Benefits, outcomes, and keeping alive the gratitude and learning of organizational retreats  

Earlier this Fall, the Jouta team participated in our annual retreat, where we had the long-overdue opportunity for in-person sharing, re-energizing, planning, and playing. A month later, we are still beaming with gratitude and wanted to share a small part of our experience with you.

When an organization or team joins together to re-think, strategize, and intentionally get to know themselves and others better, it’s much more powerful when everyone participates. For that reason, we brought in the very talented facilitator, Amanda Knight, to support this important work. With her kind and gentle, yet insightful and passionate approach, she helped us work through organizational planning; a new focus on diversity, equity, and inclusivity; our individual and collective emotional intelligence; and a continuation of defining our new way forward.

Benefits of organizational retreats

Before we get into sharing some of our favourite retreat moments and outcomes, let’s talk about why getting out of the office/usual work environment for a retreat is important. A retreat is the act of stepping back from the norm and provides an insightful opportunity to reflect, grow, and re-energize. When we’re immersed in the regular day-to-day, we can tend to just go through the motions, or even feel stuck. In addition to inspiring or enhancing performance and innovation, organizational retreats provide an important opportunity to:

  • Connect on a genuine, human level
  • Step outside of our comfort zones, be vulnerable and “dare greatly” (thanks, Brene!)
  • Get to know each other better, both in how we work, and as unique individuals
  • Understand how we can work more effectively together through appreciation of our strengths and the things we’re challenged by
  • Come away, energized, inspired, and ready to take on challenges
  • Have fun, laugh and play

Some of our favourite retreat moments and outcomes

What we each get out of retreats will inevitably differ, but for us at Jouta, it’s clear that our time together filled up our emotional and gratitude buckets and inspired us immensely. One part work and several parts play, our favourite moments and outcomes include both specific events, and intangibles.

First, a few of the specific moments and events:

  • Singing and drumming together on Truth & Reconciliation Day and learning about/contributing to the concept of ‘conscious allyship’
  • Our own personal concert performed by the extraordinarily talented Brent Tyler
  • Preparing a meal (menu items/ingredients provided by the divine Brasserie Provisions)
  • Enjoying a delicious glass of vintage vino that the generous folks at Poplar Grove stumbled across in their cellar and shared with us
  • Our day at Noble Ridge Vineyard where we learned about winemaking, harvested grapes (with much friendly competition), enjoyed a wonderful lunch, wine, incredible views, music, awesome company, and uninhibited laughter
  • Our team bike ride on the Kettle Valley Trail
  • A few wrong turns (it’s true, you don’t need to go to Kamloops to get to Penticton from Vancouver!), many miles travelled and lots of laughs
  • Our closing ceremony where all of our learnings came full circle in how we aligned what we saw/felt in a print by Indigenous Artist, Terry Thomson, and what we were taking away from our time together
Eagle by Terry Thomson
Eagle by Terry Thomson

In part related to the specific events above and in part just being together, the more impactful outcomes are intangible ones:

  • The freedom of singing, dancing, and being silly together
  • Feeling safe to be vulnerable in our expressions and sharing, and then walking away with a greater understanding of and compassion towards each other, without judgement
  • Laughter, laughter, and more laughter; tears of both hilarity and vulnerability  
  • Gratitude for the incredible people that make up our team and who mesh so well together  
  • Feeling so fortunate and inspired to be part of such an amazing group of people and realizing how important human connection is with like-minded people
  • Actually getting to spend time in-person (human contact!), connecting and sharing
Team bike ride on Kettle Valley Trail.

How do we carry retreat learnings and outcomes forward for ongoing impact?

So the big question is ‘what’s next’? We know that work-related training and events can occur and disappear in an instant – particularly when you get back to your busy roles after a few days off. We also know this is the reason many organizations don’t make the time for retreat. The thing is – you just have to do it. You book the time and make it a priority. You plan accordingly and don’t waver from that. And then you build in follow-up. Full stop.

When a retreat is intentionally planned and carried out in alignment with your organizational values and everyone is dedicated to showing up fully, it simply works. That said, below are some of the things we at Jouta did/are doing to ensure we continue to live and breathe the learnings and outcomes from our retreat:

  • Professional (and otherwise) photography – We hired a photographer and videographer to join us for a few hours here and there to capture some of the intangibles; and we also each took pictures and combined them in a Google photo album
  • Regular follow-up – We talked about what we would follow up on, when and how
  • Facilitator follow-up – Our facilitator followed up with us with additional learning pieces
  • Sharing what we need – Through the assessments we completed, we captured the things we all need in order to best support one another as individuals, and teams
  • Writing and sharing – We take the time to reflect and share our learnings and stories  
  • Eagle prints – As part of our closing ceremony, we were all gifted with the same framed print, which will serve as an ongoing reminder of our learnings

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the time we spent together as a team – and also hope it has inspired you to engage in retreat with your team. It need not be similar, or lengthy, it just needs to fit who you are as an organization/team and what you hope the outcomes to be.

We invite you to share your own retreat experiences and would be thrilled to provide input into what you might do for your team!