The Annual Retreat.

What just came to mind?

A super-productive gathering of your entire team which leaves everyone energized and inspired for the year ahead? An extra few paid days off? An opportunity for some rest, relaxation, dining and drinking? An utter and complete waste of time and company resources? Something that you enjoy, but pay for dearly when you return to the office and find triple the usual number of emails and voice mails, in spite of the fact that you posted vacation notices on email and voicemail? Some combination of the above?

In my 20 years of consulting experience, I’ve discovered that an Annual Retreat can be a good thing, even a great thing, but it requires multiple steps to make it worthwhile:

1 – Proper preparation: setting expectations; notification of clients, and contingencies for handling emergencies; aligning the leadership team and/or getting clear on areas of dissonance; creating excitement among the team; taking care of all of the logistics in advance, so that the event runs smoothly.

2 – Exceptional execution: having an agenda that provides an opportunity for participants to learn, contribute, bond, and enjoy; having a competent and skilled facilitator that can do more than simply walk people through the agenda.

3 – Focused follow up: capturing all of the ideas at the retreat and creating a timeline with deliverables that contain specific measurable results, due dates, and persons responsible.

While all of these are important, it’s number three that I see as most critical. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “…that’s a great idea! OK, what’s next?” At which point I say what’s next is creating a timeline with deliverables that contain specific measurable results, due dates, and persons responsible.

Without that, the team leaves the retreat feeling upbeat, excited, and inspired, and then wonders, only a few days later, why things seem to have returned to the way they were.

Here’s the challenge: even if you have created timelines and deliverables, for the Annual Retreat to be effective, you MUST have one person dedicated to following up with everyone to make sure that follow through is happening all year long.

A better solution: The Quarterly Retreat.

All three key points, above, are still required to ensure a great retreat outcome, but the advantage is that retreat participants are thinking in terms of three-month challenges, and not in terms of executing a one-year mini strategic plan. It’s a much more manageable time frame and is far easier for people to wrap their heads around. Done right, each three-month challenge produces a breakthrough, which becomes the new foundation upon which the next three-month challenge is built, and so on.

It’s an investment, without a doubt, but one that can pay huge dividends. I’ve seen it with my clients, and the results are impressive.