In this guest blog post, a client describes how the key to a productive retreat for her management team was the gift of time. Something to consider for anyone out there preparing for a team retreat in the months ahead! – Linda
Last spring I proposed to my team that we spend a few days off site to develop our work plan. I had in mind a place where I had taken another team years earlier – Rendezvous Rupert, Linda Vanderlee’s retreat centre in the Gatineau hills. I still have a picture of that first team, smiling into the camera after a day of teambuilding at Rendezvous Rupert. I keep that photo on my desk to remind me how rewarding teamwork can be when I take the time to invest in building the relationships and creating a shared vision.
I wasn’t sure how the new team would feel about driving 45 minutes into the countryside to spend two days working in a converted barn. As it turned out, they loved it as much as the old team did. What they loved was the gift of time – the kind of time we never seem to be able to find at the office.
1. Time to focus – Like most teams, our days get caught up in keeping the wheels on the bus and putting out fires. There never seems to be enough time to talk about equally important but less urgent things. Whenever we try to make time for planning or strategy discussions, we get distracted by those darn loose wheels and bush fires. That changed when we went off-site to Rendezvous Rupert. In this completely different environment, we were able to focus, and to spend the time it takes to tackle bigger issues than is possible during weekly team meetings.
2. Time to look at things differently – We are creatures of habit. We each have our role in the team, our habitual seat around the meeting table, our ways of working. It’s not easy for us to look at challenges differently from our habitual chairs. But transport the same people to a converted barn where there are no habitual chairs or set ways of being, and all of a sudden perspectives changed. Add in a skilled facilitator like Linda who asks provocative questions, and new possibilities for resolving old problems emerged.
3. Time to reflect – One of the challenges we have in our fast paced work environment is finding time to think. Before we left for Rendezvous Rupert, I put together a package for each team member of documents I was pretty sure no one had had time to read. I invited them to find a comfortable spot and take a half hour to read through the material and think about the implications for our work. One headed to the creek, another climbed into a hammock, a third settled into a rocking chair overlooking the garden. When we debriefed at the end of the retreat, this time alone, in nature, to read and reflect was a highlight for everyone.
4. Time to connect – My team is a team of managers. They spend most of their work day with their own teams, making sure their staff have what they need in terms of direction, resources, and feedback to carryout their work. There is never much time available for these managers to connect with peers, to seek their advice, to get support, to talk about synergies between teams. At Rendezvous Rupert we made the time – time to simply hang out with a cup of coffee (and a glass of wine!) with colleagues.
5. Time to recharge – My team works very hard. They are highly committed and have high expectations of themselves. The greatest reward I could give them was an opportunity to renew their energy. It was remarkable to see the difference made by a short walk along the creek, a 10-minute dance party, and a lovely lunch served to us in the garden by Linda. My reward was watching the tensions leave their faces and shoulders.