How to Ensure an Offsite Meeting or Retreat Leads to Action

Posted by Brooke Baker on Sep 1, 2015 9:51:30 AM
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You’ve planned, designed, and executed a successful retreat. Congratulations! Your team has grown, you’ve laid out a road map for the next phase of your organization’s development, and you have buy in from key stakeholders. Now how do you make sure all of that work is translated into action?

A good experience at the retreat is important, but it’s what the retreat leads to that determines whether it was great. Below, I’ll talk you through how, after the retreat has come and gone, you can make sure the feelings, ideas, and thoughts expressed there, turn into actions.

Establish Expectations

During the retreat, be clear with all involved how decisions will be made – is it by consensus; a few key stakeholders; or by one person, like a team lead? It's much easier to get a get your team to understand and take action follwing the retreat if they know from the beginning how and by whom that decision was made.

When you are soliciting feedback, let your team know that saying “yes” isn’t a passive stance, and you expect the good ideas brought up to be implemented. During meeting facilitation, I often use language like “can you actively support this decision/next step, even if it’s not your top choice?” Doing so helps acknowledge that while not everyone may agree, they can and should actively support the decision once it's made. And sometimes “no” is as helpful an answer as “yes.” If someone on the team can’t support a decision, find out why – it may be a proposed weekly operations meeting on Tuesdays feels too restrictive – and work to find a common ground where everyone feels comfortable contributing to the discussion.

Be Concrete about Next Steps and Accountability

Make sure someone has ownership over the next steps that need to be taken following the retreat. One proactive tool is to establish a “follow up committee” prior to the retreat which is deputized and empowered to follow through on decisions made during the retreat. Establishing the follow up committee beforehand allows them to think strategically while the ideas are being synthesized during the retreat so they are ready to follow up immediately after.

Be Positive and Persistent

Rome was not built in a day, nor does organizational reform happen quickly. It may be the week after the retreat as you sit in your office you think “we’re right back where we started.” While geographically that may be true, in actuality your organization has come a long way. Make sure you celebrate the accomplishments as they’re made and build on that momentum  positivity will build more energy to tackle the harder challenges. Trust in the decisions you made and help people follow through on the goals they set. Keep checking in with people in a positive and supportive way. Just being present and persistent can help keep the goals and commitments in their mind, and closer to reality.
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Topics: Meeting and Retreat Facilitation