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5 Tips for an Effective Team Retreat The best place to talk about work is far from the office.

By Thomas Smale

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You have crafted a superstar team, but even the most talented employees need time away from their work. Downtime is a universal reset on problems at work.

Every company can benefit from an opportunity to come together and bond as a team. Coworkers need to refocus on their priorities and goals, and distance themselves from the realities and challenges of their day-to-day working life. A team retreat is an excellent, but often underutilized, team-building tool. Interacting in a new environment leaves the team refreshed and ready to hit the ground running when they return to work.

Here are five tips you can follow to organize an effective team retreat.

1. Involve the whole team.

Two important questions to consider when booking a retreat are:

  • Why are we going?
  • Who should come?

For instance, if you're planning a leadership retreat, then you may want to limit invitations to just the executives and decision makers within your company. Ideally, a team retreat will be open to all your staff. If possible, everyone should be in attendance. Not only will this prevent certain people from feeling like they've been left out, it's also critical to develop a sense of togetherness among your team members.

Michael at Venture Team Building notes, "a team building retreat should bring everyone together. Failing to invite certain people in the organization could have a negative impact on employee morale, which is the opposite of what you're trying to achieve."

Unity is particularly important when you're looking to achieve business objectives as a unit. Getting everyone on the same page can boost confidence, clarity and efficiency.

Related: 17 Quotes to Instantly Inspire Teamwork When Unity Is Lost

2. Hire a knowledgeable speaker.

It's easy to feel like you're living in an echo chamber when working within an organization. You become intimately familiar with corporate culture as well as objectives and goals, but that focus and single mindedness can hinder innovation and new ways of looking at problems. Even brainstorming can become rote.

A quality speaker can help you see things from a new perspective. They can bring new, creative ideas and thoughts to the table that could help solve challenging issues, and present the group with questions that you may not have even considered before.

James A. McCaffery of Training Resources Group suggests getting your guest speaker involved early in the planning process. This can help them prepare their material and share on topics that are relevant and targeted to your team.

McCaffery also notes that an outside speaker generally appears more impartial than a facilitator within the company. This may be a major benefit if you're looking to resolve disharmony or settle arguments among your employees.

Related: 10 Traits of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy to Come to Work

3. Take the retreat offsite.

When booking retreats, your temptation might be to book somewhere nearby, such as within city limits or a short distance outside. Naturally, cost can be a determining factor when it comes to organizing an event.

If it's in the budget, you should get away from your office and into new surroundings. A neighboring state is a good option, because it allows you and your team a chance to distance yourself from your place of business but it isn't too far away, so planning isn't a logistical nightmare. After all, you must consider everyone's availability and ability to travel.

Escaping from the office can help your team to come together. It can also contribute to a sense of feeling refreshed after returning from the retreat. There's a reason why they call it a getaway. Physically getting away from the office gives your people a fresh perspective on tired issues.

Related: It Takes More Than Tech to Get Teams to Collaborate Effectively

4. Have a roundtable discussion to gather team feedback.

How often do your employees get to express their ideas, thoughts or struggles?

Even if you have an open-door policy or a system for collecting feedback, it's possible your employees don't always get the chance to share what's on their mind. This can happen when their busy day-to-day simply doesn't allow for it, or they fear being judged.

An honest roundtable discussion can help clear the air and get matters out in the open. Issues that need to be dealt with can be brought to the fore. Keep in mind that this will not happen if you do not create a safe environment for it. You should allow for open discussions where no one is at risk of being judged.

As your team members raise issues, others may chime in with the same concerns, helping you identify workplace challenges that need to be prioritized and dealt with.

Related: The Unusual Team-Building Methods of Famous Bosses (Infographic)

5. The power of fun.

When planning activities for your retreat, try to avoid traditional icebreakers and team-building activities, which can sometimes feel forced, don't always work and can even do more harm than good.

Instead, replace these tired approaches with fun activities for your staff to participate in. Simple activities like a group kayak tour or volleyball on the beach have their own worth in just allowing the team to let loose and try something different together. Having fun and potentially even competing for something -- like a prize -- can help bond team members that may not have otherwise come together. This can open lines of communication and even foster future collaboration. The key thing is to ensure everyone has fun.

Get creative when planning activities for your team retreat. Don't settle for the same old, same old. Consider where you will be holding the retreat, what equipment or resources are available to you, what your employees are interested in and plan around these factors.

Final thoughts

In business, it can be so easy to forget to have fun. Getting away allows for new ideas to percolate, help your team members recharge, find common ground and build relationships each other. This is often a missing link to creating a more effective and pleasant work environment—simply stepping away for a few days.

Team retreats help your employees find their equilibrium and their place in the company again. Refreshed, people tend to be more effective than ever and have a fresh perspective on the issues that have grown stale. If you want to sustain increased productivity, then you'll want to plan yearly retreats to continue to engage your workers. You may even end up spending less on new hires, with rejuvenated employees lowering turnover.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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