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Retreat to Make Change
By Douglas D. Germann, Sr.
Oct 21, 2006 - 4:34:00 PM

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What does it take to make change in your community or organization? Can it really be accomplished in a few days?

Ask these people:

--36 medical, financial, legal, and home care professionals and seniors and their family care givers who worked 3 successive Wednesday afternoons and created their community's first senior advocacy council;

--9 hairdressers who in one day changed their business from hair cutting to providing to their clients sympathetic ears, beautiful self-images and hope;

--12 members of a church who found God in each other and new purpose in their individual callings;

--250 parents and educators from Peoria School District 150 who gave their schools an entirely new direction--in 3 successive evening meetings;

--35 representatives from 12 states' agricultural councils who decided in 5 hours how to divide a million dollar federal grant and prioritized 16 major issues into 4 work areas;

--14 members of a Habitat for Humanity local board who developed a 20 page action plan in one day.

Yes, you can make change: in a day, in a weekend... in your community, in your organization.

Do you really want change?

First, you must determine if you really want change. So ask yourselves:

Is the work you want to do, the change you want to accomplish important? To whom? To a wide group or just a few? Why is it important? If it is not important, if you do not feel strongly, why do anything about it?

Is the work complex? Who all should be involved? Are they a diverse group of people? Are there many and varied interplays between and among the stakeholders? If it is a matter that there is only one way to do things, or a very simple task to be done, then grab some people and get to work. A retreat would be a waste of time--it is not change you want, but instruction or a sign-up sheet.

Do you need to get it done yesterday? Leave the boring to committees, save retreats for work that has to get done.

Is there a potential for conflict? Good! Don't avoid it, put the energy the conflict generates into making change good.

What are keys to making change?

* Get an agenda everyone present will agree to. Write it in real time, at the retreat.

* Invite all who will have a part in making your change work. This includes front line people: the worker bees as well as the leader bees and the money bees. You need people who care and are willing to take responsibility.

* Here is your hardest work: craft your invitation so that it is: specific enough to convey a clear topic, yet wide enough to allow for surprising new directions; open enough to include all important issues, but future oriented so as to eliminate gripe sessions; and above all, inviting to everyone you want there.

* Make use of the highest abilities--creativity, wisdom, experience--of each person present. Use a format that invites and nurtures their gifts.

* Be ready to get off your own agenda. Change means that what you wanted might get dumped in favor of something far better. The wisdom and creativity of the group is higher than that of any one member, whatever their title.

* Develop an action plan that every one who cares will get behind. How? Everyone must have a voice in developing it. Do you like to do work forced on you? Do you do more if others share your excitement?

Who should facilitate?

Having a retreat sounds like an easy matter: just get the people together, develop an agenda, get to work.

It is that easy. But consider....

You want to get the best out of everybody, but will anybody hold back if their boss is running the meeting? What if the boss seems to be frowning when they are speaking (even if the boss is only trying to stifle a sneeze)?

What if the facilitator wants to stay neutral, but has a valuable opinion to offer? Should she hold back?

Many times, when change is the agenda, an impartial facilitator is best.

What does it take to make change at your retreat?

World-class people, a change that needs making, leaders willing to take a chance on their people: exactly who you are and what you have! You can make change.

Questions? If I can help you in any way, or give you additional suggestions, please contact me. Here are some ways:

Telephone: 574/291-0022, 800/545-DOUG (3684)

e-mail: [email protected] http://www.FootprintsintheWind.com


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