As a practice leader, you might think of setting business goals, strategizing and working to energize your team as activities best done at the very end or very beginning of a year. But there is never a bad time to take stock, plan, review strategy and address staff development. Consider the benefits of hosting a retreat for your entire staff smack in the middle of summer. Think of it as clicking the “refresh” button mid-way through the year so that your team can head into the fall with an eye toward achieving your most important practice goals by year end. Here are a few points to think about if a summer retreat sounds like a good idea.
First, decide what you want the focus of your retreat to be. Your team could spend a half day or even a full day reviewing goals that were established at the start of the year and determining what steps need to be taken in the coming months to ensure that those goals become realities. If your office is experiencing challenges in one or two key areas (e.g., wait times, revenue management, tension in the office) you could use part of your retreat time to dig deeply into the problems and come up with solutions that you’ve yet to try. If things are more or less on track in your practice, a day-long or two-day retreat could be devoted to teambuilding. Such an event might include formal exercises combined with free time for employees to relax and enjoy one another’s company outside the office.
Determine if your retreat will be facilitated by a professional, of if someone in the office (or several people) will be responsible for setting the agenda, keeping discussions on track and documenting decisions made so that those responsible for implementing new ideas can be held accountable once you’re all back at the office. If you plan to address sticky personnel issues or engage in teambuilding, hiring a skilled coach/facilitator is a good investment. If your retreat topics are technical or financial in nature, a practice management consultant might be a good choice to serve as a combined facilitator/advisor.
Think about how much time and money you have to invest in a retreat. A lot can be accomplished with a modest budget if a retreat is held at someone’s home. Provide (catered, if possible) a light breakfast and a healthy lunch so that the person hosting the event in his or her home does not have to do much in the way of prep or cleanup. If your budget is a bit larger, hold your day-long retreat at a nearby hotel, resort, or conference center. And if you’re really feeling flush with cash, take the team away for an overnight getaway and build in both work and play time over the course of a two-day retreat.
Regardless of how you structure your summer retreat or what you decide to address during your time away from the practice, be sure to take what you glean from the experience back to the office and make good use of it. It’s all too easy to get excited in the moment about new ideas and then let them wither on the vine once you’re back at work faced with day-to-day activities and challenges. To avoid this fate, add “retreat follow-up” to your staff meeting agendas for the few months following your event.