Making yourself step away from the day-to-day duties of running your construction business is hard to do. Not to mention taking the key members of your management team with you. And what if I said that you also needed to take some of the non-management personnel, members of your office and field staff, away for a half day or so and ask them to attend your winter retreat?
It is a lot…but it’s not. The dividends that you can reap from a well-organized and well-run management retreat, one that has a proper action plan and follow-up, are worth every hour that you pay employees to attend. Throw it together with no thought to follow up on initiatives and it will fail. You will not only have wasted time, but you also have the potential of losing credibility with your employees.
Following are five key factors for conducting a successful management retreat:
1. Plan – Goal or purpose
5. Follow-up driver
If your company holds annual management retreats, your goal may be similar from year to year — review the prior year’s results and set goals for next year. For others, the need for a management retreat may be driven by a specific need or event. A change in ownership or a morale issue are examples that would drive the need for a retreat.
Define the goals so that there is clarity of purpose. This helps you to set the agenda, perform any pre-retreat work or data gathering and jump-starts thinking. For those who hold annual retreats, I challenge you to think outside the box. Get creative in the activities you plan, the issues you tackle, who you include and the way you engage attendees.
Getting away is essential. You do not have to go far, nor do you need extravagance. You just need a comfortable meeting space with decent food. Staying in the office, even on the weekend, is too distracting.
Who attends the meeting will be driven in part by the purpose of the retreat. If you have specific morale issues, for example, you might use a portion of the retreat time to have members of your office and field staff attend so you can dive into the details of the problems. Or you might instead decide to survey them ahead of time and use these results rather than having them attend.
The facilitator plays a key role in the success of the retreat. Their job is to:
- Keep everyone on task and on target,
- Help summarize and restate key points,
- Solicit engagement from a variety of attendees (so that all voices can be heard)
- Resolve conflict
- Act as note taker, documenting all relevant discussions and action items and finally,
- The facilitator helps the company turn agreed upon items into action plans with ownership, actions steps and goal dates.
The facilitator typically helps with planning as well (establishing the agenda, conducting customer or employee surveys and consolidating data, for example).This role is best filled by an impartial third party.
Finally, the follow-up. The sink or swim of retreat credibility. What you do with all the great conversations, ideas and plans is critical. It is why you had the retreat. However, delivery is difficult. The difficulty in delivering on the plan is often a function of time. You need a follow-up driver. You need a person (typically the facilitator) to meet regularly with those who have ownership of action items, helping each employee to stay on task and on deadline. Management may take part in some of these meetings but the facilitator is ultimately responsible.
So there is it, the roadmap for a successful management retreat. Commitment to, and thoughtful consideration, of each of the five steps, is critical to its success, and its success can be critical to the future of your company. Good luck and go for it!
Brigid M. Huber, CPA is the president and owner of Contractor Strategy Consultants. She has spent the last 25 years working in both public accounting and industry, specializing in the construction industry for the last 15 years.