Last week, our staff (all 35 of us) abandoned ship. We blocked out nearly a week, during which we put client interaction on hold, packed up everyone in 15 passenger vans, and headed to the beach.
Once at the beach, we kicked off the shoes, donned bathing suits and headed straight for the ocean. It wasn’t a vacation; it was a retreat. After settling in, we had a perfectly orchestrated blend of structured and unstructured time, both crucial for the success of our time together.
The word “retreat” originates from the Latin word “retrahere,” meaning “to pull back.” Our time at the beach was a purposeful “pull back” from our normal grind. It is during times such as this that we can focus on the bigger picture. A needed part of creating a healthy culture is to unplug from responsibilities and plug in to one another. Some people may find retreating to be waste of resources; I would argue it is an investment. For those still on the fence, I identified four benefits gained from times of retreat, through both structured and unstructured activities.
Structured Time Benefits
Focus on Development: Retreats are not all fun and games; however, structured times can be as enjoyable as they are rewarding.
Though WinShape Teams is a development organization, each member of our team must continue to pursue development of skills, abilities, and giftings. Toward this end, we chose to employ one of the team behavioral assessments we typically use with clients. Rather than assume what we knew about our team yesterday remains true today, it’s important to re-evaluate as the team changes and grows—we mature, stressors adjust, teams evolve, and new people come onboard. Through structured activities such as this, we learn what makes our team and its members tick; we also achieve more honest and authentic communication.
Dedicated time for development is hard to find; we must set out to do so. When we develop as a team, we elevate our value as an organization.
Catch the Vision: A highlight of our retreat is what we call our State of Teams session (“Teams” being the name of our organization). During this session, our director casts a vision (shares where we are going as an organization) and what we can look forward to in the year to come. It is a time for us as vessels of that vision to be filled and realigned, once again. This year we are exploring new working teams and structure, as well as exploring how we can dive deeper with our clients, offering even more value than they expect. We left the session engaged and ready to move ahead.
As time goes on we all drift from our vision, ultimately losing momentum and motivation. Casting an overall vision is like starting fresh with everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction.
Unstructured Time Benefits
Create Community: A healthy community is important to any organization that desires effectiveness and growth. But community must be actively sought. Being separated during work days according to skill, position, or function, it can be difficult for team members to actually get to know one another beyond the most superficial of ways. This is especially true when new team members come onboard.
We set out to counteract this unfortunate separation caused by team function. At our retreat, we were split into designated teams and given no agenda except to spend quality time with team members with whom we rarely interact. This time set aside to engage with a new set of people, created new friendships and deepened more longstanding ones.
Communication and collaboration between teams and colleagues is easier and much more effective when you know and value those on other teams.
Celebrate the Past: Years fly by quickly within organizations. As we strive ever forward, it can be easy to forget to pause and celebrate the achievements we’ve already experienced.
At our retreat, we dedicated a time for everyone to share their most meaningful achievements of the last year. It came as no surprise that everyone shared something different; more than thirty different and significant accomplishments were celebrated. It was so good to ponder the past and acknowledge the work and efforts toward which our team has contributed.
When you celebrate what is good, you encourage the right things to continue. When you celebrate people, you encourage them to keep growing.
Is it time you retreated? It does not have to be a week, but I do recommend at least an overnight experience. The longer you spend with your teammates during “off hours”, the better you get to know them. The return on investment could mean a closer team, boosted moral, and a renewed focus to conquer the work ahead.
We at WinShape Teams would love to help plan your retreat, whether here at WinShape or at a place of your choosing. We would be honored to offer our expertise in various development techniques to help elevate your team to the next level. To get started visit us at http://teams.foundation.winshape.org/get-started/.
By Ricky Escobar