In Order to Advance, Sometimes You Have to Retreat

Water - Water resources

Next week will mark one year in business for Spark Consulting. Thanks to the advice of several wise friends who’ve been down this road before me, I scheduled my first “get outta Dodge” corporate retreat, and spent the early part of this week in Berkeley Springs, WV, reflecting on the past year, planning and dreaming for the coming year, and thinking about the larger “why” of doing this. The picture to the right is of my view from my retreat location.

Driving out, I was worried: would I be successful in shutting out the day-to-day work of actually running the business long enough to focus on assessment and planning and visioning? Would I really get what I wanted and needed out of my retreat?

When I arrived, I shut off my email synch to both my smartphone and my tablet, set my phone on vibrate, and got to work.

And it worked. I was able to keep my attention on the larger issues I needed to think about, and stay away from email and phone calls and social media, at least for two days. The amount of deep focus and perspective and learning I enjoyed was remarkable.

On the drive back to DC, I got thinking about the concept of a retreat. It has (at least) two connotations: one being a military retreat that signals that your battle plan may be in trouble, and the second being the idea of withdrawing into safety, privacy, or seclusion for purposes of reflection.

I think they’re related, though. Sometimes, in order to progress, we have to take a step to the side and regroup. And that deviation from the planned route can give us a different view of the whole landscape around us, and our place in it.

Which is hard to do. Small businesses face a lot of pressures on our time and resources. Associations face a lot of pressures on our time and resources. We tend to experience the cycle of business and the fiscal year and events and renewals and campaigns speeding up and speeding up and speeding up, with no way to get off or even slow down.

But that’s a lie. Even if it feels hard and painful and maybe impossible, we need quiet time to reflect periodically, to back up and see the whole picture not just the details in one tiny little corner, to lift our eyes from the problems right in front of us that seem insurmountable and get the perspective that comes from seeing the entire horizon.

What are you doing to secure that vital introspective time for yourself? For your association?