Best Practices: Executive Team Retreat

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Best Practices: Planning an Executive Team Retreat

Some of the best practices for structuring an effective one-day executive team retreat includes setting achievable goals, planning appropriate activities, allocating sufficient budget and time, etc.

6 STRATEGIES FOR STRUCTURING AN EFFECTIVE ONE-DAY LEADERSHIP RETREAT

1. Assess concerns, needs, and desired outcomes

  • Effectiveness: Assessing concerns, needs, and desired outcomes enables the leadership to structure the knowledge and learning to be passed on to other participants

2. Set clear and achievable goals

  • Effectiveness: Prioritizing learning goals and objectives enable leadership to set appropriate milestones to ensure coverage of the most important topics

3. Deciding activities, content, and programs

  • Effectiveness: Deciding activities, content, and programs according to the desired outcome is important to ensure the effectiveness of the retreat

4. Make logistical and budget arrangements and assign responsibilities

  • Effectiveness: Retreat planners need to make appropriate logistical and budget arrangements to ensure that the retreat would produce the best discussions and bring the group closer. In addition, assigning responsibilities to individuals would ensure that everyone has a stake in the success of the retreat, thereby, resulting in overall participation

5. Allocate ample time and planning

  • Effectiveness: Setting a basic agenda would ensure that the retreat feels organized and covers a substantial amount of material

6. Plan a follow-up or evaluation

  • Effectiveness: Retreat planners need to follow-up or evaluate with the participants in order to check the effectiveness of the retreat and make necessary changes next time to avoid shortcomings

Example — Agenda 1

Example — Agenda 2

Five Tips for an Effective Team Retreat

YOUR RESEARCH TEAM APPLIED THE FOLLOWING STRATEGY:

We commenced our research by looking for studies and reports on tips/strategies/methods for structuring an effective one-day retreat for an executive team in public relations firms. However, no such study or report was found published by any leading consulting firms including but not limited to BCG, Mckinsey, and A.T. Kearney among others. Although we were able to discover articles published by the International Institute of Management and Harvard Business Review, they provided generic information on planning an effective team retreat. Nonetheless, they did not provide any information specific to leadership or executive teams in public relations firms.

Subsequently, we started to search for data provided by retreat planning and leadership consulting firms on tips/strategies/methods for structuring an effective one-day retreat for an executive team in public relations firms. We came across articles published by Net Impact and Lead Positively that provided tips and strategies for planning successful leadership retreats along with two sample agendas. However, none of the examples were specific to public relations firms.

As our last resort, we examined media sources on the said subject. The idea here was to find articles, blogs or press releases published by leaders in public relations firms. Although we were able to find articles published on Entrepreneur and Inc. that provide tips for planning a successful team retreat, no article could be found that specifically focused on retreats for executive teams in public relations firms. Since we were unable to trace sufficient data points, triangulation was not possible.
One of the probable reasons for the unavailability of the information is that the tips/strategies/methods and agendas for structuring an effective one-day retreat are the same for all companies including public relations firms.
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Best Practices: Running an Executive Team Retreat

Some best practices for running an effective PR executive team retreat are:
  • Pre-planning goals and keeping the team focused on them.
  • Asking the team to disconnect during periods of work.
  • Try to attain a level of closure for each agenda item and go over follow-up plans.
  • Hire an objective facilitator to help encourage a more equal level of participation.
  • Assign roles to participants to foster a communal sense of responsibility for the meeting's success.
A deep dive of these findings has been provided below.

BEST PRACTICE 1: KEEP THE TEAM FOCUSED ON THE PRE-DETERMINED OBJECTIVE

About this practice:

  • According to Bob Frisch of Strategic Offsites Group, who has been working with executive teams for over 30 years, when planning an executive retreat it is important to "determine an objective, and commit to an outcome" while also being transparent with the team to let them know exactly what the retreat is about, what they can expect from it, and which areas of focus will be the most critical.
  • Firsch also notes that it's important to let the team know which topics are "out of scope" for the retreat.

Why it's effective:

  • Because retreats are typically a costly expense, it's important to "maximize the time together" as a way of optimizing the investment. Therefore, setting an objective, making a plan, and sticking to it is critical.
  • This best practice is corroborated by Tai Tsao of Meeteor who notes that taking some time to get participants focused on the meeting helps to get everyone's attention and encourages them to be mentally present.
  • The team at EventMB, a media outlet for meeting and event professionals, also corroborates this best practice and adds that it's a good idea to communicate the meeting agenda to attendees before traveling to the retreat destination as doing so will allow them to mentally prepare and pack the necessary items.
  • William Comcowich, CEO of Glean further corroborates this best practice in his article about facilitating effective PR meetings. He says that "a good agenda states the topics of discussion and how much time will be dedicated to each topic" which ensures the meeting won't become derailed.

BEST PRACTICE 2: HAVE THE TEAM DISCONNECT

About this practice:

  • According to EventMB, a trusted online media portal for event professionals, on suggested best practice for running a corporate retreat is to ask the team to disconnect from their digital devices during the working portions of the retreat.
  • William Comcowich, CEO of Glean, also suggests limiting devices when running a meeting with PR teams and further notes that top executives should set the example by following this rule as well.

Why it's effective:

  • Avoiding distractions during the retreat will lead to a better and more effective working environment because it will ensure that everyone is fully present.

BEST PRACTICE 3: AIM TO 'REACH CLOSURE' ON EACH AGENDA ITEM TO KEEP THE MEETING PRODUCTIVE

About this practice:

  • William Comcowich, CEO of Glean, wrote a 2019 article focused on strategies for making PR meetings more productive. He suggests that it's important to "reach closure" on every topic on the agenda and to also "establish the next action steps."
  • Stating the groups' conclusion at the end of the discussion is also something Comcowich suggests, even in cases where an agreement was not arrived at.
  • Track the number of agenda items that are being completed.
  • Bob Frisch of Strategic Offsites Group corroborates this best practice, adding that it's important to consider that closure shouldn't be forced, especially in situations were additional research and evaluation is needed before a final decision can be made, however, he suggests making plans to reach closure on those items within 30-60 days post-meeting.

Why it's effective:

  • Comcowich says that an 85% completion rate of agenda items is ideal, as time-saving measures such as this help keep the meeting productive.
  • Tai Tsao of Meeteor also corroborates this best practice and notes that documenting the next-steps helps to ensure follow through on the decisions that were made, and restating the outcomes of the meeting allows the group to feel accomplished.

BEST PRACTICE 4: HIRE AN OBJECTIVE FACILITATOR

About this practice:

  • According to insights published in Inc. by Les McKeown, the CEO of Inc. Consulting, a professional facilitator is a good idea for an executive retreat. This is a person who is experienced in working with C-level executives.
  • Although the facilitator will not set the goals of the retreat, they will help to ensure those goals are met.

Why it's effective:

  • Outsourcing a facilitator helps to create a neutral environment by removing the influence of the 'organizational chart' that exists in an un-facilitated meeting and therefore facilitates a more equal level of contribution and interaction, regardless of an attendee's status in the pyramid.
  • This best practice is also corroborated by Tai Tsao of Meeteor, who notes that a skilled facilitator can "get everyone to share their voices amidst the various personalities, opinions, and sensitivities that exist in any group of humans, while also guiding the group to achieve the desired outcome within the meeting time constraints."

BEST PRACTICE 5: ASSIGN ROLES

About this practice:

  • According to Tai Tsao of Meeteor, a meeting and collaboration services provider, it is recommended that participants are assigned specific roles during the meeting, and even to switch the roles up across different meetings.
  • Assigned roles could be those such as time-keeper or note-taker.

Why it's effective:

  • Assigning roles to participants helps to foster a "communal responsibility to make the meeting a success" says Tsao.
  • William Comcowich, CEO of Glean further corroborates this best practice in his article about facilitating effective PR meetings. He suggests that it's also important to establish who is in charge, as "meetings without someone clearly responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive."

RESEARCH STRATEGY

In order to identify best practices for running an effective one-day executive team retreat for a PR team. Since the best practices requested are those intended to "facilitate the one-day meeting," we focused on identifying best practices at the intersection of executive retreats, executive meetings, and PR team meetings. In doing so, we sourced insights across a diverse range of industry experts and cross-referenced them with insights from other experts to isolate the best practices that were being reported across various resources. In doing so, we made sure to focus on data that was either directly relevant to PR executive teams or could reasonably be applied to any executive team (including PR teams). Additionally, we made sure to focus on insights that were specific to executive teams and retreats, which we could logically assume would be smaller compared to company retreats where employees of various levels attend.
Sources
Sources