Why We Make Time for Personal Retreats

Retreats are common in business today to talk strategy and have more thoughtful discussions about the future. Most often when you hear the word retreat, it involves at least several people and often times many. But there are also personal retreats, which are one-on-one. They allow us to have informal conversations about things we otherwise may not have a chance to talk about.

Windshield_0916.jpgPersonal retreats are a concept that we started a few years back to help guide employees through some key transitions in their careers.

This year I had the opportunity to conduct personal retreats with several key leaders at Marco. In each of these scheduled day trips, the conversation is structured around them both personally and professionally. It's a good time for transparency and keeping the talk track wide open. It includes some fun along the way, too.

Here’s how we make personal retreats productive:

  • Get off-site in a comfortable environment.
    It’s common for most meetings to take place in an office or conference room. But personal retreats require you to go on the road and find a more informal location. Ours typically are day trips that provide some built-in windshield time, a meal together and another destination of the employee’s choice. Drive time is a good opportunity for deeper, more thoughtful and even strategic conversations that often do not happen in an hour meeting.

  • Ask thought-provoking questions.
    This time is designed around the employee, and I want them to do most of the talking. So I see myself more as a guide to help initiate the conversation and even the person’s thinking. I take time to develop open-ended questions to get started, such as:
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you at professionally?
    • What’s a good day for you? (At work and/or at home?)
    • What do you like best about your job? What is least desirable?
    • What is one of your proudest moments in your career?
    • What do you want out of your career that you’re not getting?
    • What do you see as your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
    • If you had more time in the day, what would you do?
    • What do you worry about?
    • If you could change one thing at Marco, what would it be?
  • Be ready to listen and learn.
    While these questions in themselves aren’t profound, their answers can be. I am often surprised at what employees share. I gain a much better understanding of them during these retreats. I learn how I can better support and equip them as leaders. I’ve found just by talking through things and letting the employees know that I support them, they get a sharper focus on their key goals, priorities and future plans.

I’ve found personal retreats to be beneficial for employees who have gone through them. And I’ve found value in them, too. I’m not recommending that leaders conduct a personal retreat with everyone on their teams. They are designed to be more fluid – and even spontaneous – and are typically triggered by a key event in the individual’s career.

So think about who may benefit from a personal retreat on your team and even consider initiating one for yourself. I think you’ll find it to be a good practice.

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Topics: Mentoring, Leadership Team, Professional Development