Some teams tell me they experience a sense of hope and clarity after a retreat or facilitated meeting…and unfortunately that that hope dies quickly once everyone returns to the day to day operations of their work.
Following through on our commitments once back in the ‘white water’ can definitely be tough. I too have experienced how hard it is to manage the many competing demands while at the same time trying on some new approaches or ways of being.
Of the groups that do witness progress on their goals and maintain that sense of hope, one of the things I notice is that they schedule a follow up meeting in one to three months time. That meeting is dedicated to connecting and discussing their progress – on both the individual and collective commitments made at the retreat or meeting. Some groups ask that I be at that meeting as well but not always.
I figure this planned check-in does a few things:
- simply knowing there is going to be one somehow keeps us on our toes and accountable to our commitments
- having an opportunity to notice what’s working and what’s improved since the retreat or meeting helps to maintain a sense of hope and of progress – and it gives you a reason to celebrate!
- at the same time, a chance to name and share the burden of what’s not working allows you to unpack the situation, perhaps reveal information that you weren’t aware of before, and brainstorm options for addressing those concerns. This might entail modifying or refining the goal, working through a resource issue, or facing any mis-communications or conflicts that may be contributing.
- asking the external facilitator to be there does a few things:
- sometimes prevents the follow up meeting from getting bumped (and bumped and bumped)
- allows the leader/manager of the group to participate more fully then if he or she was also facilitating the conversation
- potentially have permission to play devils advocate or name any ‘elephants in the room’ (those un-discussbles)
- brings an outside perspective that is linked to the earlier retreat process; that person can remind the individuals and the group of their principles and their strengths, something we can forget or take for granted
The point is regular, scheduled communication can help maintain the energy and hope so necessary to move forward on any change initiative. Like flying an airplane, feedback and small course correction’s along the way tend to be a more efficient and productive way to get to where you want to go than a big correction further down the line. Sure better than trying to pull out of a metaphorical nose dive!