Minnesota work retreats and team building.

  • THE WHY AND HOW OF AMAZING STAFF RETREATS

    Ah, the elusive concept of the perfect staff retreat. There are so many questions surrounding the idea of planning a staff retreat, and when they go unanswered businesses tend to shy away from hosting them. Will they be a good use of time? Will the retreat have long term positive impact? Does your team really need to attend an off-site retreat? Let’s dive in so you can fully understand the why and how of staff retreats (and start implementing them to improve your business!).

    WHY ARE STAFF RETREATS BRILLIANT BUSINESS?

    Staff retreats help build your business – big or small – in so many ways. Even if we focus on the high level of what staff retreats accomplish, the truth is you get so much done. Way more than you’d get done during a routine team meeting. I’ve had clients plan their marketing initiatives for the year, how they want to scale their company growth, and some of them have walked away from their staff retreat with a five and ten-year plan. That’s a lot of actionable planning that’s getting knocked out!

    While staff retreats are great for accomplishing tangible goals, like future planning, collaborating on big projects, and brainstorming ideas that will help you move your business forward, they also help your team connect on a deeper level outside the traditional workplace. For some, the work environment is a natural stressor. They suffer from impostor syndrome, they view it as an aspect of their life where there is no enjoyment, or they’re naturally anxious about their own work performance.

    A staff retreat gives these people a chance to connect with coworkers outside of that environment and take time to truly understand one another, as well as their purpose within the grand scheme of your business. This connection helps you to align your team’s goals, boost morale, and ultimately improve productivity at work when your team returns with renewed inspiration and energy.

    WHO SHOULD HAVE A STAFF RETREAT?

    Everyone. One of the reason staff retreats are so amazing is that they’re inclusive. You have the flexibility to invite your close team, an entire office, or the two or three people in your firm. And if you’re a solopreneur? You’re not excluded from having staff retreats for yourself! In fact, it can be even more important for a solopreneur to take a step back and invest time in solidifying their business vision and plans.

    And if you’re reading this thinking, “I don’t need a staff retreat – my team gets along great, business is running smoothly,” you’re probably wrong. That sounds harsh, but it’s accurate. The less you believe you need a staff retreat, the more you probably do to make sure you’re in touch with your team and what’s going on with their workplace engagement.

    Staff retreats allow for a safe space to share ideas and express any reservations, which all team members have at one point or another. Rather than try and gauge if and when you need to host a retreat, try to commit to hosting one annually. That way it’s on the calendar, and there isn’t any guesswork.

     

    PLAN AHEAD

    The first key to a successful staff retreat is to plan ahead. Start with building an agenda to make sure all the business planning, idea brainstorming, and teamwork exercises you want to accomplish get put on the schedule. Planning ahead and deciding how you’ll use your time is the best way to make sure your retreat is the best possible use of both your and your team’s time.

    While you can definitely put together your own retreat, sometimes the planning step is where people get stuck – and then the retreat never happens. That’s why it can be extra handy to involve a facilitator like me to help guide you through the process. Facilitators take the pressure off the leader by helping to uncover key points you want to touch on, brainstorm helpful team building events, and build your agenda.

    Depending on what your team needs, you and your facilitator can plan in one of two ways. You can choose to involve your team. Sometimes a team that already tends to be collaborative enjoys being a part of putting together the agenda, and their ideas and enthusiasm can help guide the tone of the retreat. Alternatively, there may be some teamwork issues that your team is facing. This isn’t uncommon, but if you feel that someone might have a concern that wouldn’t be voiced in a team-planning session, host private meetings with each of your staff to ensure that everyone’s concerns and ideas are addressed.

    When you’re planning your retreat, making it an offsite event is a key factor. This creates a neutral ground where all your team, not just the vocal few, will feel like they can voice their ideas and opinions. Remember, the loudest voices don’t always have the best ideas. If possible, schedule your retreat overnight. There’s something exceptional that happens when people sleep on the work they’ve done and the progress they’ve made, and wake up as a team to keep pushing forward.

    This may sound overwhelming – and that’s okay. Planning a retreat can be a bit of a bear whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned retreat veteran. Having a coach ensures that you’ll stay on track during the planning process without falling behind on your daily work duties (because those are important, too). A coach can also be involved during the actual retreat, making sure voices are heard, guiding the team to stick to the agenda, and tracking ideas that you may want to revisit later so that you, as the boss or team leader, can be fully engaged with your team.

    APPRECIATE YOUR TEAM

    Finally, as much as a staff retreat is about planning, team building, and making progress, it’s also about appreciating your team. They’ve done great work for you, and they’re doing even more great work here at your team’s retreat. It’s a simple gesture, but start the retreat with some comfort food or treats. Donuts, coffee, bagels – whatever floats your boat. This sets the tone of appreciation early. Continue to show your appreciation by scheduling time for fun lunches and dinners, maybe head out to a wine tasting, or incorporate another enjoyable event at the end of the day. You’re getting amazing things done, but taking time to bond and have fun is equally important.

    Showing your team appreciation in these small ways improves your overall connection – nobody likes to go unacknowledged. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is going to want to be 100% involved the entire duration of the retreat. Give your team permission to unplug. Staff retreats, while amazingly productive, can also be amazingly exhausting. The introverts on your team will appreciate optional events – even if they opt to head up to their room and read a book with a pizza instead of tagging along.

    READY FOR YOUR STAFF RETREAT?

    Staff retreats are so fun because not one of them is exactly alike. They can be tailored to your team and your business needs, located anywhere you can imagine, and with a schedule that is unique to what you want to accomplish. I’d love to help you set up your staff retreat, or answer any lingering questions you might have. Please, contact us for a free first consultation. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and your team!


    RETREAT BASICS As you begin to plan your retreat, there are several questions you need to consider. The answers to these questions will help you choose activities that will accomplish the goals you have set for your retreat. When should your organization have a retreat?

    • At the beginning of the year or quarter • At midyear for an evaluation or a refresher • Before or after new officer installation • Before a major program Where should you hold your retreat? • On campus • At a high ropes course or other experiential activity site • Off campus How long should the retreat be? • Several hours • Half day • Whole day • Entire weekend Who should participate? • Members • Officers • Advisors • Workshop presenters (if any) • Resource persons (if any) Who should facilitate the retreat? • Members and/or officers who feel qualified and comfortable doing so • Advisors • Alumni • Faculty • Student Activities staff 5 What are your goals and/or intended outcomes for this retreat? • To introduce new members • To set organizational goals • To provide information and/or workshop sessions • To increase morale and build team spirit • To motivate members for the new year or quarter • To evaluate the progress of long-term goals and objectives • To resolve group conflicts • To get to know each other • To get away and have FUN!

    6 STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO PLANNING YOUR RETREAT Now that you’ve considered the retreat basics, it’s time to start planning your retreat. Good planning is likely to make any event go more smoothly. It is important to give yourself enough time to take care of all the details so you won’t run into last minute problems. We recommend beginning this process one to two months before your retreat date. 1) Determine the goals of your retreat and your desired outcomes. 2) Determine the length of your retreat. 3) Determine where and when the retreat will take place. You may want to consult your members to see what the best dates are for them. Be sure to notify all participants as soon as you have chosen a date so they can get it on their calendar. Make a reservation at your chosen site. 4) Determine the budget for your retreat. Consider possible costs including site rental, transportation, food, and materials. Think about applying for a Coca-Cola Leadership Retreat Package to help offset some of these costs. 5) Determine the format and develop an agenda for the retreat. This will help keep everyone on track by providing a structure for the activities. When creating the agenda, consider the needs and working styles of your group to determine how much or how little flexibility to include. You may want to schedule every activity down to the minute, time some activities while leaving others open-ended, or leave times off the agenda altogether. 6) Contact any outside resources and/or presenters and confirm their participation. 7) Plan activities. 8) Determine what supplies, materials, and handouts you will need. Be sure to check that the facility you will be using can supply or support any audio or visual equipment (TVs, projectors, etc.) that you will need. 7 9) Arrange for food. Check to see if any participants have food allergies or special dietary requirements. If you are providing your own food you will need to plan the menu, buy the food, and assign cooks and cleanup crews. 10) Arrange transportation to the retreat (bus, vans, carpool, etc.). 11) Inform participants of the retreat details, including date, time, and location; transportation and/or directions; expectations or policies for the retreat; retreat agenda; and what to bring. 12) The week before the retreat you should remind all participants and confirm how many will be attending. You should also confirm any arrangements with the retreat site and/or outside resources. 13) Enjoy your retreat! After your retreat, don’t forget to: Pay the bills Compile any evaluations of the retreat Send thank you notes Revisit the topics from the retreat throughout the year 8

    WHAT TO DO AT YOUR RETREAT Make Introductions Set the tone for an open-minded and cooperative retreat by beginning the retreat with icebreakers or getting-to-know you activities. This will energize the group as well as help the participants learn one another’s names. Make Opening Remarks Once participants have had a chance to get better acquainted, the retreat facilitator should make brief opening remarks. He or she may wish to address the following items: Purpose and goal(s) of the retreat Benefits of the retreat The agenda for the retreat Stick to the Agenda The facilitator is the person responsible for keeping the group on track with the day’s agenda. However, the agenda can be flexible. If participants appear to need more time for a particular discussion or activity, for example, the facilitator can stop the activity and inform the group that their time is up or adjust the agenda to allow more time. Create a Sense of Teamwork Groups that have a sense that "we're all in this together" will be able to work together far more effectively than a bunch of strangers. Teambuilding can be accomplished in several ways, from the simple to the elaborate. Here are a few suggestions: • Plan, cook and eat meals together as a group, with each person expected to make a contribution • Play games that involve the entire group and require collaboration and communication, such as a treasure hunt (you provide the treasure) • Sign up your group for a ropes challenge or other outdoor course Conduct Work Sessions You may want to start off with a fairly "light" work session or presentation that is mostly informational and does not involve a great deal of participation from the group. Possible topics may be: • An explanation of the organization's budget for the year • An overview of the history of the organization • A motivational presentation on customer service 9 Once the group has had a chance to get "big picture" view, they may be better prepared to tackle larger issues that involve discussion and consensus. Some of these issues may be: • Goal setting for the year • Major projects coming up • Proposed policy changes Take Notes Appoint one person to take minutes of the informational or work sessions as a record of what was discussed and/or decided. Minutes will give members who were not able to attend some sense of what happened in their absence. The minutes, as well as copies of all printed materials used during the retreat, should be maintained in a retreat file along with records of reservations, menus, expenses, participants, evaluations, and any other information that will assist in planning similar events in the future. Conduct a Closing Activity Once the work is done, it is time to bring the retreat to a formal close. This may be as simple as reviewing what has been covered, what actions have been taken and what (if any) further information is needed. Or, it may involve the group gathering in a circle and sharing what they have learned from the retreat and how they will use that information in the future. Evaluate the Retreat Ask facilitators and participants to evaluate the planning, location, accommodations, and food as well as the content of the retreat and activities before everyone leaves. Keep the evaluation form short and simple to get honest feedback. These responses will help the organization's leadership to successfully plan the next retreat. Clean Up Before You Leave Always leave the retreat site as clean as or cleaner than you found it. Everyone should help with this task; you may find it helpful to divide participants into teams and make it a game.

    Information taken from http://sub.boisestate.edu/organizations/guides/retreat/whattodo.html 

    ICEBREAKERS Icebreakers are activities and games used to help a group get to know each other better. Use them at the beginning of a retreat to ensure all participants know one another’s names, create energy in the group, or generate momentum. Chain of Connectedness One person starts out by introducing him or herself to the group by saying, “Hi, my name is James and I like to go hiking.” When someone in the group hears something that James is saying that they have in common with him, that person walks to James and links arms with him. He or she will then say, “This is James and my name is… and we both like to hike.” And then he or she will continue by talking about him or herself. The pattern continues and the last person has to find something that they have in common with the first person. Eventually, everyone’s arms will be locked in one gigantic chain. Beach Ball Materials: Beach Ball with numbers on it. Toss it around and wherever your thumb lands answer that question (see page 18 for suggested questions). Birthday Partner Have participants mingle in the group and identify the person whose birth date (not year - just month and date) is closest to their own. Find out two things they have in common. Eye Tag Everyone forms a larger circle shoulder to shoulder. There is one facilitator who says “eyes up” and “eyes down”. Everyone begins with their heads down. At “eyes up” everyone looks up and stares directly at another individual’s eyes. If they are looking back at you and you make eye contact, then both individuals are out and the circle becomes smaller. Then “eyes down” everyone looks down at the ground. You must look at another person and not up in the sky or outside of the group – that is cheating! The last person remaining is the champion Eye Tagger! 15 Famous Couples Materials: Index cards and tape or nametags Write names of famous couples on index cards (one person on each). When people arrive place a card on their backs. They have to ask other people "yes and no" questions to identify the name on their back. When they figure out who it is, they then have to find the person who has the card for the other half of the famous couple. Grab Bag Materials: Bag with random assortment of objects Pull out an object from a bag and explain how you are similar to it. Hand Outline Materials: paper and writing utensils. Draw an outline of your hand and then for each finger write something interesting: • Thumb - something you do well (thumbs up) • First finger - something that makes you stand out from a crowd • Middle finger - pet peeve/something that frustrates you • Ring finger - something you're passionate about/committed to • Pinkie finger - a little known fact Highs and Lows Describe good and bad parts and stories of the past week/day. How many? Materials: Roll of TP or bag of assorted candy Pass around a roll of TP or M&Ms/other candy and however many pieces or squares are taken by that individual, that’s how many facts they have to say about themselves. Hum that Tune Materials: pairs of index cards with song titles (two cards per title) Each person in the group is given a small piece of paper with the name of a nursery rhyme or other song written on the paper. (i.e. “Row, row, row your boat,” “Rock-a-bye baby,” etc.) All of the people who are given the song must hum that tune and fine everyone else singing the song. 16 Human BINGO Materials: BINGO sheets enough for one per person, writing utensils Create a BINGO sheet with characteristics about people that are somewhat unique. The object can be to have a person with that trait sign the sheet until all the spaces are filled or until a “Bingo” is reached horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or other traditional BINGO combinations. Some examples of statements are “only child” “has never been to another country” “likes broccoli” etc. I’m a Buckeye, You’re a Buckeye Too This is similar to musical chairs and is best played sitting, but can be done standing. The group is in a circle facing each other, one person in the middle of the circle. The person in the middle says their name, and then makes a statement about themselves. Examples: “I’m a Buckeye, you’re a Buckeye too if you… are a middle child …like to ski …are a commuter student.” Everyone in the group who also has the same thing has to move to another position in the circle while the person who made the statement will also try and take a position on the circle. Eventually, since there are more people than positions, one person will be left in the center. That individual then repeats the process. Item of Personal Expression What item in your wallet, purse, or on you right now explains something about you? I’ve Done Something You Haven’t Done Have people introduce themselves and then state something they have done that they think no one else in the group has done. If someone else has also done it, then the student must state something else until he/she finds something that no one else has done. Line up Have students create a line according to birthday, middle name, etc. without talking. Name Aerobics The group stands in a circle. The group leader introduces him/herself with an action word that begins with the same letter as his/her first name and acts out the action. (ex. “Jumping Jack” or “Eating Emily”) This keeps going until the entire group has gone and the group repeats everyone’s name and action. Each person has to choose an action word that has not been used yet. 17 Quick Conversations Divide the group into two even groups. Have the two groups stand in two circles facing each other – one facing in, the other facing out. Hold one minute timed conversations about anything or with prompted questions with two circles of people. The inner circle stays still while the outer circle shifts one person each time clockwise until they are back at the first person they started talking to. (See page 18 for suggested questions.) Secrets Materials: paper, writing utensils, hat or bowl Have everyone write down something about him or herself that the group would not know and put all of the pieces of paper into a hat. Go around the room and have people pick out random slips of paper and read them aloud. Everyone should then try to guess who the secret belongs to. Slogans that Fit Ask the individuals to think of a famous slogan that describes their life. For example, “The early bird catches the worm.” Have them share their slogan with the group. Sticky Name Tags Materials: Sticky nametags Have participants put on removable nametags, sticker nametags are easiest. Have participants introduce themselves to one other person. Suggest 2-4 questions for the pairs to talk about and learn about each other (favorite food, hometown, major, hobbies, etc). After a couple minutes have the pair switch nametags and switch partners and introduce themselves to someone else. Each person should introduce themselves according to their nametag, not who they actually are. Once participants have switched at least 3 times, have each person introduce themselves to the large group, according to their nametag. The real person may correct any inaccuracies at this time too. Two Truths and a Lie Each member of the group tells two truths about themselves and a lie in any order they wish. The other members have to come to a group consensus of which is the lie. You can give an award for the best liar. What’s in a Name? Ask participants to share the origin and meaning of their first names. Chances are there will be some funny stories and some poignant ones. Then ask them to share the meaning of their last name. Is there some cultural significance? Was it changed at all as it was passed down over the generations? Does it mean something specific? 18 Questions for Quick Conversations or Beach Ball If you had to describe the silliest thing people do in general, what would you say? What thought or sentiment would you like to put in one million fortune cookies? If you had to name the most beautiful spot on Earth that you’ve seen, what would you choose? What is your most embarrassing moment? If you were to choose the breed you would be if you were a dog, which type would best suit you? What was your favorite toy as a child? If you exchanged wardrobes with someone you know, whose clothes would you want? What magazine would you want to appear on the cover of? What is your favorite cartoon character? What cereal are you most like? If you could appear as a guest star on any television show, which show would you choose? If you could have prevented any single fashion idea or trend from ever happening, which would you have stopped? If you found out that one work of fiction were true, what book would you select? If you could be fluent in any language, which language would you choose? If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform? What is the greatest movie of all time? If you had to name a smell that always makes you nostalgic, what would it be? If you had a superpower, what would you choose? If you could trade places with a famous person for a day, who would it be? If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which one would you choose? What animal best describes you? Other than “My Life”, what would be the title of your autobiography? If you could have a theme song played every time you entered a room, what would it be? Where is your favorite vacation destination? What would you do if you won $10 million in the lottery? If you became a professional wrestler, what would your stage name be? If you could have any profession and money isn’t a factor, what would it be? What is one of your memories from kindergarten? If you could meet one famous person over breakfast, who would it be? Who is the man or woman most relevant to our times? What is the title of the last book you read? If an atomic bomb were going to fall in 30 minutes, what would you do in the last thirty minutes? If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit? If your house was burning down, what three objects would you try and save? 19

    TEAMBUILDERS Teambuilders are more in-depth activities and experiences for a group or organization that already knows each other but wants to build greater bonds or friendship individually or within small teams. They typically involve greater risk and trust among the group. Assumptions Have everyone in the group pair up, and without speaking write down the answers to questions about the other person: 1. What kind of car does your partner drive? 2. What is your partner’s major? 3. What is your partner’s best friend like? 4. If your partner could do something completely out of character, what would it be? After each person takes a few minutes to write down the answers to these questions, the partners should discuss and reveal the right answers to the questions to see how close they came. As a large group, discuss making assumptions. Boat Tell everyone that you are going on a boat, and only certain items are allowed on the boat. Each person should take turns asking if they can bring certain things onto the boat, and you tell them if they can bring those things on the boat or not. Only allow people to bring items on the boat that start with the same letter as their first name (ex. Jessica can bring Jelly Beans and Catherine can bring a Cat, but Jessica cannot bring an oar or a suitcase). Keep going until everyone gets the trick. Variations include: people can only bring on items that have a double letter in their name (they can bring boots, books, balls, etc), or they can only bring items that have the same number of syllables as their names (Jessica has three syllables, so she can bring gasoline and tennis balls, and Bob has one syllable so he can bring books, bats, and gas). 20 Categories One person thinks of a category, then the group takes turns naming items that fit in the category. When one of the participants can't name another thing in the current category, s/he is out; the game continues until one of the last two players can't continue. But the other player doesn't "win" unless s/he can name at least one more item in the category. (Sample Categories: characters on The Simpsons, cities or countries that begin with a certain letter, things that are yellow, kinds of trees, brands of soda, cartoon shows. The only category outlawed is "numbers between one and three; I start!") Count Off Without any preplanning, someone in the group will start counting and the group attempts to count off as many numbers are there are people in the group without any two people calling out a number at the same time or more than a brief pause. Any time two people call out a number at the same time or there is a long pause, the group must begin again at number 1. Crocodile Island Materials: Tape Tape two squares onto the ground, one approx. 3’ x 3’ and another one surrounding it, leaving 2-3 feet of space around the inner square. The team must start outside the larger square and cross over the crocodile infested river to crocodile island. The team can help each other, but must not step into the river. They must all stay on the island for a count of 5 seconds. As the group is successful, gradually make the size of the inside square smaller and smaller. Flip the Tarp Materials: Tarp The entire group must stand on the tarp and then flip the tarp over to the other side without stepping off of the tarp to the ground. Forced Choice Materials: forced choice prompts Create an imaginary or real line down the center of the room. Read off a seemingly opposite pair of words (sample list provided at the end of this section). As each pair is presented, the participants must pick one side of the other – no fence sitting! You may ask for silence during the selections, or allow individuals to discuss, defend, or explain their choices. 21 Huff & Puff Competition Materials: 1 Ping-pong ball Find a flat surface. A table is great, but the floor will do. Line up facing each other with everyone’s chins on the floor or table. Make sure that there are about 2 inches between ears. Place a ping–pong ball in the center of the group, and on the signal, everyone starts to blow the ball past the other team. 

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