Last month, we started 2018 with a residential Partner Retreat. We (and our guests) liked it so much that we’re already planning the next one for May.
We know that some of our clients, colleagues and readers organise their own team retreats regularly, so we thought we’d share with you which ingredients helped us most to make it such a rewarding and inspiring experience.
1. A Beautiful Place
We know that space matters. We know it well enough to have a designated role that takes care of it. And yet, we were once again surprised to see how very much it matters.
Eibenhof, which hosted us for the five days of the Partner Retreat, was absolutely lovely. A cozy house on a family estate right by the lake, with our own fire place, a spacious country kitchen, various naptime spots and lovely walking routes right outside the door.
Being in that place gave us perspectives that we wouldn’t have seen in the city or at home. We had ideas that were both bigger and simpler than usual. We thought about “work” in different ways.
Also, enjoying our physical environment so much helped us stay in touch with our own physical bodies: What do I need to take care of myself? Am I awake enough for a work session or do I first take a nap? What does my gut feeling say about this idea or decision? What do I really want?
2. No Pressure to be Productive
Counter to traditional advice about how to organise team retreats, we did not have an agenda – we didn’t even have a clear goal or purpose for this event. Malwina had some ideas about “crafting the perfect workdays”, but when the time came around, we didn’t even feel very much like work.
And we were fine with that.
We knew that we wanted to spend these days together at this place, and that was enough.
Taking off the pressure to be productive and to create “results” or “output” allowed us to focus on fostering our relationships instead (including client relationships, as we had invited some of them along) and following spontaneous inspiration and flow. In the end, all of us had some very productive periods during the retreat – but maybe most importantly, we enjoyed ourselves deeply.
There was chocolate, laughter and mulled wine around the fireplace.
There were quick dives into the lake – yes, in January.
There were spooky walks through thick fog.
There was even a swing!
And at the same time we had intense coaching sessions, new projects were launched, and stuff got done. Just like that.
3. Good Food
Good Food = Happy People. ‘nough said.
We self-catered (including the occasional take-out and delivery) and that actually turned out to be far easier and more relaxed than suspected, at least for our small group of four.
4. Morning Rituals
We started every day with a silent meditation of fifteen minutes. Then there was breakfast and then we did a check-in before diving into our individual projects.
Starting the morning together allowed us to synchronise as a group at least once a day.
We usually didn’t check out together in the evenings, which is something we might do differently next time. For this retreat however, this particular balance between group synchronisation and collaboration on the one hand and individual rhythm on the other hand felt quite satisfying.
5. Self-Organisation Principles
Maybe the reason why such a loosely structured, free-flowing retreat worked for us is that we have integrated a whole range of self-organisation principles in the way we work and function.
We all know how to handle and use an agile agenda.
Open Space principles, such as the law of mobility (move, when you feel that you are in the wrong place.) are basically part of our internal culture.
We are comfortable with negotiating how much predetermined structure we need, for example in terms of daily schedule: This time, only our morning meditation had a fixed starting time, everything else was decided relatively spontaneously. (During the next retreat, that might be different, depending on who’s there and what they need.)
Basically, we all take responsibility for getting exactly what we want out of any collaborative setting.
Planning Your Next Team Retreat?
We don’t only organise beautiful team retreats for ourselves – we’re happy to help with yours too :-)
Depending on your situation, our support can range from a short Skype coaching session to a whole event package including event design, facilitation and evaluation.
If you are interested in support for your next meeting, team offsite, work retreat or whatever else you call it, please contact us and let’s talk about it!
- Partner Meetings at Structure & Process (Structure & Process Blog, Annette Mehlhoop, October 16, 2015)
- Impressions from our first Open Partner Meeting (Structure & Process Blog, Malwina Ulrych, February 17, 2017)
- Open Partner Meeting: What’s Your Practice? (Structure & Process Blog, Malwina Ulrych, March 27, 2017)