One of the most interesting and fun things we get to do here at Lioness Learning is to organize and facilitate off-site strategic team retreats. Most are for dental, veterinary, and discretionary healthcare teams, but recently we’ve been expanding and really enjoying our work with internal corporate teams, consulting companies, non-profit groups, and even an innovative law firm.
As facilitators our job is to clarify the objectives and to design the agenda, educational content, and experiential learning so that those objectives are met and all participants and sponsors of the event feel clear and confident with the decisions, learning, breakthroughs, and action plans created. To do that effectively, you can imagine… we ask a lot of questions.
While we certainly add educational content where needed or requested, our work is much more about discovery than delivery; more about innovation than regurgitation… and questions are the key to both discovery and innovation.
There’s an old saying that in small business or professional teams, “If you spend 100% of your time working in the business, you never have any time to work on the business.” In other words, in an effort to be successful, sometimes the business is leading and running us, and we are in complete reactionary mode versus taking time to lead the business by getting ourselves in a proactive position. As a small business owner myself, I know what it’s like to be the primary producer of the income and therefore feel that there is simply no time for proactive planning. But I have never done it (even when forced to do so) and regretted it. Quite the contrary, working on my business on a regular and pre-scheduled basis has saved my business’s life and probably mine as well.
If you’re working full-time in your business or department, consider scheduling an off-site strategic retreat for yourself and your team. Develop an agenda which includes a recalibration of the vision for your business or group, a snapshot of the current landscape, goal alignment and strategic brainstorming / action plan development. Consider an outside professional trainer or facilitator to help develop the agenda, keep you on track, add educational content, and drive innovation with your team. We always try to build in an exercise or two that addresses a current team dynamic such as communication under pressure, elevating professionalism, conquering fear, or simply bonding a new team or deepening the bond for an established one.
Be sure to plan some thought-provoking questions (and sentences to finish) in advance to enrich the conversations and drive the outcomes you’re looking for. Some of my favorites include:
1. I LOVE it when….
2. It makes me crazy when…
3. What are the pain points in our business? For clients? For the team?
4. If I only had _______________, I’d be able to _____________________.
5. Where are the opportunities to make things flow better?
6. The next stop on my journey of growth in my position is…
7. The one thing the leadership of this company could do that would help me to be more productive is …
8. The one thing I could do to be more effective in my position is…
9. If I could enroll in any course that would improve my productivity at work, it would be a course about…
You get the idea. Write a list of your own! A great way to wrap up your session is with this set of commitments for participants:
Based on what we discussed / learned today, I’m going to:
Remember, if you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail. We’re here to help if you need us.