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Effective Small Executive Retreats: Checklist for Successful Discussions

By: Lisa Patrick


Currently you are working on a company project which requires your undivided attention, and too many distractions with an unfocused team is halting the project. An off-site meeting at a retreat might be the perfect solution. Your customized project retreat might make the perfect solution for thrashing out strategic plans, building on our team chemistry and even launching the project.

Extracting time for retreats negates the possibility of daily work distractions. Make sure you have a checklist while planning your retreats. The musts on your checklist include:

Know what you want

You must know your goals and what you objectives wish to achieve. If you are not clear on these two points, you will gain little from the retreat.

Once you have tunneled into your goals, ensure that they can be accomplished within the specific time frame allotted by you and ensure that time frame is realistic. Add up time required to complete each task of the multiple tasks that must be done to achieve the goals or you set yourself up for failure before you even start.

The goals must drive the invitation list of participants. Depending on a specific goal, it may be appropriate to invite a vertical hierarchy slice or only senior management personnel. In a few cases, even customers may be invited. According to Cheryl Dahle, in her article written for Fast Company, Can this off-site be saved?, ‘the best off-sites are born not from event-planning sessions but from serious discussions about business objectives.’


From a business point of view, how participants will reach the retreat and get back from there is the least of your worries. But this can be jazzed up to make the journey less monotonous. It is also the perfect time for informal discussions among employees, helping them to know each other better.

Important principles to follow

You should follow a few principles when you want to plan an intimate small executive retreat:

  • Make sure everyone collaborates. Plan the discussion in such a way that even introverts are comfortable to join. For example, ask participants to write down the answers to questions and not to blurt them out.
  • Ensure that people are in an environment that encourages them to express themselves. Be sure that minority opinions are also patiently listened to.
  • Mix work and team building. Teams need to build trust with one another. However, contradictory to popular belief for team building exercises, workplace trust is not built on a ropes course or wall climbing while a team member catches you. Trust is built when employees know,  that they can count on each other. @Jeff Haden agrees in his article he wrote for @inc, ‘6 ways to ruin a company offsite meeting.’  Ensure that the off-site meeting includes discussions that lays the foundation for a long -term working relationship that builds trust. Leave the wall climbing for after your business discussions and let your team members decide what they want to do on their off-time at their offsite meeting destination.
  • Be on topic and try to ensure you stay on point. A facilitator must be selected. The person doing the facilitating must be proficient in group processes and must be capable of maintaining a neutral position throughout the debate and the brainstorming session. The manager or the CEO should not be selected for this post, since the participants may not feel free to speak up. The facilitator’s duty is to ensure adequate reporting takes place of the discussions that occur, keep topic on point and let the people speak freely.
This article was originally published by Convention Business Travel
Published: September 2, 2014

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Lisa Patrick

Lisa Patrick is the Chairman and CEO of Convention Business Travel. She is a savvy, innovative, business-focused executive with a strong network and proven track record with corporate and strategy. Lisa started her career in law enforcement and is now the founder of several successful startups. Lisa prides herself on building relationships first and conducting business next. Today, she successfully balances business, marriage and motherhood.

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