Being part of a small business leadership team is a lot like being enrolled in a management training program — the learning opportunities can be extremely beneficial. Leadership teams share accountability for the company’s success, and elements that must be managed include your employees, clients, and customers.
For this reason, it’s essential that your leadership team focus from the outset on building relationships that work. To cultivate the proper environment for idea sharing, brainstorming, and team spirit building, it’s necessary to give careful consideration to your meeting environment.
The next time you plan a leadership team retreat, consider incorporating the following tips, which can greatly enhance your results:
- Invite the right people to the table. Consider carefully who you respect and trust enough to share in guiding your business’s success. Ask yourself: Are key opinion leaders present, or at least represented? Accidentally omitting key players from your invitation list can create gaps in business planning, and also result in hard feelings that will endure long after the retreat.
- Plan with purpose. Keep a clear purpose in mind of what you want to accomplish. Then, make sure to communicate that purpose with a published agenda and overview that you distribute to retreat invitees prior to the event. Also read Gaining the Skills of a Leader for some good advice.
- Carefully consider where you’ll meet. Choose an environment that will be conducive to your purpose. For example, if the point of your retreat is to focus on improving quality, take your leadership team to a high-end hotel where they can observe and be pampered by four-star treatment. Off-site locations are also a great way to get everyone out of the office and away from daily interruptions, but make sure the site is convenient for everyone.
- Make it matter. Tailor your retreat to your attendees’ interests and knowledge base by soliciting ideas and giving each participant one or more retreat-related tasks to accomplish before, during, and after the event. If your team believes they’re contributing, they’ll take ownership in making the event a success, and everyone will grow and learn as a result.
- Eliminate distractions. Establish a cell- and Blackberry-free zone. Ideally, all cell phones and beepers should be turned off during the retreat sessions. Be sure to check out Bring Out the Leader in Each Employee for more tips and tricks.
- Hire some help. Consider bringing in an objective outside facilitator to help increase productivity and make the day run smoother. A respected outside consultant who is a specialist in guiding participants can help avoid unnecessary conflict by navigating the often tricky interpersonal terrain and by keep everyone on track.
- Feed their stomachs to fuel their minds. Select a menu of good foods and build in time for everyone to network and socialize a little. A comfortable setting supplied with tasty food increases your odds of everyone bonding and contributing their ideas.
- Follow up on decisions. Plan a follow-up to the retreat once you’re back at the office. Setting a date for team members to report on their actions will create commitment and increase the likelihood of things getting done.
- Maintain your focus. Remember that the overall goal in organizing and following through on a leadership retreat is to facilitate your business’s success. When done right, retreats provide a powerful environment to gain alignment, make decisions, and increase commitment. But you have to pay attention to every detail in the planning, because missteps along the way reduce credibility and increase cynicism.