Practicing What we Preach: A Case for In-Person Retreats
By: Cori Egan, Junior Partner
You have heard nightmare stories of work retreats: failed trust falls; emotionally charged coal walks (any Office fans out there?); catastrophic personality clashes. Fortunately, at Lumen Impact Group, these problems have never been a part of our annual retreats, which take place in-person in the Fall each year. But, despite having had “just fine” work retreats in the past, this year’s retreat was different for us. We came out feeling like we had grown together as an organization and were able to move beyond some of the foundational “who are we?” and “what do we do?” retreats that we have had in the past.
Turning the Mirror Around
As a company whose employees work mostly from home, it is easy to stay our bubbles, put our heads down in the work, and put organizational health aside. This year, our retreat allowed us to practice what we preach: we were able to turn the mirror around on ourselves to assess our progress and map out our shared vision and strategy for our work ahead. Long gone are the days of deciding and debating who we are and what we stand for, like other more foundational retreats; this year, we were able to look back at where we have come from and where we dream to be in a year. At this retreat we honestly examined ourselves, planned how we want to help our clients, and created a shared ownership of the year ahead.
We also rediscovered the importance of being together in the same room in an increasingly virtual world. Even if you are in an office, it is important to physically step away from those everyday routines, tasks, and inboxes to think about the big picture and forward-thinking questions. We were able to break apart into many small groups to tackle various aspects of our strategic plan, allowing those who rarely work together and think together to do so. Building this kind of synergy “IRL” and getting away from Zoom helped us focus, bond, brainstorm, and think about our impact in ways that virtual work sometimes seems to prohibit.
Celebrating the Connection with an Understanding of Differences
Additionally, this retreat allowed us to celebrate that we enjoy each other while also celebrating our differences. The structure of this retreat gave us built in flex time to do what we need to do individually during frequent built in breaks. Unlike past retreats, we had fully autonomous personal lunch breaks, and stopped working in the late afternoon with enough time to let folks rest, recharge, talk, or play games. Understanding that some of us were excited for more social time and others excited for some personal space, and encouraging everyone to do what they needed in that moment was a game changer. This not only allowed us to start the next day with clear heads, but also encouraged us to focus during the day knowing we had a hard stop at 5 PM.
Equipped for Real Impact
All this said, one thing about this retreat remained the same as the others: what we do at the retreat must be translated into our real work world, making a real impact for our clients. It cannot just be one and done—strategic plans and commitments made at the retreat and then forgotten. We are modeling what we teach other organizations to do: turning the mirror around on ourselves to be better, improve our own plans and systems, and develop processes that will in turn help us create more impact for our clients all year long. This year, we are all stepping out of the retreat with a strategic plan in hand and an understanding of our individual roles to make that plan a reality. Thanks to this retreat, we all feel ready and equipped to do just that.