Leadership retreats are often a welcome break from the daily grind of work. They give people a chance to network with other professionals. The facilitator should select activities with care, making sure they reflect the objectives of the retreat.
In this roleplay, described by Merianne Liteman and her coauthors in their book “Retreats That Work,” the facilitator gives participants each a business card with a blank back. They should use company cards if everyone is from one company; otherwise use blank cards. Pretending they just met a potential client at a business event, everyone should summarize the distinct competencies of their company (or themselves) briefly on the back of the card in just 30 seconds. Together, the group should critique the responses.
In this activity described by Robert W. Lucas in “The Creative Training Idea Book,” people choose partners, prepare short presentations within 15 minutes and present them to their partners. In doing so, they realize how much they already know about the topic at hand and become more comfortable with presenting and interacting with peers. Partners should choose different topics, each focusing on something they hope to learn more about in the retreat, says Lucas.
Stories can often teach more effectively than direct instructions. Lucas suggests having participants develop their own stories about real workplace events, then telling them to the group. The stories should illustrate as many lessons from the leadership retreat as possible and engage listeners. Participants can use their stories to motivate employees and learn what makes a story effective.
As James M. Kouzes and his coauthors of “The Leadership Challenge: Activities Book” suggest, the facilitator could have people partner up and have them build a simple model using a construction kit. The models could be anything; in fact, the facilitator could create her own diagram for a structure made from building blocks or popsicle sticks. The catch is, one partner wears a blindfold while the other partner gives instructions. The second partner cannot touch the materials, but must rely on giving clear instructions just as the blindfolded partner must rely on careful listening.
Strong leaders recognize and point out the strengths in others, in addition to offering constructive criticism. After participants have gotten to know each other through other activities and sessions, the facilitator could have them form a circle and do a classic ball-toss activity. In the ball toss, commonly done at leadership and team-building events, people stand in a circle and throw a foam ball to each other. Each time someone catches it, he must throw it to someone new, if possible. In this activity, they should pause for a moment before throwing it, saying something positive about the person he's about to throw the ball to.
- "Retreats That Work"; Merianne Liteman, Sheila Campbell and Jeffrey Liteman; 2006
- "The Creative Training Idea Book"; Robert W. Lucas; 2003
- "The Leadership Challenge: Activities Book"; James M. Kouzes; 2010
Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.