Strategic leadership retreats are best when simple in design. Sometimes we outsmart ourselves creating complexity when a straightforward approach is better for the purpose at hand. With a clear roadmap it is much easier for everyone involved to pay attention and contribute.
Opportunities stand out that can make a difference in reaching goals.
With over 100 retreats under my belt, here's my approach:
1. Tie retreat goals directly to the current business strategy. The goal may be to improve that strategy, innovate ways to fulfill the strategy, polish processes or improve relationships. Whatever the goal, the retreat agenda needs a clear and direct tie to the strategy your team is charged with. Retreats that yield weak commitments have lost the link to strategy.
2. Plan each hour carefully, vetting all presentations to make sure they are on target. Make sure each segment of time is worthy of the cost of gathering all the people present. Be prepared to drop one segment from each day if you start to run over schedule. Decide in advance which one you will drop and make sure the design of the day will still hold together.
3. Get each person's voice into the room early on the first day. While a challenge if your retreat has many people, getting early participation sends the signal, "you are here because we need your input". If you wait till the end of the first day for this kind of participation it is too late.
4. Make room for free time and unstructured conversations. Often the most important and memorable moments happen at the breaks and in unplanned small gatherings during your retreat.