Try as you might to hold onto the summer, here comes autumn! And it’s looking you straight in the eye, barreling at you with no sign of slowing.

And from this angle, you can see the whole ’23/’24 fiscal year trailing close behind, laid out before you clear as day. That is, you can if you and your team are planning correctly.

And those 52 weeks will look untamable if your current teamwork isn’t bringing more clarity and unity.

Our good friend, consultant and coach Jackie Sloane, regularly helps executives plan and execute team retreats to achieve those results. We asked her how leaders can make the most of leadership meetings (such as her Transformational Retreat) at an important time like this.


Jackie Sloane at Catalyst Ranch

CR: So right now, companies are on the brink of a new fiscal year, a time that’s uniquely abuzz with planning. You work with leaders who’ve been dealing with waves of change. What are you hearing that makes this year unique, and how can leaders get ahead of the curve?

JS: The leaders I speak with are challenged with adapting to so much change personally and with supporting their people with it. Even as there are increasing demands for them and their organizations to take social positions. Most are continuing to figure out the hybrid/remote paradox. In many ways, it’s a turbulent time.

And yet, turbulence can bring opportunity. It can force us to think differently and move out of our comfort zone. It could be a great time for leaders to bring their people together in person for a longer, reflective, yet strategically focused meeting. A time in which they have conversations they aren’t having in their daily work. A well-planned retreat can deepen the meaning of what they are all up to, how each person’s role impacts that and how they might make a difference.

What is one thing you wished executives knew, ahead of scheduling and jumping into a retreat?

A lot of people don’t realize that a retreat can be a powerful leadership tool, affecting how people think and work together, and what they can accomplish. It can launch sustainable behavior and culture change, increasing commitment, creativity and collaboration.

It’s all in how you think about what you want to achieve, set specific goals, and use the retreat planning process and retreat itself to launch this change. You can use the focal point of the event to create a process that elevates everyone and their work together. How you communicate about the retreat, how you prepare people, as well as how the day is planned and what is put in place afterword to continue progress all matter. I find that most people don’t realize how they can leverage the investment in a retreat to accelerate that which they are seeking to accomplish.

It’s safe to say you as a consultant are already a refreshing and exciting element to add to a group who are so familiar with each other. What effect does that have with groups you have worked with?

Thank you for saying so! I will interview the leader about their goals, particularly how any behavior or culture shifts would look in practice. Whenever possible, I then interview participants to hear their thoughts, ideas, and challenges, and, in particular, what they might do to impact the achievement of the goals. This pre-work supports clarity, engagement and excitement, since we then leverage all this in planning the retreat and its aftermath. A seasoned outsider can often hear a lot of opportunity and identify challenge. And, the leader can be a participant in the event, and enjoy it. These are leadership development events in which everyone benefits.

In your history of being a consultant, what surprises have you encountered? Are there things that surprise you to this day?

Oh sure! How you open a meeting can really make such an impact. The opening few moments set context. You can align and engage people emotionally in a powerful way. Sometimes a very simple opening exercise designed to engage people who may not know one another very well or at all, can be amazingly powerful and energizing. And fun. I’ve seen this so often. This was true at a recent event I was involved with at the Ranch, with top leaders from around the world, most of whom had never met. I’ve also seen a powerful story or video have this incredible impact on the mood of the meeting.

It’s important to focus on the needs of the people attending as you plan activities. I once was asked to lead an afternoon session. I was surprised to see people arrive with welts on their foreheads. I learned that these middle-aged financial professionals had been asked to participate in paint ball for the first time. That is not the team-building activity I would have chosen!

Oh wow, yes, that seems like a questionably provocative pre-collaboration activity! Jackie, thank you for sharing your take on what’s possible for companies coming together. We know the clients who work with you at Catalyst Ranch can expect a really meaningful experience.

Learn more about the Transformational Leadership Retreat here.

See all available Meeting Bundles for your sessions at Catalyst Ranch.

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