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The Why, When, Where & How of Strategic Staff Retreats

469723021 web, istock, thinkstock, getty imagesI know many advisors are starting to think about their mid-year strategic meeting. Lack of planning can turn these much needed retreats into disaster.  If your firm currently holds periodic strategic meetings, consider the following tips and benefits. Tip – Strategic team retreats will provide positive outcomes in productivity, team morale, team development and office culture.

Why Should You Retreat?

Team retreats give your firm the opportunity to reflect on the big picture by absorbing your vision, mission, value and purpose. It is vital for team members to put their position within your firm into perspective. Doing so allows team members to identify how they fit into your organization and contribute to overall success. When team members realize their value; productivity, ownership and self-improvement excel. In addition to team development, retreats provide an opportunity for:

  • Strategic and Operational PlanningThis is an opportune time to review systems, processes, policies and procedures. Establish your goal prior to the meeting; which should be built on the foundation to continually increase the quality of service you provide to clients and ways to improve operational effectiveness. This is a good time to perform a SWOT analysis on your firm by identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Tip – Have each team member complete a business SWOT analysis prior to the strategic retreat.
  • Team BuildingRetreats are an excellent time to strengthen your team. Best practice ideas include placing a focus on the culture of your firm. Tip – Have each team member complete a personality profile such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Share profile assessments during your retreat. Doing so will reveal unique personal styles and how specific characteristics link each team member to their position within your firm. Plan to discuss how different personalities add dimension to your team and work together effectively. You may choose to dig a little deeper by integrating other assessments Ironstone has available – Take a look at additional profile assessments available at Ironstone. Structure your team building exercise to clarify roles and expectations, ease tension, identify and appreciate unique contributions and cultivate a solid and positive culture.

 “Only 29% of employees are fully engaged, 52% are not engaged and 19% are disengaged”

BlessingWhite, Inc.

  • Brain Storming Complacently in business is an ingredient for disaster. Persevere through complacently by offering brain storming sessions during your staff retreats. Allow staff to step away from routine processes and think out-side of the box. Focus on different key areas within your firm. You will not have enough time to cover every area in one meeting, so consider alternating key topics. Some areas to include are; market share, service delivery, new technology and new trends. Tip – Pair team members together and assign each team a subject to research prior to your retreat. Tell them to imagine their research will be a feature story on your website or used in a press release. This exercise will provide innovation and stretch imaginations beyond the norm. During your retreat, discuss the ideas by reviewing benefits, obstacles and the tactics you will use to move closer to implementation.

When & Where Should You Retreat

When and where you retreat is entirely up to you! Ideally, a retreat should be conducted away from your office.  Retreats are hard work and require long periods of intense, uninterrupted discussion. Holding your retreat outside of the daily workplace will provide team members the opportunity to focus, enjoy the retreat and bring visionary ideas to the table. Tip – An ideal setting does not guarantee a productive retreat. Assign a team to spearhead your retreat including when, where and pre-planning assignments correlating to the agenda.

How You Should Retreat

Plan In Advance – Allow team members sufficient time to plan for the event personally and professionally. Establish retreat dates at the same time you plan your annual marketing calendar. Tip – Assign projects at least one month in advance for optimal results.  Assigning projects to team members a week before your retreat adds stress and frustration, and results in an unproductive retreat with less than average ideas due to lack of preparation time.

During The Retreat – Create a relaxed environment with a twist on culture. This will not only be fun for those planning the retreat but will provide an atmosphere different from the daily office. Allow discussions to be open by asking for input from all team members. If the retreat gets off track, you are responsible to bring the group back into focus.  Avoid topics that should be discussed in one-on-one settings. This is the time to retreat to a place where minds are relaxed and stretched and the entire team comes together for a greater cause. Tip – Create a theme for your retreat.

After The Retreat – Follow up! Just as you would follow up with a client, following up with your team is vitally important. Create a survey and ask members to complete it. Many team members are fearful to complete a survey and won’t share their true thoughts. Tip: Provide an anonymous online survey using a product such as Survey Monkey.

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Why, when, where and how does your office hold strategic retreats? Share your best practices with us!

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