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Department Retreats

Retreats are effective tools for developing teams and strategic goals. Taking time away from the office allows groups to mentally recharge and refocus on their mission. OWL can help you plan a successful retreat.

When planning a retreat, consider the following factors:

  • Goals: Goals help guide the retreat. They should be specific, realistic and align with your mission.
  • Activities: Choose activities that align with the goals for the retreat.
  • Participants: Work with your team to ensure that key stakeholders, decision-makers and partners are invited.
  • Time: Schedule enough time to work through the determined goals. Include time for meals, breaks and reflection.
  • Location: The right location can foster candid conversation and help teams feel more comfortable.
  • Facilitators: A facilitator helps groups work through their goals. Internal facilitators may have a greater knowledge of the group, while external facilitators may be able to encourage more open discussion.

Department Retreat Guide

Retreats are an effective component of departmental success. OWL is here to help you plan your best retreat.

The Basics

Planning & Preparation

  • What is your goal for this retreat?
    • How will the retreat align with your department/office mission?
    • Do planned activities reinforce your mission and goals?
  • When is the best time for your team to have a retreat?
    • Where should you hold the retreat?
    • Who should participate?
  • Which activities should you choose to support the goal of the retreat?
  • Who should facilitate the retreat? (See below)

Choosing the Facilitator

Facilitators focus on how people participate in learning or planning, not just on the outcome of the activity. Their role is to promote conversation and ideas while helping groups move through a process.

Consider the purpose of the retreat when deciding the following:

  • What type of facilitator is going to best help you meet your objectives?
  • Do you need an expert in a particular area?
  • Do you need a large group facilitator and several small group facilitators?
  • Can you utilize qualified members of the university or organization?
  • Are facilitators prepared and able to meet the needs of participants?

Preparing Activities

Any retreat activities should be intentional and support the goals of the event. Trainings, discussions, reflections, games - all should be planned around the purpose of the retreat.

Tips for Leaders

Whether you or someone else will facilitate the retreat, the following tips will help.

Leadership Style

Your model of engagement and enthusiasm determines the involvement and reaction of your participants. Being committed and motivated as a leader will inspire a more positive response.

Active Listening

Participants want to know you are giving them your undivided attention. Active listening can help you create a genuine connection with your group.

Active listening is when you make an effort to hear the complete message being communicated.
Tips for active listening:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Use nonverbal cues such as nodding or leaning toward the person speaking.
  • Summarize or paraphrase what people have said, but be careful not to speak over them.

Team Development

Be aware of what stage of development your team is in so you can help them move forward.

  • Do you have new members and you're reorienting yourselves to a new dynamic?
  • Is the group learning roles and responsibilities according to the team?
  • Is there conflict that needs to be worked through in order to work well together?
  • Is the team functioning well on their own and are ready to be pushed to the next level?