Are Executive Retreats a Good Use of Resources?

Executive retreats are making a comeback after the pandemic. With many teams unable to get together for the past couple of years, a well-planned and properly executed retreat can be an excellent use of resources. They can provide a wealth of benefits to help your company get out of a rut or elevate organizational success. When an executive retreat has a clearly defined purpose and a defined “win” for the time out of the office together, the rewards often far outweigh the cost. Learning what to expect and how to plan an executive retreat can help you achieve success.

What to Expect at an Executive Retreat

A leadership retreat is designed to be a productive getaway to create a tangible change that even employees who didn’t attend can see. However, it’s not a traditional board meeting with long hours of strategic planning. In the same way a location change inspires creativity, many executive retreats include a third-party facilitator or coach. For instance, all Building Champions retreats are guided by a seasoned executive coach to provide the structure and outside perspective required to quickly build clarity, unity, vision, and momentum for your team.

For a retreat that encourages collaboration and creativity, expect a mix of work hours, optional and required activities, group meals, and social activities. A well-planned retreat will include some or all of these features.

  • “Homework” before the retreat to prepare for the theme discussions
  • Opening interviews with each participant about major issues and expectations about what the retreat will accomplish
  • Guidance from an outside facilitator or executive coach
  • Group discussions to generate creative solutions for specific top-of-mind issues identified by company leaders
  • Social time/meals when teams relax and communicate
  • Optional or required group activities to promote team-building
  • A final meeting to discuss outcomes and objectives to complete upon return
  • A post-retreat survey to target what methods were effective and what should be avoided in the future

There might be adjustments in what you can expect at an executive retreat based on pandemic protocols that are in place, so be sure to plan accordingly. For example, some executive retreats might opt for most activities to be held outdoors, or may limit the number of participants that can congregate indoors.

How to Plan Executive Retreats

How you plan your executive retreat can help set you up for a successful intervention that rejuvenates your business. Take these steps to plan an executive retreat that helps you meet company goals.

1. Choose the Right Location

An executive retreat shouldn’t be something you can accomplish in the company conference room. The location of an executive retreat puts company leaders in a different place for a more creative mindset. In other words, “a change of place + a change of pace = a change in perspective” – Mark Batterson. Retreat goals are most often realized when company leaders are removed from their typical environments. When planning an executive retreat location, keep these ideal characteristics in mind.

  • Close proximity to the airport
  • Reasonable remote with easy access to local restaurants and bars
  • Excellent cellular and Wi-Fi service
  • Planned meeting places for productive work sessions
  • A central location for participants coming from different areas

2. Define the Purpose

General success or improvement is too broad to be considered a retreat topic. Instead, it’s best to define one or two main challenges and ways to come up with solutions. Months before the retreat occurs, a purpose should be defined so a theme can be recognized and participants can prepare.

3. Set Objectives

This is where you define the win that offsets the cost of the retreat. What long-term goals do leaders expect to see by implementing processes discovered during the retreat? Each team member should understand how their personal responsibilities generate solutions during the retreat and the objectives to complete upon returning to work.

4. Create Space for Meaningful Conversation and Work

While some presentations will be required to note specific topics, it’s best not to create a full schedule of structured conferences. Expect that many meetings might not meet a specific agenda or time schedule. Allow meetings/conversations to run longer or dissolve more quickly than planned. Meaningful conversations that build creativity can provide unexpected solutions.

5. Allow for Personal Connection Through Activities

The retreat aspect of the get-together is not simply a reward. It’s designed to foster communication for closer relationships and more effective team collaboration. Creating a schedule that combines productive work meetings with active activities and social time builds an atmosphere where participants get to know each other better.

6. End with Clarity

A common misconception about executive retreats is that the work is complete when everyone goes home. In reality, that’s when the work begins. Your retreat should end with clarity on next steps, action items, and a communication plan for what was discussed and achieved that is shared with other levels within the organization.

Bonus Tip: Be Ready to Adapt

Now that you’re armed with the tips needed to make your executive retreat a success, the only thing left to do is be ready to adapt. With COVID-19 preventive measures in place, be sure to adhere to the latest health requirements.

Choosing an Executive Retreat

To conduct an effective executive retreat, company leaders need more than a location and an attendance list. Choosing the retreat means devising a concrete plan (for a location and series of events) that evolves from a central purpose. To plan an effective retreat, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the current reality and needs of the organization. The main question is “Why are we having this event and what do we hope to accomplish?” Answering this question will help you plan a theme for the executive retreat which flows out of its purpose.

Choose an executive retreat based on what will increase the team health and alignments as well as what will help executives lead the organization more effectively. Some ideas might include:

  • Discuss vision and strategy
  • Team health and connection
  • Identifying opportunities and threats in the quarter ahead
  • Planning for a large organizational change

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to take health into consideration. The best executive retreat format at this time would be one that works with your team’s preferences and abilities so they can feel comfortable and stay safe.

Executive Retreats Can Help Build Better Teams

Executive retreats are designed to spark creativity and eliminate distractions for improved decision-making and team-building activities. When properly planned, an executive retreat can lead to major organizational changes that help your company overcome existing issues and build better success. Retreats build better teams that are more likely to deliver great results and achieve the organization’s goals. HealthyTeams = High Performing Teams. To learn more about our executive retreats guided by a seasoned executive coach, contact us today.


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