A nature setting is great for team building retreats
Team building retreats are incredibly valuable. I wish they happened more often. I’m going to share some ideas about team building retreats but first; why don’t they happen more often?

A retreat implies more than just a couple of hours away from the office. A company retreat should be at least a full day, even longer. Wow! When was the last time you were able to carve an entire day or more out of your team’s busy work schedule? It does seem daunting, near impossible.

But I’m here to argue there’s deep, long and satisfying results that come from team building retreats. A company retreat will allow your team to reignite and rediscover their passion for their work and for your mission. You’ll let off steam, build trust, discuss and move beyond the past as you energize and focus for the future.

Justifying Team Building Retreats

There are plenty of team building activities that range from one to three hours. They’re great and, of course, they’re easier to schedule than a full retreat. Most of the team building programs my company facilitates fall within the one to three-hour range. We get results and our clients tell us they pull real value from the experience.

But with a retreat you have the opportunity to do different types of team building, several separate but coordinated sessions that contribute to a more powerful overall experience.

With a retreat you have the opportunity to share both work time and play time as a team. You’ll build relationships and bond in ways that yield powerful results when you’re back at the office.

A team building retreat is a worthwhile investment you should make for your people. It mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. An effective retreat means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and employee retention, boosting the bottom line.

Planning For A Successful Retreat

  • What’s your purpose? Take time to discover the purpose for your team building retreat. I recently led one of our music team building programs at the end of day 1 of a client’s two day retreat. This newly formed team was brought together to organize a launch for a new product. Day 1 was spent refining the team’s mission and their mission statement. While team members may have broadly understood their mission before the first day of the retreat, they still had to develop a succinct and motivating mission statement to summarize the purpose of their project. With mission in hand, day 2 was spent developing an action plan to execute the mission. This group had laser focus on their purpose before they went on retreat and thus came away with great results.
  • Who will lead you? Once you establish purpose you can think about who you want to lead your company retreat. Consultants who specialize in team building retreats should have personality, instructional skills and should have the training and ability to understand team dynamics. Equally important, these specialized facilitators should be adept at pre-retreat work. You’ll expect questions and research ahead of time. Make sure your retreat leader understands who you are and what you’re after.
  • Where will you go? There’s never one best place to go. Think about your goals and what you value as you match destination with your culture. Here are two completely contrasting examples that work equally well. I’ve recently returned from a posh five-star resort in Santa Barbara, CA, having facilitated a team building through song® event as part of a client’s week long retreat. For this group, the company leaders believe that a five star resort experience is necessary to convey to their leadership how much they value them. Conversely, I also recently led a song team experience in a rustic natural setting in which team members spent a few days in cabins, cooking their own meals and getting out into the woods. For this group, the company leaders believe that a somewhat challenging nature experience creates opportunity to bond on a deeply personal level – a goal that’s important to this company’s culture. Both retreats were smash successes, just different!
  • What’s your follow through? Not only will you have to justify your spend on your retreat, you’ll genuinely want to feel like there’s ROI. So go back to the section about who will lead you. Make sure you hire a retreat leader who integrates follow up, follow through and action plans into your retreat. It is not optimal for you and your team members to be solely responsible for carrying over what you’ve achieved on a long term basis. Someone needs to help your team develop your action plan and provide structure for you to continue the great work you’ve begun. Ideally, you’ll want your facilitator to continue to check in with you. By providing a bit of ongoing guidance and accountability you’ll ensure that you get real results from the time spent on retreat.

Work Hard, Play Hard

It’s common for my clients to tell me they’re known for working hard and playing hard. My company facilitates sessions with a lot of leadership groups. Your stereotypical type A leaders do indeed work really hard and then let off steam with equal passion.

Another advantage of team building retreats is that you’ll have time for the intense hard work and some great play time. This is where you have opportunity to plan a coordinated series of activities and sessions that flow and complement each other.

Here’s an example: I mentioned I worked with a team that was creating a new product launch and that they’d focused on mission during day 1. It was no accident that I came in to facilitate a songwriting session at the end of this day in which everyone honed in on mission.

Songs are powerful short stories that communicate a message in a succinct and emotional way. With mission on their mind, songwriting allowed this group to come up with their perfect ‘hook’; the catchy memorable phrase that summarizes what they’re all about.

The songwriting session was the play hard (and sometimes play goofy) part of this retreat day. But it also piggy backed nicely with work goals since the song communicated mission.

You can and should plan a variety of focused work and focused play type of team building activities within your retreat schedule.

What does the perfect team building retreat look like?

It looks like the last day of camp. Picture everyone leaving to go home. Feeling accomplishment from hard work and new experience, emotionally spent yet closely connected, completely exhausted yet completely motivated. And full of enthusiasm for the work ahead!

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.