If you’ve ever been to Atlanta, I can almost guarantee you have heard about or experienced an Atlanta staple: traffic. To my knowledge, nowhere else on the planet takes 2 interstate highways, combines them into a 10-lane monstrosity, and has them cross each other.
With cars going every direction and quickly accelerating and braking, you can easily become overwhelmed and have to focus more on navigating the traffic around you than the road ahead. In a situation like this, have you ever been so focused on moving around the traffic and in and out of lanes that you end up 5 miles past your exit? I sure have.
Now, every time I’m on the highway, I’m checking my GPS or exit numbers frequently, merging early, making sure I don’t miss my exit. It’s reminded me of the importance of being intentional about pausing, paying attention, and having some perspective.
There is incredible power and value of getting away to get clarity and re-energize, in order to better attack the work and life ahead of you. It’s all too easy to get caught in the cycle of just doing and never taking the time to think about what you actually need or want to be doing. You get caught in “mission drift,” losing focus on the big picture or falling away from your chosen strategy (assuming you had one at all).
Even if you know where you want to go, how you are going to get there may have changed unintentionally, and by taking the time to reflect and assess, you can adjust the course to be more effective.
I’m not a big sports guy, and am wary of overusing sports analogies, but bear with me for a quick one. In order to effectively reflect on and learn from a game or a play, where is the best place for that to take place? It’s certainly not on the field in the middle of the game… it’s away from the field, in a locker room or classroom, watching the game film from multiple perspectives.
The ability to see what you do well and tweak what you don’t is much more challenging when you are running down the field in the middle of the game. The best teams and individuals intentionally take time to retreat from the action and reflect on what took place. They know if they don’t acknowledge and set out to fix any shortcomings, they are doomed to repeat them.
Often, too, they reflect on the bigger picture–beyond small mistakes in execution–and take the opportunity to reflect on their direction, strategy, mission, vision, purpose, and approach, ensuring that all of those things are properly aligned.
Reflecting and thinking should be a regular rhythm for a leader and their team, and while that can and should happen regularly in an office or a board room, there should also be a rhythm of changing scenery, finding somewhere quiet and memorable, and intentionally digging into the big picture or the topics you don’t have time to address in the hustle and bustle of work.
This is a simple concept, but there are certainly roadblocks to executing an effective retreat regularly.
Three Myths Holding Your Team Back from a Breakthrough
There are often myths that permeate around taking a team or individual retreat that might try to dissuade you from planning one—statements that seem logical and would prevent you from taking that intentional time. Check out these truths in contrast to those myths:
Myth 1: “I can’t afford the time to take a retreat.”
Truth: Most teams and leaders are busy: tasks, projects, meetings, and other teams dependent on your contributions take up seemingly all of your time. This can make it appear like you can’t afford to get away and spend the valuable time retreating and reflecting. However, you can’t afford not to take a retreat when you need one.
Consider the cost of continuing to go in the wrong direction, or staying in the depths of a tense situation. There is a great cost to staying in the game when you need to step out and reassess, and there’s much to be gained from taking the time to get perspective and reset.
Myth 2: “I’m a bad employee or team leader for taking my team away from their day-to-day responsibilities for a couple of days.”
Truth: In the heat of the action, it may seem irresponsible to take a time out—and while there’s a time for everything, that may be true. But, properly timed, the advantages to be gained from a powerful and effective team retreat are worth much more to your organization than the results your team might produce working the days you’ll be on the retreat.
You are in fact a great employee or team leader for recognizing taking your team on a retreat is needed and valuable! This communicates that vision, direction, and effective teaming is more important than just being busy.
Myth 3: “Taking time to recharge and reflect is selfish and unhelpful to the team.”
Truth: Some leaders value rest and vacations while others haven’t had a day off in 5 years. For our organization’s president, vacations are a performance issue: if you are working when you’re supposed to be off, you failed to prepare yourself and your team, and did not equip effectively before you left. By failing to retreat regularly, you may end up drained and lacking clear vision, therefore not giving your full energy or self to the team or the mission.
Taking the time and doing the work to recharge and reflect so that you are able to give your best self to the team is actually an incredibly others-focused thing to do. When your whole team is able to retreat and reconnect, that magnifies your impact!
Retreating to reflect is not selfish, you aren’t a bad leader for taking your team away from the day-to-day, and you can’t afford not to do it! In fact, regular team retreats and intentional development is a winning strategy.
The best teams and leaders make retreating and reflecting a rhythm and create systems to ensure it never gets missed.
One of the important and intentional aspects of a WinShape Teams retreat that makes it so special is our sequestered setting in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. Other benefits of our retreats include the combination of memorable experiences and actionable content, the introduction of a common leadership language, and the powerful memories of an impactful shared experience.
A retreat can serve as a milestone and Ebenezer that sparks a transformation or change in direction that impacts your team for years to come.
If you want to give your team a healthy boost, start brainstorming a time and place to pause, retreat, and reflect!