog has been updated from a previous version to reflect current content and approaches.

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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.