Living Leadership

Living Leadership

It's time to get away

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Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

It's time to get away.

Hold up! Wait a minute…the title isn't a suggestion for a vacation. However, if it has been over a year since you've had a week off, schedule a week off immediately! We were not meant to work without time to reflect and have a break.

This blog is about getting yourself and the teams you lead out of the office to work on building, creating, or reinforcing trust and building your team.

Building trust doesn't just happen; it takes focused and consistent effort. The only way to do this is to work on it. Now for all you naysayers who say retreats are just a waste of time to have a touchy feely day/afternoon away from the office, you are wrong! Retreats, if done well, can set your team on the right path for building trust and will lead to much better outcomes for everyone.

If you are a skeptic, I understand. It seems like a daunting task to take all of your direct reports out of the office for a day or even a half day and do what many don't consider “work.” I would argue you don't have time to not do this. I have solid proof retreats work.

Not long ago I facilitated a retreat for a team of seven. It's a team that works closely together and has great influence on our campus. They are a team that I thought knew each other well, but their leader came to me and said she wanted them to do more. She wanted them to trust each other more and not waste so much time on focusing on drama rather than caring for the residents we serve. The leader and myself focused on the day and set two goals: focus on leadership and their relationships and work towards developing more trusting relationships.

The specifics of the retreat I won't go into today. I will tell you setting goals even as broad as these two goals are important. It gave us direction and focus, and over time we would be able to tell if we reached our two goals.

I am happy to report that months later we can say without a doubt we reached those goals. Not only because of the vulnerable time we spent together that day away from the office, but because of the development discussions their leader had with them following the retreat; not just one conversation but other conversations reminding the team of the time we spent together last year.

What did you learn about yourself? Have you changed your approach? Do you trust your team more? Are you willing to have difficult conversations with your co-workers? I'm happy to report all answers were positive and encouraging. To put a cherry on top, at least one team member has used some of our team exercise we worked through during the retreat at home and it's improved her personal relationships.

It's funny how truly focusing on each other, our history or strengths, and our weaknesses can help us become more understanding of one another and lead a great personal and professional experiences.

My advice to you as a leader is to organize a retreat. Call it what you want but have someone facilitate a day where you get to really know each other. It is an investment. It's so much more that “touchy-feely” time; it's necessary and can go a long way to build your team. There are plenty of resources out there. My personal favorite is building off Patrick Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team; The Field guide has great resources and exercise.

Find one and then consider when is the right time for your team to get away. If you can strike the right balance of timing and materials, I promise it will be time well spent.

Julie Thorson's “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality under her in 2014, Thorson is a coach's daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now a licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year.  


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