Engaging Leadership Retreats

Summary

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Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. Over the last 20 years George Soros has given over $32 billion to fund the Open Society Foundations, which provide grants and support to organisations in over 100 countries around the world.

Given the global structure of the organisation, leaders regularly need time to come together and align their thinking, to reflect on progress and to plan ahead. Over the last four years we have supported OSF leadership teams by designing and facilitating their quarterly retreats.

Our solution

Explore

  • Given the socio-political changes over the course of the last five years, OSF has come under increasing pressure in terms of what it does and the territories in which it operates.

  • With significant change constantly on the horizon, the teams need to stay focused on how they work together, deal with change and keep BAU on track. Being busy international teams they don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so building a foundation of trust and establishing a culture for success is imperative.

  • Before each retreat we work with a cross section of key stakeholders to understand current priorities, and we work together to create a dynamic agenda that will galvanise the team and help them to achieve their goals.

Engage

  • Each event we facilitate builds on the previous, and we encourage regular touch points between sessions to ensure consistency.

  • In advance of each event the entire leadership team is invited to discuss current challenges via a one-to-one call, in order to build buy-in and ensure key themes and areas for focus are captured.

  • We also ask leaders to undertake pre-work to focus their thinking and to assess their current levels of competency and comfort around the areas of focus.

Equip

  • We initially worked with the teams to create a 4-year strategy, focused around their key priorities, then established a timeline and accountability framework for the range of projects that they will undertake to help them achieve their goals.

  • Each event offers the team the opportunity to reconnect with this strategy and hone actions and workstreams to ensure they stay on track.

  • Throughout each event we hold the space for the team to come together and turbo-charge their effectiveness. As well as taking care of the overall facilitation, we run sessions specifically focused on deepening the team’s understanding on how to effectively manage change and to help them build resilience strategies to help them prepare for the future. 

  • We ensure a diverse range of activities to maximise engagement and ROI, including coaching and feedback exercises, simulations, team-building activities, story sharing, action planning, as well as opportunities to tackle operational issues.

Embed

  • At the end of each event we ask leaders to capture their actions and lock them into a mutually accountable timeframe.  

  • We also explore what they need to do/share with their teams and stakeholders as a result of the conversations we’ve had and we lock down how are they going to hold themselves and each other accountable.

  • Following each retreat we debrief with senior leaders and discuss next steps to further embed change and the areas of focus for the next event.  

Results

We’ve now been working with the teams for over three years, so we have build up a deep relationship that means that they come to each quarterly retreat fully lined up and raring for action. The teams have built strong bonds and are far more willing to embark on honest, open conversations with each other which in turn fosters greater effectiveness and broader team engagement.

By the end of each retreat the teams regularly reflect that they are departing feeling re-engaged, inspired and uplifted. They leave with a renewed focus, new ideas to implement and the motivation to make a difference. Feedback consistently tells us that they value the opportunity to bond more deeply, which eases working relationships when working across the globe.

They also value taking time to reflect and to restore their energy, putting them in a stronger position to face the frenzy that often accompanies change.


For more information on this case study or any other aspect of our work, please contact hello@aoc.agency, or call us on +44 (0)20 3105 0904.