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August 27, 2019 Practice Points

Office R&R—Retreat and Rebuild

Retreats help your team build relationships, clarify goals and renew a sense of purpose, and align future efforts.

By Stephanie Richards

Every team experiences stress and fatigue at some point. When your team has consistently worked hard, momentum can begin to dwindle. A retreat creates a forum to unwind and build back up that momentum. Retreats help your team (1) build relationships, (2) clarify goals and renew a sense of purpose, and (3) align future efforts.

1.       Building Relationships

Building relationships within the office is important for cooperation and understanding. It also empowers team members to approach one another for help. A stronger connection within the team helps create culture, one of the most important aspects of an office. That culture serves as motivation for everyone. When a team gets along, communicates, and enjoys their days together, the work product is unbeatable.

Retreat activities and exercises that foster appreciation are a great way to establish an ideal culture. For instance, “warm and fuzzies” are one way to get the ball rolling during a retreat. Every teammate has a “mailbox” labeled with their name. All of these mailboxes are together on a table. Throughout the day, employees can go up to the table and write on a piece of paper. This paper should contain a message that anonymously expresses appreciation for someone—perhaps it’s their positive attitude, drive, or attention to detail. The paper gets dropped into the “mailbox” and at the end of the day everyone gets to take their “mailbox” home and read through the messages that were added throughout the retreat.

Including team activities in your retreat builds camaraderie and trains you and your workers to identify and incorporate certain individual’s strengths to achieve group goals. Cooperative skills gained at a retreat can help improve your employees’ performance showing them how to work together effectively.

2.       Clarify Goals and Renew a Sense of Purpose 

Common goals are the cornerstone of a successful workday. Bringing employees back to the “why” of the work is a great way to build motivation and a deeper connection to the purpose of the grind. Getting “burnt out” can be avoided if the entire team feels the importance of their work.

Retreats that clarify common goals and renew a sense of purpose in the team can be beneficial to employees who maybe have been feeling burnt out, but also for new team members. Hearing the impact felt by clients can allow new team members to feel pride and excitement about their new career.

Client testimonials are one great way to look back on the team’s successful endeavors. Those that worked on the project feel serious pride and appreciation. However, the testimonials are also inspirational. The dedication put into the project that created such a strong reaction from a client allows others to strive for a similar client response in their future projects.

3.       Align Future Efforts

The most beneficial part of retreats is the opportunity to communicate. Aligning future efforts is getting to the nitty gritty. What is the direction that the office is aiming to take? This doesn’t have to be detailed plans on how to get there yet, but showing how the plans will come to fruition can help. Aligning future efforts can help get everyone on the same page as far as priorities.

The word “retreat” was historically used to represent a command given to soldiers during battle when it was time to withdraw or fall back, usually to regroup and find a superior battle plan. Every team member should know the individual priorities within their field, but also common priorities for the team as a whole. No huge changes are needed, just simple steps toward improvements.

When teams are on the grind and continue to produce major results, monotony can and does set in. Fostering a culture that ensures appreciation and purpose should be at the forefront. Team members are less likely to feel the pressure and stress that leads to cracks in communication and cooperation when a retreat is thrown in at the right time. All work and no play can take a toll on a team, but a retreat can put together activities and exercises that “reset” the mood and interaction within the office. 

Stephanie Richards is a 3L at Creighton Law School in Omaha, Nebraska.

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