Remember when the “corporate retreat” was this shiny unicorn thing that everyone wanted to go on — because … vacation! Yeah, me either. Yet corporate retreats are still a “thing” that the C-Suite often feels is relevant to team building. Whether you left your last retreat feeling closer to your colleagues or you left feeling like you wasted your time, the bottom line is quality collaboration starts with a focus on individual motivation so forget everything you know about team building.


#1. Objectives Aren’t Clear

A lot of objectives for these retreats are very vague or don’t have anything to do with the team’s performance. There are no clear business objectives and instead of planning, committees often focus on fun activities that become irrelevant to the goal of the retreat.

The point of a retreat is to bring the team together to focus on important work, to team-build, and — it is business after all — to get a better work product in the end. When the business objectives are defined and the retreat design is built logically to achieve these objectives, everyone wins.

#2. The Retreat is a “One-Off Thing”

Retreats are often looked at as separate from work as standalone events. This leads to the common issue of returning to the office Monday morning after the retreat, forgetting about the retreat and going on with business as usual. Then, later on, you hear complaints that there was no follow up from the retreat or that nothing was really accomplished by it.

A retreat should build upon things that are already happening. Employees should review performance data, read articles or do advanced homework to prepare for the retreat. A good retreat will end with an action plan that demands a follow-up. Little can change in a day or a weekend, so prep the retreat to expand beyond the event.

#3. Avoids the Tough Stuff

There are issues within every company’s team dynamic. Not everyone will like each other and not every process is the best process for producing results. A lot of retreats steer clear of addressing the tough issues because they don’t want to place team members in an uncomfortable spot. The best retreats will address these tougher issues allowing the leaders and team members to engage in an honest and candid dialogue. It takes time beforehand to determine how to approach the topics and what topics to approach. The last thing you want to do is leave a retreat still feeling like there is a huge elephant in the room.

#4. The Retreats Segment Out into Groups

A lot of retreats believe that placing people into segmented groups from different areas of the company will help these colleagues get to know each other better, etc. A lot of the time these groups aren’t strategically decided upon and it ends up becoming a group of people who may never work directly together or cross paths. This is fine to do if you want your company to become more cohesive, but perhaps leaders should look deeper into these group dynamics to really strategically place people together or they need to do away with groups all at once.

Tell me your last experience with company retreats. Was it productive? Share with me over on my LinkedIn page.