Good Leaders: How do you guarantee you will “think out of the box?”

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The beaches of Del Mar, California present the perfect setting for a leadership retreat.

The beaches of Del Mar, California present the perfect setting for a leadership retreat. It’s easy to find fresh energy walking along the crashing surf.

“Thinking out of the box” is one of my favorite cliches. It makes me chuckle like a good Dilbert cartoon! Isn’t “thinking out of the box” just another way to say we need creativity in our leadership? 

Recently my team and I hosted a strategy and leadership retreat in Del Mar, California. A very enlightened client embraced the idea that we could stimulate change and commitment by literally flying people “out of the box.” The highlight was a hot air balloon ride (I wrote about that two weeks ago.) But the sandy beaches, crashing surf and warm January weather didn’t guarantee creativity – or a positive ROI.

Structure is freedom

Leadership retreats are expensive: if the average salary for people in the room is $120,000 per year, that’s $2500/week for every person in the room – not counting flights, food, lodging and coaching fees!  So how do we ensure the client receives the bang for their buck?

We embrace Shakespeare’s creative notion: structure is freedom. With every retreat – near or far – we use a four-part formula to ensure clients find and leverage their creativity to help the business grow:

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Not every leadership retreat can include a hot air balloon ride - we like to host "Game Night" for competitive Yahtzee, Pictionary and Jenga. It's good fun!

Not every leadership retreat can include a hot air balloon ride – we like to host “Game Night” for competitive Yahtzee, Pictionary and Jenga. It’s good fun!

1) Prime the pump: Fresh thinking is more likely when we have new things to read before the retreat. It’s even better when we are asked to share our individual perspectives on what we read. We often provide the bright paper: Why Goodness Pays, and survey participants with questions like, “What challenges are you facing that are the most invigorating?”

2) Follow an 8 – 8 – 8 agenda: Travel, a strange bed and fresh thinking are exhausting! That’s why we recommend 8 hours of “work,” 8 hours of “rest” and 8 hours of “play.” And structured fun-time is a good way to reduce time spent sitting in the hotel bar. When we can’t afford a fancy hot air balloon ride, we like to host a “Game Night” with competitive Yahtzee, Pictionary or Jenga.  That’s always good for belly laughs.

3) Manage the energy, not the agenda: The most powerful insights need space to breathe. Some conversations go longer than expected, and some just don’t flow as planned. We like to get people out of their seats with “stand up meetings,” Coaching Buddies, and “buzz groups,” to help keep the good energy flowing. I also choose music from happy, upbeat sound tracks:  I like Huey Lewis, Earth Wind and Fire and Michael Jackson to keep the mood light, easy and joyful. And when the group needs a break, we recommend providing enough time for a brisk walk outside to help people find new energy.

4) Produce personal and professional growth: Leaders today spend lots of time away from their families – that’s why we focus on delivering both personal and professional growth. Structured conversations about the Seven Fs: faith, family, finances, fitness, friends, fun and future always create insights and shared commitments to help people really grow.

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Stand up meetings help keep the energy flowing during long days of leadership discussions.

Stand up meetings help keep the energy flowing during long days of leadership discussions.

Throughout the week we require everyone to keep a “start, stop, continue” log.  Before we leave, everyone around the room shares “The One Thing” they promise to act upon to make the investment of time, energy and money pay off.

Good leaders create great results by investing in the growth and development of the people important to their success. And they learn to find creativity through a well-designed “structure is freedom” retreat strategy.

Please share with me: What’s the best retreat you’ve ever experienced and why?

Drop me a note if you want to know how we managed 28 leaders over 4 1/2 days far away from home.  It’s a good story![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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