Volume 44, November 2004: Retreats

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2004 ISSN # 1545-8873

“It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation; for when you come back to the work your judgment will be surer, since to remain at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.” — Leonardo da Vinci

“Joy is but the sign that creative emotion is fulfilling its purpose.” — Charles Du Bos

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” — Anna Freud


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Being a wise steward of resources, conserving the use of meeting resources.
  • Replacing “report-outs” with engaging, creative meeting processes.
  • Pulling key players off line and going on retreat, when the organizational stakes are high.
  • Maintaining yourself as a leader – knowing when it is wise for you to retreat.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Untold amounts of corporate budgets are dedicated to meetings that are boring, unproductive, and non-value-adding. Add to this a “retreat” format, and the expenses multiply, as travel, facility, and staff hours away join the price list. Most of these meetings are long on talk, short on results. What to do with the flipcharts? A dead man could have run the PowerPoint. Hum-drum. If you are not a gifted “social architect,” get some help. Orchestrate meaningful events that are culturally appropriate, uniquely designed (but not over-planned), are inclusive, in settings that evoke the desired mood, and treat the guests as customers of the meeting. Encourage open community and fortuitous encounter, with tools that allow the group to reach its creative potential. (Specific guidelines for orchestrating an event are given in Deal & Key’s Corporate Celebration.)

Frequently Asked Questions

“When do you hold a retreat rather than just a meeting?”
Campbell and Liteman give us nine good reasons. They are to:
  • Explore fundamental concerns.
  • Harness the collective creativity of the group.
  • Foster change.
  • Change perceptions, attitudes, behavior.
  • Correct course when things go wrong.
  • Change your organization’s culture or improve relationships that are hindering its effectiveness.
  • Create a collective vision.
  • Accomplish something that can not be done by the leader alone.
  • Make tough decisions.

I would add: to reflect, to celebrate, and to reconnect with our purpose.

“I don’t do retreats because of my fear of the ‘flakey factor’.”
There is an awful lot of silly stuff that happens in poorly facilitated retreats. Nothing wrong with having fun, but here I would defer to experts who understand how to link important work with clever, inventive processes. Naturally, some people balk at being asked “what animal or vegetable they would like to be.” Better to use an opener, that makes a learning point, like:
  • What I Bring to the Team/What I Need from a Team
  • Best/Worst Team Experience (then go on to form Ground Rules)
  • Guided Visualization of the Ideal Process from the Customer’s Eyes
  • Best Possible Outcome for Our Team’s Work
  • Share Expectations for the Meeting
  • What’s on Top (preventing you from being in the meeting)? Put the thoughts in a later box to gather back after the meeting.
  • Ending Well: My Favorite Moment
  • Something I Would Like to Say
“What’s a good generic format for a retreat meeting?”
  • A mixer, as people enter the space (energizer)
  • Food & Drink
  • Welcome--why here, why now. Climate-setting.
  • Introduction of the conveners & other roles
  • Aim of the retreat & buy-in
  • Operating agreement (no cells, pagers, etc.)
  • Outline of the agenda/flow of the meeting & buy-in
  • Logistics & housekeeping
  • “Stringing the Beads’ (everyone speaks) [Thanks to Craig Neal]
  • The work itself (with frequent breaks)
  • Review and evaluate meeting
  • Commitment for follow-up & next steps
  • Powerful closing (String the Beads again)
“Is there any maximum number of participants for a retreat?”
The ideal size for a table team is 6-10 members – for participation, intimacy, self-disclosure. To the degree that you can re-create the small group experience with multiple buzz groups or break-out groups, you can expand to large numbers of participants. But you need a facilitator for each group, to help create a local image of the larger conference. And a methodology for reporting out and collating up their ideas – such as multi-voting. Participants will be amazingly creative in distilling their chaos into some order, as long as one person speaks at a time and everyone listens. Try a speaker’s box or “talking stick.”


Assistance with designing and facilitating retreats. Free facilitated exercises..

See back issues of Keyzine below: Meetings, Teams, Dialogue, and Convening People.

Five types of facilitated retreats: Facilitation.

Better meetings, save money: Creative Resource Development.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Connecting users and providers of retreats: Retreats Online.

All about retreats: help in picking locations: All About Retreats.

Article on how to pick retreat centers: Checkout Time.

Adventure retreats with facilitation: Executive Retreats.

Personal, Soulful Retreat in Sedona: Sedona Soul Adventures.


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