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What is the purpose of a team retreat?

It is no surprise that in our "growth-oriented" Society, the first definition of retreat is the military-associated term: the act of giving up or being defeated. In the world We, at Campfire, see emerging and want to help build, retreats can take several forms but all of them are about slowing down, breaking with the routine, getting off the hamster wheel, and reconnecting with what truly matters, be it people, nature, food, purpose, goals or all of the above.

We also like to think of it as "re-treat" as in "treat again". Treat yourself and your team to some well-deserved time closer together and to nature. See what new energy, sense of connection, and purpose come out of it. But then comes the worry. If we say we are going on a retreat, will people even care to work? Isn't retreat just a fancy word for a paid outing? All successful retreats, during which connections are made, trust is built and visions are aligned have a few things in common. Two of these things are clarity on Purpose and Planning. In this piece, we will focus on Purpose and we will dive into planning in a later one.

a compass in the forest


Why are we doing this?

Purpose is "simply" the reason why something is done or created. We put "simply" in quotation marks because it is actually not that simple. A lot of people search for purpose their whole life. A lot of businesses forget to ask the right questions or lose track of their purpose on the way to reaching their goals.

"Team retreat" is not a purpose. It is a type of event that tends to come with a lot of preconceived ideas and rituals attached to it. It is very important to avoid mistaking categories for purpose.

As Author Priya Parker puts it:

“The purpose of your gathering is more than an inspiring concept. It is a tool, a filter that helps you determine all the details, grand and trivial.” — Priya Parker

Your company's purpose might be well defined, but that does not mean your team retreat's purpose is. Both the company and the retreat purpose might be connected but your team event's purpose needs to be unique, specific, and actionable. You need to be able to tell your team "We are going away for THIS reason and we will achieve THIS".

Once defined, sharing the purpose with the people who will attend the event is the next most important step. Don't keep that information a secret within the leading team. It is easy to assume that the purpose is obvious and does not need to be stated. Having a clear shared purpose will create meaning and help take the right decisions for your retreat, before, during, and after as well as encourage the right behaviors.


In order to clearly communicate something you need to define it precisely. Alright, so how do you figure out the purpose of that particular event?

As a team leader, CEO, or HR Director, It is about asking yourself the right questions. There are many to ask and many reasons to take a few days away from the [home] office. We are just sharing a few that we believe are essential to start with here.

Pro tip: none of the answers should start with "For the sake of it" or "We'll see when we get there".

  1. What message am I sending with this event?

  2. Am I looking to treat my team for reaching and going beyond their goals?

  3. Am I noticing a lack of engagement and wish to re-motivate?

  4. Do I wish to encourage new behaviors? Which ones?

  5. Is the team lacking cohesion and struggles to collaborate? How do we get closer together?

  6. Is the team fully remote and it is time to finally put a face somewhere else than on a zoom background? How do we truly get to know each other?

  7. Does the team need to refresh some knowledge and do a deep dive on a specific topic without distractions? What is the best setup to learn?

  8. Is the team looking to get inspired for a new project or product launch?

  9. Are you a new company wishing to establish a certain team culture right away? What are we all about and how do we communicate?

Improving internal/external communication, nurturing cohesion and collaboration, celebrating great work, and re-motivate or establishing culture are some of the purposes that tend to come out of this exercise. Of course, you can mix and match and it is tempting to want to do it all at once but we recommend focusing on one (maximum two) of these ideas. Once you have that defined, you have found your North, making the second part, planning, much easier.


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