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Interview with Steve Morrissey, CEO & Founder of Perpetual: The Importance of Corporate Retreats and Off-Sites

Steve, thank you for joining us today. To start, could you explain why Perpetual values the concept of corporate retreats and off-sites?

Absolutely, it’s a pleasure to be here. At Perpetual, we understand the immense value of bringing our global team together regularly for corporate retreats. These gatherings serve as pivotal moments for our organization, allowing us to celebrate our successes, realign our strategic direction, recognize outstanding performance, share knowledge, and enhance professional development. More importantly, they provide an opportunity for our team to check in with each other, strengthen social bonds, and rejuvenate ourselves for future endeavors. We believe these moments are crucial for ambitious, high-growth, and values-centric organizations like ours.

Corporate retreats have sometimes received a negative reputation. How do you address this perception, and why do you believe they are essential in today’s business environment?

That’s a great point. Corporate retreats may have acquired a tarnished reputation in the past due to associations with excessive spending or a lack of meaningful outcomes. However, in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business landscape, well-executed corporate retreats have never been more crucial. Executive teams often overestimate their shared understanding and clarity, and these retreats help bridge that gap.

Aristotle famously said, “Man is, by nature, a social animal.” We fully agree with this perspective, and we know that human connection is at the heart of high-performing teams and successful companies. While technology facilitates virtual connections, it can never replace the energy and social impact of in-person interactions. Therefore, corporate retreats remain essential for fostering genuine connections, nurturing company culture, and achieving strategic clarity.

Could you provide some insights into when organizations should consider organizing a corporate retreat or off-site?

The timing of a corporate retreat depends on various factors, but there are several key trigger points to consider. First and foremost, if there’s a major strategic decision, new plans, or a significant product launch that requires everyone’s full understanding and alignment, a retreat can be invaluable. It helps ensure that the rationale and implications are clear to all, and action plans can be effectively communicated.

At a smaller scale, when new teams are formed or leadership groups need to step back from day-to-day operations to revisit strategic direction, a retreat is beneficial. Organizations that aim to maintain a high-performing culture may schedule regular retreats, with annual events focusing on business plans and quarterly gatherings emphasizing team development, professional growth, and values reinforcement. If there’s a sense of operational stagnation or underperformance, a retreat can serve as a reset button.

Ultimately, as a leader, you’ll know when the timing is right based on the unique needs and objectives of your organization.

You’ve outlined seven success principles for effective corporate retreats in your white paper. Could you elaborate on one of those principles to provide a deeper understanding?

Certainly. Let’s delve into “Success Principle 03: Location, Location, Location.” The choice of location for a corporate retreat is of paramount importance. Off-site locations are preferred because they signal a break from daily routines and emphasize the opportunity to work on strategic aspects rather than in the daily grind.

The selected location can significantly influence the retreat’s mood and success. Considerations include the physical environment, climate, scenic views, aesthetics, and overall ambiance of the venue. Even rustic, self-catered locations can be highly effective if they provide a break from the ordinary and create a unique experience.

Moreover, the chosen venue should align with the retreat’s objectives, offering various spaces that cater to different session requirements, such as formal presentations, intimate discussions, or social interactions. It’s crucial to think creatively and be open to unconventional locations that can bring a “Wow!” factor to the event.

Additionally, when the retreat is hosted in a different region or country, making a positive impact on the local community can add depth to the experience. Engaging with the community, exploring the area, and even participating in local social responsibility initiatives can create memorable moments that enhance team cohesion and enrich the retreat’s narrative.

In summary, location sets the tone for a successful corporate retreat, and the choice should align with your objectives, create a unique experience, and contribute positively to your team’s memories.

Your fifth success principle emphasizes the importance of experienced facilitators. How can organizations ensure they have the right facilitators for their retreats?

The role of facilitators in corporate retreats cannot be overstated. These professionals guide the event, manage energy levels, keep sessions on track, and ensure that individual and collective goals are met. To ensure you have the right facilitators, consider the following steps:

Early Involvement: Involve facilitators early in the planning process to shape the event’s structure and agenda based on their expertise.

External Expertise: While internal team members may have facilitation skills, consider external facilitators who can provide a fresh perspective and allow internal team members to fully participate in the retreat’s content.

Expertise Alignment: Ensure that the facilitators you choose align with the specific objectives of your retreat. Different facilitators may be suitable for strategy sessions, team-building exercises, or personal development workshops.

References and Reviews: Check references and reviews from previous clients to gauge the facilitators’ effectiveness and ability to deliver meaningful outcomes.

Collaboration: Collaborate closely with facilitators to share your organization’s culture, values, and goals. This collaboration helps them tailor their approach to your unique needs.

By selecting experienced and well-matched facilitators, you can maximize the impact of your corporate retreat and achieve your desired outcomes.

Your final success principle emphasizes creating team stories. Could you share an example of how these stories can positively impact a team or organization?

Team stories are a hallmark of high-performing organizations. These stories are created during shared experiences at retreats and other team-building activities and serve to strengthen the bonds among team members. Let me share an example:

Imagine a team-building exercise during a retreat where one team member, Paula, initially had a paralyzing fear of abseiling down a cliff. She was terrified, but with the support and encouragement of her colleagues, she summoned the courage to tackle the challenge. Paula’s triumphant descent became a memorable moment and a story that her team would recount for years to come.

This story not only showcased Paula’s resilience but also demonstrated the power of teamwork, support, and personal growth. It served as a constant reminder of the team’s ability to overcome challenges together. As a result, team members formed stronger connections, increased their trust in each other, and carried that positive energy back to their daily work.

Team stories like this one are vital because they go beyond professional accomplishments and show the human side of team members. They reinforce the team’s identity and shared values and contribute to a more cohesive and motivated workforce.

In conclusion, creating and celebrating team stories during corporate retreats can have a profound and lasting impact on team dynamics, culture, and performance.

As we wrap up, what advice would you offer to organizations considering their first corporate retreat or looking to improve their existing retreats?

For organizations planning their first retreat or aiming to enhance existing ones, I would offer the following advice:

Clarify Objectives: Clearly define the retreat’s objectives and expected outcomes. What do you want to achieve, and how will you measure success?

Tailor the Experience: Customize the retreat to your organization’s unique culture and goals. Don’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach.

Engage Employees: Involve employees in the planning process to ensure their needs and preferences are considered.

Balance Content: Strive for a balance between work-related sessions and team-building activities. Both are essential for holistic growth.

Evaluate and Adapt: After the retreat, gather feedback from participants and use it to refine future retreats. Continual improvement is key.

Invest in Facilitators: Invest in experienced facilitators who can guide and enhance the retreat experience.

Celebrate Team Stories: Encourage the creation and celebration of team stories that showcase shared experiences and values.

Remember that corporate retreats are investments in your organization’s future. When executed thoughtfully and aligned with your objectives, they can drive lasting positive change, strengthen your team’s bonds, and elevate your company’s performance.

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your insights on the importance of corporate retreats and your success principles. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Thank you for having me. I hope these insights prove valuable to organizations seeking to harness the power of corporate retreats. Wishing you all success in your retreat endeavors!