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The importance of the facilitators in a team retreat

Sometimes we think that once the event is planed, once the logistic is covered we can step back and relax. Good facilitators know that this is when the hard work begins. (Read our blog on the art of facilitating insipred by The Art of Gathering by Priya parker).

If you decide to take on that role for your own team, there are a few things to think about in terms of your personal experience of the event.

If you have hosted several day events before you may be familiar with some or all of these feelings:

  • Mentally tired Being the point of contact also means all requests, questions and complaints tend to come to you. Plus, when you go away with your team there is no "going home" at the end of the day. For that period of time, you are always on call.

  • Not feeling fully part of the team Are you facilitating or participating? As organiser people will see you as the authority and not necessarily as one of them. It's a compromise you will have to accept. There is a need for a leader during these events and that means not always being part of the "gang."

  • Struggling to stay objective When the CEO or HR rep is also the facilitator, it is hard not to let the already-formed opinions about people get in the way of the task at hand. How to make sure to treat everyone the exact same way when we already know so much about them, how they work, what they like, and what they usually complain about? Staying objective can be a real challenge but is an essential piece of the successful retreat puzzle.

  • Not being able to truly enjoy the moment Because you are always alert, reading people's cues, and thinking about the next point on the agenda, it becomes a little bit difficult for you to fully relax and appreciate the present moment with the rest of your team. You are always one step ahead to anticipate potential issues and make sure everything goes smoothly for the group.

  • Physically tired As the person in charge, you are of course the one running around everywhere to make sure everything goes as it should. What may look like a relaxing getaway might be everything but for the one in charge.

Not everyone will go through this. Some people are great at finding the right balance and feel fulfilled being the facilitator. For others, it is harder to navigate. And that is completely alright. We all have different skills and things we are good at. A mark of great leadership is knowing when to step away and ask for help.

Delegating is a great leadership skill

Despite what Society has been telling us all these years, we cannot do it all. Aknowledging that is already a great leadership skill. Being able to assess the opportunity cost of facilitating your own retreat or asking professionals to take on the task is another great skill that can truly impact the success of your event.

Choosing to delegate is choosing to take part as any other member of the team and that can be something very strategic for your and your coworkers. It is also allowing for a new energy and perspective to come into the dynamic.

Facilitators are objective and focused

A facilitator will come in with unbiased opinions on your team members. They will treat everyone the same and get to know them based on their behavior outside of the work environment. For them, it will not be Jake from Marketing or Nicole from Sales but jake and Nicole from X Company. In the same way, the facilitator is unknown to your team and is able to start a fresh relationship with everyone.

Your team, your choice:

It is important for you to feel comfortable with whatever solution you choose. Ultimately it all comes down to:

- your objective for your team with that specific event

- your past experience as a facilitator and or a team leader

- your time and energy level during that period

No matter what you decide to do, there are always resources available on and offline to support you and your team during your retreat or workation.


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