Advice to the Big Boss Before Going To the Retreat or Off-site

Posted by Kristin Arnold on August 9, 2014

I was working with one of my clients getting ready for their strategic planning retreat when the big boss leaned over to me and asked, “Kristin, so what can I do to make this event work?”

I was impressed.  This CEO was asking for a little guidance on what he could do (or not do) that would increase the likelihood of a successful retreat.  I’m sure I didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know, but a little reminder is a good thing, especially when you have a huge stake in the outcome of a very important meeting.

In case you’re wondering what I told him, I made some notes for you to use or share with your big boss before the next retreat:

Leading up to and Before the Retreat

  • Continue to be positive.
  • With enthusiasm, communicate the importance of this session.
  • Ensure alignment with other stakeholders with the company.

Your Introduction/Kick Off to the Retreat

  • “Remind” the team as to why we are going through the strategic planning process.
  • Give them your personal perspective as to why this is important.
  • Give them the company’s perspective as to why this is important and how it fits with their plans.
  • Describe what is at stake and what can be gained with a focused plan.
  • Describe how is this process different than other planning sessions that have been done.
  • Describe what a successful session will look like
  • Encourage a spirit of openness and that their comments are valued and will be held “confidential.”
  • Encourage creativity – and why…(that this is about more than building on our past successes).
  • Express your commitment to follow-through on whatever the team decides.

During the Retreat

  • Most of the time, just listen to what your team has to say.
  • Listen as an ally – don’t be too quick to judge.
  • Don’t be the first to participate…but don’t always be the last either!
  • Ask questions deliberately and infrequently – mostly to clarify.
  • If a “hardball” question is asked of you, answer it directly and honestly.
  • Watch your non-verbal communications e.g. eye-rolling, shaking your head, scowling.

On Breaks

  • Mingle – make sure you seek our every person on the team at some point during the session.  Thank them for their participation, dedication and interest.  Ask them for feedback (e.g. “how’s it going?”).
  • Check in with the facilitator (that would me me!) periodically.

At the Wrap-Up/Ending

  • Thank them for the participation and hard work.
  • Recognize the success and people’s contribution.
  • Affirm your commitment to the plan.
  • Reaffirm next steps.

Did I miss any other words of wisdom to help the big boss?

You can also download a copy of my white paper on The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make When Convening an Off-site Meeting or Retreat.

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