11 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Team Away

Why your next team building activity should be a retreat


Consider the word “retreat” for just a moment.

It means to get away from the craziness of life, from the numbing of work-as-usual…from the noise of the world. It means to step back, look at things from a different angle and get a fresh, new perspective.

Here are 11 reasons for doing it:

1. Unplug Together

Focus is a powerful thing, but sometimes when you are grinding away in the daily routine of building a new business or shaking up an existing one you develop tunnel vision.

You can’t see the forest through the trees.

This can be dangerous because you develop blind spots, miss opportunities, and overlook fracture lines. Getting away gives people the ability to step out of the details, see the big picture, and ask, “Are we working on the right stuff? Are we working seamlessly or grinding gears? How can we do this with more ease and efficiency?”

We discovered in ourselves, and in the people who come to our retreats, when you turn up the canyon to Sundance it’s like a weight gets lifted from your shoulders and you can breathe. Nothing inspires fresh thinking like gathering in a drop-dead gorgeous place. You see problems from different angles.

When seen from a new perspective, challenges that seemed insurmountable become more doable. You find solutions you hadn’t considered or explored before.

2. Relax Together

Perhaps the reason to get away isn’t to ask the tough strategic questions, maybe it is simply to come together and relax before or after a season of intense work. Leaders who don’t recognize the need to recharge the batteries individually and collectively do so at the risk of burnout. Great sprinters make all kinds of contributions to a company. But if you break down because you never learn to replenish, your long-term contribution will be limited. This is especially important because growing a team and a business isn’t a sprint it is more like a marathon.

Maybe the purpose of the retreat is bringing together a team that works remotely across the nation or around the world. Perhaps, after months of emailing, texting, Slacking and video conferencing the team needs to get to know each other offline and in-person. Spending three days together sharing war stories of success, strategies that fell flat, and lessons learned leads to increased vulnerability. Genuine, in-person conversation and connection is essential to getting to know one another and forming stronger friendships and more productive collaboration. It’s not therapy, but it can be surprisingly therapeutic.

At our retreat people work hard and play hard. When you make getting together fun, a sweet balance of work and play, you unleash a lot of creative energy, forward focus and engagement. Retreats can also offer a major rallying point in the year to inspire collective empathy and deeper team appreciation.

3. Train Different

The opportunity to grow, expand and get faster, better, smarter rates extremely high on almost every job satisfaction survey. Yes, people want to be paid well and they want to be recognized for their contributions. But research shows employees want ongoing education, skill development, growth and expanded responsibility. At one point in time training meant sitting through a power point seminar or completing homework in a three-ring binder filled with boring training materials. But then, we had to look in the mirror and ask, “How’s that workin for ya?” In most cases it wasn’t.

Today, people want to be engaged in something that’s meaningful, relevant, and fun. They want to be part of something that challenges them.

One of the best ways to create meaning, connection, relevance and focus is a retreat. When you take people off-site, challenge them to think creatively on issues that really matter, then, give them an opportunity to pitch their thoughts and ideas and you’re tapping into our deep seated human desire to contribute and add value. And dare to go one step further by inviting people into extreme adventure experiences that are memorable and exciting and you’ll elevate bonding and team connection.

When people work hard and play hard together, you capture their attention and give them experiences to talk about.

Research shows employees want ongoing education, skill development, growth and expanded responsibility. 

4. Learn What Makes People Tick

When you are going 90-mph with your hair on fire, it’s harder to get to know coworkers on a personal level.

Pressing the flesh, engaging in face time, and interacting over 2-3 days gives people an opportunity to learn about each other in ways that are limited on Zoom, Teams, and Skype.

At our retreats, people gather for wine and cheese on Thursday night and are typically together until Monday morning. Spend that much time together and you’ll learn things you couldn’t back at the office or online. In fact, we’ve often found that the late evening “chill time” after a day of discussions and activities is fertile ground for insights to be shared and critical issues to surface.

5. Job Sculpting

A retreat can be a good way to check in with individual team members and dig deeper to customize their job experience.

Job sculpting is the art of structuring a person’s job so that they are doing more of what turns them on and less of what frustrates them. If you can forge a career path that is aligned with a person’s deeply embedded life interests they will be happier and more engaged.

But this takes time— time for people to identify what their deeply embedded interests are and time for executives to really listen to and understand the needs of people. And, it takes time to sculpt a job that meets the needs of the company as well as the person. If you take away parts of a job a person dislikes, you have to find someone else who is excited about taking them on.

Leaders must become both detectives and psychologists. The ones who do this well frequently checkin with people. This is a major reason why they have a strategic competitive advantage in attracting and retaining great talent.

Doing a job you love contributes to your well-being and according to a recent Forbes article, 89 percent of employees at companies with well-being initiatives such as job sculpting are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work.

While this process might not be completed at a company retreat, getting away is a great way to kick-start these conversations. It gives individuals and teams uninterrupted time to get the ball rolling and “chew” on some really important questions. Here are some questions to launch the discussion:

  • What kind of activities come natural to you? What are you inherently good at?
  • What makes you passionate?
  • What kind of people do you like to work with? What kind of environment?
  • What do you want to get better at?
  • What parts of your job bring you joy and fulfillment?
  • What parts of your job do you find frustrating and draining?
  • If you were doing your dream job, making a significant contribution, what would it entail?

If job sculpting is a way to invest in your team’s engagement and wellness, the business results are compelling. The same Forbes article indicated that impassioned people who show up to work every day fully awake and firing on all cylinders contribute 21 percent more profitability for the company. People who feel seen and heard, because you check-in with them frequently, are 4.6 times more likely to do their best work.

6. Drop the Armor

We are amazed to see people come to the mountain who have worked together for years, grinding out muti-million dollar decisions, who really don’t know each other that well. In many business cultures, people have a tendency to take on a different, more professional persona when they walk through the office door.

Our mentor and friend, Herb Kelleher, the late founder of Southwest Airlines, taught us early on that “professionalism” is highly overrated. Herb wanted the people of Southwest Airlines to bring their playful selves to work.

We find that people come to Sundance over three and a half days and slowly drop the armor. Whether it’s kayaking the river, riding a zip line, driving an off-road vehicle or a snowmobile, hiking into a waterfall or snowshoeing in the forest, these activities inspire the playful in people. People become real. In these unguarded moments, when real personalities surface, we are endeared to one another. Imagine what this can do for creativity and productivity back at work. We also find that many of our activities create an opportunity to intermix people from different departments. The objective is to create appreciative bonds that foster team work.

If you are the CEO or team leader, we have a complete 60 page retreat guide to help pave the way for a successful retreat. However, here are a few ideas to get you started. Begin by setting the tone for vulnerability at the retreat by speaking from the heart (without notes), talking about some of the mistakes you’ve made or developmental opportunities you have, and then, owning the fact that you are here to learn how to be more self-aware, be more innovative or be a better leader along with everyone else in the firm.

Perhaps one of the most beloved leaders of our time, the late Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines’ Founder, being his “playful” self. 

7. Make Big Decisions In-person

Decisions that can have a major impact on the entire department, division, or company are best hashed out in-person where you can look people in the eye and read their body language.

There is a lot we say without words.

If you really want to know what people are thinking and feeling there is no substitute for eye contact and face-to-face dialogue.

8. Level Playing Field

Many people who come to Sundance are new to the mountain environment. Even those who live here have engaged in activities they’ve never done before.

Exploring new things together levels the playing field, organically opens the mind, and stimulates casual conversation.

People learn more about themselves, more about others, and think in new ways about the business.

9. Inspire Collaboration

The bigger a company gets the more susceptible it is to tribalism. It’s natural to drift into a silo mentality and engage in prioritizing our team and our turf over the company as a whole. But innovation and growth feed on diversity, on multiple points of view.

A company retreat is a perfect way to break down walls, collaborate cross functionally, and build trust. It’s an opportunity to enlighten people about what’s going on in other parts of the company. It’s easy to become myopic, right? “My job is really hard. Theirs looks pretty easy?”

When people come to a retreat and share what they are working on, what excites and concerns them, and what they need in terms of support, collaboration has room to grow. When participants feel more connected to other people’s work they’re more likely to think systemically, appreciate how hard others are working, and work more seamlessly. Often, the result is alignment, a sense of purpose, and increased motivation.

10. Unify

Whether you are chewing on critical issues, team-building, or simply getting away to show the people you work with that they are and appreciated, the result is unifying. Put people together for three-plus days, encourage them to dig deep and play hard, and more often than not, they will develop greater appreciation for each other and for the company.

Making your team feel cared for and showing that you care about the person behind the employee fosters loyalty. In the war for talent, when the competition comes calling, culture and connection count. Your people will be less tempted to jump ship.

Highly successful companies make regular face-to-face meetings part of their culture. The purpose of these gatherings is long-term effectiveness and productivity, meaningful connectedness, and a shared mindset. Imagine a team member who was on the fence about staying but after a retreat has a renewed sense of connectedness and loyalty. This is why leaders see retreats as an investment in their future and a special part of a company’s bonding and loyalty tradition.

11. Build Bench Strength

Meanwhile back at the office, you’re building bench strength as well. Provided you have coached people and set them up for success, your time away at the retreat gives those who are not attending a chance to rise to the occasion and demonstrate their competence when the team is away.

Done well, this builds their trust in you for trusting them. And when trust rises, the confidence to “let go” also rises.

Host Your Next Retreat with The Freibergs

There’s no better place to hold your next retreat than with The Freibergs in Sundance, UT. Sundance has everything people need to get away from the hustle and bustle of work and life as usual.

Team & Leadership Retreats:
If your team is starting to feel a bit stagnant, distracted or distant, it’s time to consider an off-site retreat.

Couples Retreats:
If your relationship could use a re-charge, join us for a couples retreat designed to enrich your relationship.

The mountains plus the structure of our retreats create a powerful experience for teams and couples alike.

Don’t wait – contact us today and start planning your next retreat!