Tips for Planning the Perfect Board of Directors Retreat
Various Tips for Planning the Perfect Board of Directors Retreat
You may think that having your board members meet every so often to discuss matters is enough for your business, but think again. You want to actively engage all members of your board of directors in an immersive environment where they can build better relationships with each other and develop new skills. Board retreats are the perfect opportunity to create this immersive environment.
How Long Should The Retreat Be?
If you’ve done any research on board retreats, you know their length can vary. At the smaller end, there is a half-day of training, and, at the larger end, retreats can last for full weekends. Determining the right length for your board retreat can make all the difference in how well your participants enjoy themselves and how much they actively learn. It’s vital to put yourself into the perspective of your participants.
If they’ve never experienced a board retreat before, then ease them into it. You should opt for a full day of training. Save the weekend retreats for later, once your employees become more familiar with the concept of retreats and how they can best benefit from them. In addition, you’ll need to take into account the financial expenditure of the retreat. If you have a large number of participants, a day expenditure is going to be more feasible for many businesses over a weekend retreat expenditure.
Delivering More Than Just Fine
One sad truth in the business industry is that many board retreat attendees can’t even remember what they discussed and learned from their most recent retreats. If you’ve had board retreats in the past and didn’t feel like they were life-changing, then you need to change your structure. Board retreats are not intended to be just an extended board meeting.
Rather, they’re meant to be an immersive environment that actively trains and alters the perspective of how attendees approach running the business. You don’t want your participants to walk away, saying that the retreat was ‘just fine.’ Mediocre retreats can hinder your ability to engage board members actively.
You should put your efforts toward constructing a board of directors retreat that engages and changes people. Board members should leave your retreat having pride in their work, camaraderie amongst the business, and the urge to perform as a life-altering ambassador. Creating this change in your board members is much easier than you may think. You just have to do what others who are creating a mediocre board of directors retreat won’t.
Top Things To Avoid When Planning Your Retreat
One of the best ways for people to learn about how to plan a board of directors retreat successfully is to understand common mistakes. We’re going to go over five of these mistakes below. Pay close attention to what the retreat planner did and why it harmed their ability to engage and change their board of directors actively.
Not Defining Your Idea Of Success
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when planning a board of directors retreat is simply not defining what is going to make it a success. You should be thinking about the criteria that will determine whether or not your retreat turned out to be a successful one. A great way to define success for your retreat is to answer the question, “Our retreat will be successful if…”.
Not Having Co-Pilot Planning
Designing a board of directors retreat must be done by more than just one person. If you just assume that the executive director will take care of the agenda, you’re not going to have a successful retreat. Every good retreat requires multiple planners. Your executive director and board chair should both be on board in a co-piloting fashion.
Lack Of Icebreakers
A major component of having a successful retreat is team building. In order for your board members to really appreciate each others’ talents, they must get to learn about each other truly. Icebreakers are a great way to breakdown the natural human defense layer and get members to share more about themselves. Without this critical component to breakthrough the stuffy defense layer, you’re not going to be able to create an ideal environment for team building.
Not Addressing Meaty Issues
Your board retreat topics should include some tough ones. The retreat shouldn’t just be a show and tell of how great the company is doing. Instead, there should be time designated in the nonprofit board retreat agenda to address some of the meatier issues of the business. This could be developing a strategic pivot plan or addressing a change in your sector. Having all of your board of directors in one place and ready to work together creates the perfect time to address these meatier issues.
We saved the biggest mistake for last. Not having a proper facilitator to direct the retreat is a surefire way to ensure that your board of directors has a ‘just fine’ experience. As with all good meetings, you need someone who runs the group. The person that directs the agenda and handles any hiccups in the retreat. While you may initially think about having one of your own board members act as the facilitator, you should think again. Consider hiring an outside consultant who will have no reservations about poking and prodding to bring substance to the retreat discussions and who brings active experience in directing. Carol Weisman has years of experience leading successful board retreats. Contact Carol today to schedule her for your next board retreat.
Key Factors Of A Successful Board Of Directors Retreat
You’ve learned above what mistakes you need to avoid when planning your retreat. Now, it’s time that you understand the key components that will make your retreat a success. Below are five of the most essential components that you need to include in your nonprofit board retreat agenda to enjoy a life-altering retreat.
Define A Clear Why
This seems super simple but is often overlooked when the planning phase begins. You need to have a central concept for why you’re having the retreat in the first place. This could be a number of different things. For example, you may need to dig into the makeup of your board of directors and develop a strategy for transformation that will meet the new demands of your business. Or, you may want to look into how you can diversify your revenue streams. Just decide on a topic that is important so that you can have a central concept to refer back to during the planning process.
Create A Sense Of Ownership For All Board Members
It’s vital that you have each board member feeling as if they’re personally responsible for the success of the retreat. This can be done very easily by asking questions to your board members ahead of time. Some example questions include:
- Name three of the most important goals for the upcoming retreat?
- What defines a successful retreat for you?
- What are some possible agenda items that should be addressed during the retreat?
- What defines a successful retreat for our organization?
You should be asking these questions weeks to months ahead of time as these answers will determine your nonprofit board retreat agenda. When you include the board retreat topics that your participants suggest, as long as they align with the overall retreat purpose, you can ensure they receive a sense of ownership. This sense of responsibility will actively get the participant to ensure the retreat is a success for everyone.
Engage On An Emotional Level
Talking about board retreat topics is not enough. You must bring your members in on an emotional level. This is the only way to get them to commit to the success of the board of directors retreat and the future of your business. They need to see, feel, and engage with the topics of discussion. A great way to do this is to bring their ideas to life in models and hire an experienced board of directors retreat advisor who can evoke emotions within your participants.
A Sense Of Camaraderie
As you learned above, team building is an essential part of your board of directors retreat. This retreat should be a time where members get to know one another better. They should be able to identify the unique attributes that each member brings to the table and have a respect for other’s talents. By expressing these unique traits, your board of directors will enhance their sense of camaraderie with one another. Camaraderie is a major benefit for any business and can only be created by carefully fostering team building.
Create A Sense Of Value For Member Input
At the base of every successful board of directors is a sense of value for the input given by all members. If your directors don’t value each other’s opinions, then they can’t work together in a cohesive fashion to tackle a common goal. Your nonprofit board retreat agenda should have necessary components that encourage this sense of value. Great examples are working on outlining possible paths to remedy an issue or raising a series of questions that the board will work cohesively together to answer.
Being Selective With Topics
You may believe that because you have all the board members in a room for a while that it’s the perfect place to bring up every issue. This simply isn’t the case. Instead, you need to be selective about the topics that you bring up. Pick a select few that are the more significant board retreat topics that your directors need to grapple with. Realize that your directors are just like other staff members. They can only really focus on a handful of issues before their brain says no more to crafting creative solutions.
Inform Directors Of Board Retreat Topics Ahead Of Time
While some things of the retreat can be kept as a secret to keep directors on their toes, the board retreat topics shouldn’t be one of them. Let your board members know what the main objective of the retreat is so they can start formulating solutions ahead of time. We all tend to need time to maul problems over in our brains. By giving your board members time to think over the significant issues before the board of directors retreat, they’ll be better able to bring real solutions to the table when the retreat goes down. Consider sending out the nonprofit board retreat agenda a week or so ahead of time.
Allow For Small Committee Formation
It’s no surprise to anyone that a small dedicated committee can move forward faster than a large board. Use this information to your advantage at your next retreat. As your board of directors gets to know each other better, they’ll be able to identify key players to be part of smaller committees. For the board retreat topics that require further problem-solving or just follow-up plan evaluations, there should be small committees designated. This way, you can ensure that the board retreat topics that were discussed will be actually implemented in a timely fashion.
Planning the perfect board of directors retreat all starts with understanding the keys to success. Hopefully, you should have a clear idea of the essential factors that you need to include and the mistakes that you should clearly avoid. Realize that calling in an expert to help plan your board of directors retreat is a great asset. They can work with you to determine your board retreat topics and the best way to showcase them for a productive session.
Invite Key Staff Members To Participate
There’s nothing worse than hitting the point in a discussion where your board can’t go any further until they have key questions answered from top staff members. Do yourself a favor and prepare to invite these key staff members to participate in select discussions. This will ensure that your board of directors is easily able to gather the information they need to make informed decisions about your board retreat topics. Consider inviting top staff members, key volunteers, and other important key players who can deliver the necessary information about the board retreat topics with ease.