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When It's Time To Retreat

By Gary Duke

Planning and conducting a company retreat takes plenty of time and effort. But it can really pay off when you do it right.


My partner Sheila co-authored Retreats That Work, which is considered by many in the biz to be the definitive resource for planning a well-led and productive retreat. The book includes a list of nine reasons why you might want to consider holding a retreat for your team or organization:

1. Explore Fundamental Concerns

Are you or your client experiencing high turnover or low staff morale? Have you seen a significant drop-off in clients/customers, or an increase in complaints? A retreat can be the ideal forum to explore and address any underlying causes.

2. Harness the Collective Creativity of the Group

When it's important to generate new ideas, typical brainstorming sessions often fail to produce significant results. Retreats, free of routine workplace demands, have fewer barriers to imagination and creative thinking. The offsite setting can help innovative solutions emerge.

3. Foster Change

A retreat can promote new approaches to strategic planning, product design, service delivery or marketing. The open discussion that characterizes well-run retreats fosters understanding of and commitment to new directions.

4. Change Perceptions, Attitudes and Behavior

In every organization, people make up stories to account for things they don't understand. These stories lead to attitudes and actions that can be harmful to the organization. A retreat can be an ideal setting for team members to raise concerns and ask questions. Participants can share information, clear up misunderstandings, discuss the impact of past decisions and modify those decisions if priorities have changed or if prior decisions failed to achieve their purpose.

5. Correct Course When Things Are Going Wrong

You can't turn around organizations by decree. People will change only when they see that it's important to do so. Retreats provide a forum for discussions about the reasons for and the urgency of a desired change. When people play a role in deciding what should be improved, they are more committed to ensuring that the change effort succeeds.

6. Transform Company Culture or Improve Relationships

Are members of your team having difficulty communicating effectively? Are different teams unable to work together? Retreats can help people open up to one another and can create a climate of trust.

7. Create a Collective Vision

Much of the tension that exists in organizations stems not from personality conflicts but from individuals pursuing their own (and sometimes conflicting) visions of what's best for the organization. These visions often clash with one another because none of them necessarily represents the complete picture. Retreats can foster alignment by helping participants understand and build commitment to the organization's overall priorities. Greater understanding and commitment encourages individuals to hold themselves accountable for the organization's success, not just the interests of their own work groups.

8. Accomplish Something That Cannot Be Done by the Leader Alone

No matter how competent leaders are, they can't do everything on their own. Retreats provide an environment in which everyone can contribute knowledge, expertise and skills to address issues that often plague and confound busy executives.


9. Make Tough Decisions

We all have to make tough decisions from time to time. There will be greater commitment to the eventual course of action if many people from different teams and levels have participated in a tough decision, rather than simply being told what to do. A well-led retreat provides not only broad participation in idea generation but also better decisions that are more likely to achieve what they are intended to address.


If you're considering a retreat for any of these (or other) reasons, contact us and we'll be happy to discuss how we can help you hit it out of the park.

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