Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Board Retreats - Part 2: Working with a Facilitator and a Planning Checklist

This is Part 2 of a three part series on planning a Board retreat. On Monday, I discussed why you should have one, popular themes for retreats and a planning overview. You can read that article here.

Part 1 of this series has been very well received and garnered comments on the blog, the LinkedIn Boardsource group and facebook. Many of the comments reinforce the importance of:
· Building relationships and a team that works well together
· Planning the retreat program well
· Taking the time to focus on goals and mission
· Having a good facilitator

Today’s post discusses planning with a facilitator and provides a checklist for retreat planning. Check back on Friday for a sample retreat outline for two different retreats.

Planning Your Board Retreat with a Facilitator
Each organization will work differently with a facilitator. I like to form a retreat planning team to work with that includes the Executive Director, Board Retreat Chair and 1 or 2 other people. We start by discussing the retreat theme and goals and go from there. Together we develop the retreat outline and share the pre-planning tasks. We then also share responsibilities during the retreat.

The Board and Staff members often participate in these ways:
· Give opening and closing remarks
· Make presentations
· Lead a recognition segment
· Lead breakout group discussion
· Assist in group activities
· Handle all logistics – (Location, food, equipment)

The services provided by a facilitator will vary. Think about which services you are interested in before interviewing facilitators. Here are some services that facilitators may provide:
-Retreat agenda*
-Program design
-Pre-Retreat planning with organization’s retreat team
-Retreat facilitation
-Choice of presentation topics related to the retreat theme
-Board self assessment
-Strategic planning exercises
-Customized retreat feedback questionnaire and results summary
-Suggested follow-up approaches for action
-Summary of boarded materials in word document

*I always provide two agendas: One just has a title and list of topics for all participants and the “annotated agenda” for the retreat team. This one has time frames and names of each person responsible next to each activity listed. It may also have some “coaching” clues.

Each retreat is unique in its goals, its time frame for the retreat and participation by retreat team and all Board members. The key to a successful retreat is in considering all of this in the planning and having an engaged retreat team.

The Retreat Leadership Team Checklist
In addition to the issues discussed above there are a lot of nitty gritty details that go into having a successful retreat. Responsibilities that need to be completed include:

· Select a comfortable retreat location (e.g. community center, corporate training center, spiritual retreat center, local college)
· Decide on the room layout and size requirements
· Develop detailed retreat schedule with time frames for all segments including meals and socializing)
· Assign responsibility for each segment
· Develop presentation materials
· Develop/select group exercises
· Develop questions and assign facilitators for breakout groups
· Arrange for materials needed (e.g. flipcharts, markers, projector)
· Develop list of action items for follow up
· Create a summary document of all the flip charts. (This is the
permanent record of ideas and follow-up items.)
· Engage the board in committees and projects based on the action items

Define success up front and then make sure that your program is geared toward inspiring action and results once the retreat is long over. Check back on Friday for a couple of examples.

In yesterday's post I provided information about a couple of resources that you could buy. There is also an excellent resource available at BoardSource for free. The e-book, To Go Forward, Retreat! by Sandra Hughes provides a brief, concise overview and worksheets.

If you don't mind a bit of self promotion - I love facilitating Board retreats and the feedback I get suggests that I am very good at it. If you are looking for a facilitator - lets talk.


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