How to Get the Most Out of Your Team Retreat

Do you instinctively roll your eyes when you hear the phrase "team retreat"? Some professionals love the idea, yes, but many others cringe at the thought of having to spend a few days with their co-workers because of the bad reputation some team-building events have. They're not as productive as they could be, too much time is spent on exercises that aren't beneficial, et cetera. If this sounds familiar, read on to find out how it can be better. The bad reputation team retreats sometimes get doesn't have to be true in your case.


The good news is, more and more organizations are recognizing the importance of team retreats and many of the greatest corporations really have the process down pat. Other companies are still learning. Here are some things to keep in mind to make your team retreat a positive, productive experience and even have fun!


The first thing to be mindful of is that a team retreat is different from a team-building event. A team-building event generally involves a weekend of games and often more socially oriented activities. At a team retreat you actually work, but you're in a different environment and have the opportunity to do things you normally wouldn't have time for in your regular work schedule.


For example, your team retreat may involve a strategy meeting and brainstorming sessions. It is generally a relaxing environment to inspire and rejuvenate creative thinking while fomenting productivity. There may also be time for outdoor activities and team activities, but they aren't typically the main focus of the retreat.


View it as an opportunity to grow. Go into your retreat with the right attitude. If you arrive thinking it will be a terrible experience, you are setting yourself up to fail. Team retreats are an investment that the company you work for is making in you and your team. A lot of planning goes into these events. Even if your organization doesn't meet your criteria for a perfect team retreat, view it as an opportunity to push yourself and grow as a professional.


For example:


Is it hard for you to speak up and share your ideas? Try to break through that barrier on your retreat.

Is it difficult for you to get along with some of your teammates? Take the opportunity to get to know them better and identify their positive qualities.

Would you like to strengthen your leadership skills? Do your part to make sure everyone enjoys themselves and feels like they are contributing to the event.


Most likely you will receive some type of an agenda for your team retreat. Take time to consider the following:


What activities are planned?

What items are up for discussion or brainstorming?

What team-building exercises are included?

What do you want to accomplish during the retreat, for yourself and for others?


Try to discern the main purpose of your retreat. Even if you don't know all the details before your retreat, there should be clearly defined goals and outcomes. Try to put yourself in your organization's shoes and consider why they set those goals and what part you can play to achieve them.


Next, take time to think about what you can contribute to the conversations. Do you have ideas about how the company could improve certain products or processes? Start using a notebook or digital document to jot down your ideas, even if you aren't sure they are totally relevant. Creative thinking and brainstorming sessions can go in many different directions and you want to be prepared to make a contribution.


Enjoy yourself, but don't totally let loose. A team retreat will have moments for fun and entertainment. Maybe you will go hiking, swimming, play some team games or just enjoy a nice meal. Since a team retreat lends itself to breaking down barriers and getting closer to your co-workers, you are allowed to be yourself and have some good fun. However, don't cross the line or do something that could make others feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.


Implement the final ideas at the office. Once you head back to the office, you will be feeling renewed and fired up about the new ideas and processes that were decided on during your team retreat. However, that excitement can quickly die once you get back to the day-to-day routine. Did your team decide on a plan and a time frame for implementing the decisions made at your retreat? Take the initiative to keep your team on track. Come up with a way to implement the ideas you developed before you get back to the office. Doing so will help ensure you retain and utilize the positive insights and plans developed from the time spent outside the office.