As I’m writing this, Richard and I are in the middle of leading a retreat for one of our clients. After a really long but great day of work, I’m amazed at what an incredible experience it is to get away from the office with your colleagues.
I’m telling you right now, start planning a time away from the office with your coworkers and do something different. You don’t have to call it a retreat if you don’t want to, but spending a couple of days away from your normal existence at work has some tremendous benefits.
Here’s a list of some of those benefits I observed just today:

  1. We got to wear casual clothing.  Now, you might not think this is a big deal, but for us today, since we’re in a warm climate, we all got to wear shorts and sandals.  Psychologically, it allowed us to relax a bit and feel more informal.  I know it sounds weird, but people behave differently in relaxed clothing. It’s almost as though the real person comes out when you don’t have the office clothes on.
  2. We became more human with each other.  While discussing a number of really important topics today, we began to tell each other our own stories.  It was powerful and carried on throughout the day, into lunch and dinner.  People became vulnerable and there were a lot of emotions, even tears.  This created a sense of openness and empathy.  We don’t always get to do that in an office setting.
  3. We really listened to each other.  I think we don’t often create spaces in our work environments to sit down and actually listen to one another.  We are so busy with the task at hand that we don’t take the time to breathe and really hear what our colleagues have to say.  Today, we had that time and freedom to listen, give feedback and listen some more.  That helped create trust.
  4. The team came together.  There were a couple of moments today when I really sensed the team coming together around some issues that, in the past, had previously been hard to even talk about.  Today I saw colleagues supporting  one another.  People were able to speak freely about their failures.  Gosh, I almost never hear that in the office.  Folks were able to feel vulnerable and that empowered others to do the same.
  5. We got to KNOW each other.  This is similar to #2, above, but because we shared a number of meals together and had some informal time to talk about who we were, it enabled each of us to know our colleagues just a little more.  As Richard and I have written previously, this is what each of us wants, including our donors – we want to be known.
  6. We told donor stories.  For me, this was probably the best part.  Throughout the course of the day, each of us shared our favorite donor story.  Some were hilarious, others brought tears to our eyes.  At the end of the day, I was once again renewed with the sense that each of us truly understood what our work was all about.  It was really powerful stuff.

The sun has set now, and I’m exhausted, but it’s that good kind of tired – the kind where you know you’ve put in a hard day’s work, but you’re left inspired and ready to move ahead.
To be honest, all this happened because we decided to get out of the office and create a different space for the team to work…to reflect…to laugh…to really get to know one another.
Look, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to do something like this.  It could be as simple as going to the home of one of your colleagues, or even to a donor’s workplace conference room.  The point is to spend some time away from your normal environment and experience something different.
It’s incredibly productive and you’ll leave inspired to tackle the hard work you have waiting for you back at the office.
Plan a retreat today.