I have spent the last few days at a management "love-in". The executive retreat. It is near impossible to get enthusiastic about something I am forced to do at least once a year every year as part of my day job. It is something I struggle with given my strong hermit leanings. But I did try to make an effort to contribute while I was there, I always do. My mantra: it is worth trying to make the event work, no matter how difficult a personal challenge it is to be there, because occasionally you surprise yourself (and are surprised by what you find).
I came out of the retreat relatively unscathed, probably helped by the fine autumn weather, though unfortunately without any epiphanies to pepper my thoughts on the long drive home. So instead here's a few of the standard features of these retreat events that gives me a perpetual feeling of Groundhog Day every time I head off down the road:
(1) The retreat must be located far enough away from work so as to allow those attending space to reflect in a meaningful and non-distracted way. Reality: with modern tech, especially the crackberry, you can be reached anywhere anytime and when your boss calls you back for a meeting, you go, no questions asked.
(2) The retreat is generally located somewhere upmarket because if you are forced to sleep somewhere away from home, you may as well have the decadence of good food, wine, and Egyptian cotton sheets. Reality: sometimes the fear of the decadence being reported in the media drives the group to cheap and cheerful places within public transport range.
(3) The retreat is usually facilitated well by creative types who are really interesting people. Reality: The types are interesting but speak such a different language that half the time is spent lost in translation...spend the time drawing Mecca cubes.
(4) The retreat is filled with time filler activities because you have to pad out the agenda somehow. Reality: ditto. (Aside: Amazing Race activity in the middle of nowhere resulted in unwanted flashbacks to my highschool orienteering classes, in the past being driven blind folded in a van to the centre of a state forest left me wondering if the driver was a serial killer...the driver says you are several metres off an isolated fire trail, the perfect place to bury a body...oops driver meant here's your compass and good luck...)
(5) The time spent at the retreat is mostly about networking and getting to know your colleagues better. Reality: if I wanted this, I would socialise with them. I am already doing this with the ones I want to spend time around. Revealed preference is obvious really so why force it?
(6) There's a lot of talk about challenges you face as a group, reams of butchers paper to write on with pretty coloured pens about all the things that you can do to solve the problems when you return to the office. Reality: somehow the excitement on the day desolves the moment you are back in the office and the real world smothers your enthusiasm to apply any of the actions that you have spoken about in the cocoon of the retreat.
(7) The retreat provides ample material for story telling well after the event. For me this year, it was the company of a white rat in my bedroom drawn to the warmth of the column heater and the remnant crumbs of consumed biscuits. Waking up to a trail of droppings on the bed side table and all I could think about was how long the rodent might have spent watching me in my sleep. Eek!
I am home now, exhausted with a weekend of social activity ahead of me so no chance to slip back into my shell to recover from the trauma of time spent with colleagues navel gazing before returning to work on Monday. I just want to write (more so given a seriously good session last weekend delivered not one but two sublime scenes and a completed chapter). Will find a way. Need to keep my sanity.