Why go offsite at all? I mean, really, why? It’s such a hassle to find an outside venue, arrange transportation, get decent accommodation that takes into account everyone’s nit-picky little preferences (feather pillows, green M&Ms, vegan diets…). Most of us have meeting space right at our own location. Wouldn’t it be much more efficient for people to come to the meeting during the day (with time out for client meetings, especially important ones that come up at the last minute, of course), and go home at night? They wouldn’t have to pack their things and deal with all the vagaries of travel to an offsite location. It’s far less expensive, and everyone can carry on with their daily routine.
Well, that’s the first reason. Successful retreats are about thinking differently so your company can do differently. One very effective way to spark that difference in thinking and doing is to get out of your routine, and perhaps (gulp) rut. In the same way that a team uniform sets the players apart from the fans at a ball game, creating some distance and space around your corporate retreat sets it apart from the workaday tactical meeting.
The second reason? Focused Attention. It’s a very precious and rare commodity these days. And it’s probably the most vital resource your leadership team needs to plan the next stage of their success. We are all awash in distractions. Trying to harness everyone’s attention when they can just “step out for a minute to deal with something that just came up” or “be back this afternoon when we are getting to the important items on the agenda” is the essence of fractured attention.
The human brain perks up when confronted with novelty and/or urgency. Like the residents of Lake Woebegone, we all believe we are above average in our ability to deal with distractions while remaining focused on matters at hand. It’s why, against all evidence to the contrary, we continue to text and drive. Making novel connections, creating something that doesn’t currently exist, and finding solutions to intractable problems takes deep focus. It’s one of the hardest things the brain can do.
Your leadership team’s deep focus is exactly what’s needed to envision what success looks like in three to five years, identify the gaps between that success and the current state, and lastly, determine what it will take to get there. It’s not something to be done on the fly, with fractured attention, and insufficient mental muscle to work through the implications of their decisions.
Third is the opportunity to build trust between team members. Thrashing out competing ideas and resolving conflicts requires a balance of frankness and diplomacy; being completely truthful and respectful at the same time. It’s having the courage to engage in vigorous debate, so issues are resolved within the meeting, not in piecemeal attempts by various factions in the hallways afterwards. It’s hard work, both requiring and further reinforcing trust among team members. Once decisions are taken, team members need still more trust in one another to ensure that the tough stuff gets done downstream once everyone is back at the office.
So next time someone suggests that it would be better to hold your corporate retreat at the office, you can tell them that your leaders’ creativity, capacity for deep focus and the opportunity to build trust are much too valuable to squander.