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ISAE Blog

Why I Hate Retreats

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Nov 11, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Things to Do: Go to RetreatMy relationship with retreats has always been rocky. In fact, my first reaction when I receive a retreat invitation is “I hate retreats.” Which of my objections below is coming out of your mouth?

“Retreats are time away from my busy office work.”
Exactly the point. We all get into a rut and we need some disruptive force to move us out of the same old, same old. Retreating from work for a set period of time is a very good thing. We have all seen what happens when workers become obsessed with doing. Retreating from day to day tasks for a time will refresh any weary soul, so go kick your desk and consider a retreat.

Retreats always have touchy feely self-development sessions.
Introspection and pause points are necessary. Even as an off-the-charts extrovert, I need a “pit stop” to recharge, reflect and renew. Self-affirmation and positive thinking sessions still bug me, but structured time to consider healthy balance, relationships and places to improve are critical to leading well.

Retreats are a waste of time.
I don’t have time for a retreat; I am busy. When you are too busy for a retreat is usually when you actually need a retreat. Our most valuable asset as association managers is the power of our thoughts. And busyness is the kryptonite to thoughtful work. Retreats need better PR. They are not interruptions to work but actually productive time to be thoughtful about our work. Retreats are in fact work if you use them as thinking time. 

Retreats rarely deliver what they promise.
For years my expectation of a retreat was more or less the same expectation of any other work activity: to solve my immediate painful problem. I have found a retreat’s primary value for me has been perspective: a different setting, different routine, different thoughts and different topics provide a leader “breathing room” to consider challenges from a new perspective. Early in my career retreats did not deliver because I put the wrong expectation on that time. A promise of a new perspective on a challenge is a powerful draw.

Retreats leave the association without a leader.
How many buildings have burned down during a retreat? A crisis may occur—in fact I am sure if your association is like mine, there is a crisis brewing right now. It is just the nature of our business. Communications are good, staff is competent and volunteers can only do so much damage over three days. Sign up, go and they will call if it is urgent.

I guess I really don’t hate retreats. In fact, I need them.

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Topics: Retreats

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