10 Reasons to Hold Retreats to Build Your Business

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I read this article on the Brandchannel.com website at http://www.brandchannel.com/brand_speak.asp?bs_id=197 and thought it was worth sharing with others interested in facilitation as well as with corporate teams seeking to conduct multi-day meetings to achieve a specific objective. While this article specifies “marketing teams,” most of the ideas are applicable to any team. The article text is included in full underneath my comments.

Team retreats, much like those discussed in the Leoncini book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, can be a real boost to productivity and team building. While team building is typically a secondary objective, it often becomes the biggest catalyst for increased productivity and success.

Retreats are unique in that they allow teams to take time to thoroughly discuss ideas, to come to mutual understanding by seeing issues from others points of view and because they allow the facilitator enough time to work with team members on trust building.

Trust is the foundation upon which high performing teams are built. Without it, team members spend an abundance of time and energy on political games and competitive maneuvering instead of seeking cooperation and maximizing team synergy.  

Another benefit of the retreat is really getting out of the mindset of the corporate day-to-day world and giving team members the time and space to think creatively and to envision the future. A skilled facilitator will structure this time so that it is somewhat less structured than the typical corporate meetings yet structured enough to provide multiple ways into the creative tasks allowing creativity to flow naturally for participants.

I thought this article was a good reminder of why and when it’s important to get out of the corporate meeting room and spend some time in a more relaxed environment working, creating, ideating and playing with your team members.

 

— Cindy Diamond, Diamond Marketing Solutions & Ignite

 

Ten Reasons to Hold Marketing Retreats to Build Your Business and Your Brand
by James S. Twerdahl
July 14, 2008
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Management retreats can be a very powerful tool for effecting change in organizations and brands. They do need careful planning and thoughtful and experienced facilitation, but properly done they can really help take your brand or organization to the next level. They are particularly important for those who are responsible for creating, building and maintaining brands.

Here are the principle reasons to consider a marketing retreat for your organization.

 


 

 

1.   To reaffirm your company and product brands and overall strategic direction. Markets served by virtually all organizations are changing at an incredible pace. While mission and vision statements and the overall positioning of your brand should be designed for the long-term, it is critical that they periodically be reviewed and reaffirmed. Changes in technology, competitive activity, the world economy and any number of other factors can necessitate change in your brand positioning. At the very least, the near term strategic direction must be reviewed and adjusted to account for the changing reality. And, there are still a great many companies who have not formally set forth their brand positioning statements—a retreat is an ideal time to do so. 

2.   To unify management. Even the best management teams can lose focus on overall goals as individual managers work in their respective areas. Retreats can be a good way of re-unifying the team and making sure that everyone is embracing the same overall objectives, goals, and brand engagement strategies. Retreats are also an ideal way of integrating new managers with older team members. Both in formal meetings and at breaks, meals and recreation times, participants can get to know one another much better and form bonds that are tough to forge when involved in day-to-day operations. 

3.   To solve disputes and mediate tensions. Tensions and disputes arise in all organizations. Rather than letting them fester and become destructive and counterproductive, open discussions in non-threatening retreats, can be a good way of letting people share points of view and resolve conflicts. 

4.   To identify issues. In the daily heat of battle, issues that have not been resolved often come up. Issues that cross departmental lines can remain unresolved because it takes unified actions to attack them. In a well managed retreat, issues can be identified, analysis can begin, and initiatives or action plans set to resolve them. 

5.   To brainstorm and be creative. Away from the fray of day-to-day activities without phones ringing and e-mails to be answered, it may be possible to foster higher levels of creativity. Group creativity sessions can be highly synergistic as one person plays off of another’s idea. 

6.   To develop new products and programs. In addition to brainstorming for new products and programs, healthy discussion about new directions can take place and plans laid. Because new products and programs typically involve actions from many departments, retreats can be a good way of outlining the plans and assigning responsibility, setting overall timetables, establishing budgets and other activities from the “big picture” perspective. 

7.   To face and resolve crises. Even the best brands may periodically have to deal with crises of one kind or another. Typically when a crisis occurs, there are several hurried meetings to try and deal with the immediate situation. It is often helpful to get away from the immediate issues to assess the situation overall and make sure the organization is realigned not only to deal with the issue but not have it impact future growth and development of the brand. 

8.   To provide management training. A key part of many retreats is on-going management training either from internal resources or from outside speakers brought in to address specific topics. Many retreats have themes and in keeping with the theme, speakers can discuss industry best practices, new trends or other areas to improve managers’ effectiveness individually and as members of the team. Retreats are also excellent ways of orienting new leaders in their new roles in the organization. 

9.   To reward and recognize outstanding efforts. An important element in many retreats should be to recognize those team members who have really made great contributions. Discussing their successes and accomplishments, if done properly, can help motivate others and build a sense of team. Clearly the accomplishments praised have to be ones that contribute to the team overall, but acknowledging someone who has helped the team can really encourage others to do so as well. 

10.   To build consensus. If done well, the first nine points should all be helping to build consensus and a unified sense of where the brand is going. This last point is highlighted as a summary because often organizational leaders may meet resistance in fostering change. Even though a leader can exert their organizational authority, it is often much more important to “sell people” than to “tell people.” Retreats can often be used to expose all sides of an issue and allow the team to reach the best possible conclusions. When reached as a group with everyone buying-in, the likelihood of success can be much greater than if the direction is dictated.

Brands are organic and continue to evolve and change over time. Constant monitoring and reassessment are necessary to optimize the long-term returns from your brand.

   

James S. Twerdahl is the managing director of James S. Twerdahl & Associates.

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