You know you should probably do one. But maybe you’ve had some mixed results with a board retreat in the past. You certainly don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So let’s be sure you hit a home run in 2019!

Here are 3 Steps for a Successful Board Retreat:

1. Establish meaningful objectives for the day. Sounds easy but what do you want to tackle? Do you have a major issue right now? Is a change in leadership approaching? Do you want to scale your impact but don’t know how? Do you need your board members to be stronger ambassadors? How about making time to celebrate what’s been going well?

And what about strengthening relationships amongst your volunteers? Would they benefit from that?

Many times, CEOs and board presidents want retreats that both educate and inspire. Not too tough to do. Just keep your culture in mind and lay out an agenda that supports both your objectives and aligns with your culture.

A good facilitator will have a lengthy conversation with you up front about the objectives and will outline an agenda they think will work well for you.

2. Choose the right facilitator. Here’s what I know you need from them, and you might want to add to the list:

  • Experience: nothing can replace it! You want someone who is an expert and can gain the trust of the group quickly. Can they both educate as well as reactivate the volunteers’ passion?
  • Group dynamics: ask them about situations when someone has derailed a discussion; when no one is speaking; when you need to arrive at consensus, and other scenarios that might actually happen with your team.
  • Participatory activities: it doesn’t have to turn into a circus to keep things interesting and fun! Find out how they plan to engage the audience throughout the day.
  • Commitment to excellence: this should be understood but how do you know they’ll bring their A game? What’s included in the preparation as they get to know your organization? How do they measure success? Will they debrief with you after the retreat? Think about what you need to hit a home run and ask about it.

Just to be sure we’re on the same page, you must secure an outside person to facilitate. It’s not fair to ask a volunteer or staff person to do it because then they can’t fully participate. Plus, an outsider is objective and can also ask more challenging questions if needed.

3. Align the board and determine follow-up steps. You could have the best retreat ever….and if you just all go home and never talk about what you covered, it will be a waste of time and resources.

So before anyone leaves the room, confirm that everyone is on board with the main takeaways of the day. Then outline next steps – who will do what on each item to get things rolling.

AND – decide how the board will track progress. Will a report be given at each board meeting? Is there research that needs to be done? When can results be shared?

When you pay attention to this step you greatly increase the chances that the board will take ownership of the outcomes. (Pssst – hey staff – it’s a BOARD retreat – they need to take the lead so empower them and give them space to do so).

Facilitating board retreats is one of my favorite things to do! Shoot me an email and let’s figure out what you need to focus on in 2019 and then we’ll put a date on the calendar to host your best retreat yet!

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