Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

I love taking groups of executives on Retreats. These are usually two days long and follow a rhythm that I find works really well.

Group members arrive, check in, relax and we have a casual drinks and dinner together, with nothing planned. All I do over dinner is welcome them and outline the planned sessions. The following day I will usually bring in an external speaker (or sometimes run the session myself). This is to expose them to some new thinking, make them question the way they do things and open their minds. These are not content rich subjects on strategy or sales process. They’re much bigger subjects like goal setting, neuroscience or health and wellbeing. Then we have a more formal private dinner, where I will set an activity, which allows each of them to share something about themselves.

This of course has an underlying value of building trust in the group as well as having some fun.

The following morning, I always like to take the group on a walk, where we split into twos and threes and reflect on the previous day and evenings and see what comes out.

Over the last 10 years I must have run at least 20 executive Retreats and they never fail to deliver. People come away having spent time thinking, reflecting and gaining perspective on their lives. They follow this with real change, not usually on the small things, but quite life changing things.

“Productivity springs from deep understanding of the questions in front of you, and how you can prioritize and work on the most meaningful, impactful tasks. Your to-do list should be a prioritization device, not a memory aid”

Charles Duhigg

It’s because I’ve created an environment to allow them to think deeply and reflect. As business leaders we don’t regularly spend enough time engaged in thinking, and the result is we become stressed, stale and repetitive in what we do and think and say.

I was listening to Brené Brown’s blog, Dare to Lead, and she was interviewing Charles Duhigg. They were talking about productivity, and he said productivity was about thinking deeply, not an App!

Now that stopped me in my tracks. Duhigg says:

“It (productivity) springs from deep understanding of the questions in front of you, and how you can prioritize and work on the most meaningful, impactful tasks. Your to-do list should be a prioritization device, not a memory aid”

In other words, without deep thinking we are more likely to go off in the wrong direction, and there is no point in being incredibly productive in achieving something towards a goal that is not thought through!

So, note to leaders: allocate time and space to thinking more deeply. It will create a big difference in your life.(

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