“Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.” –Confucius
We are inspired by being co-creators with you of unique events that meet your group’s goals.
We are experienced facilitators of organizational retreats and workshops for team-care, strategy-setting, or conflict/challenge growth opportunities. We happily work with divisions and departments, leadership teams, and boards of directors.
We also specialize in working with teams to address their own burnout, demoralization and distress, while building resilience, energy, creativity, and hope. And we are experienced teachers and workshop-leaders for clinicians or helping professionals who are looking for continuing education and skills-building in our areas of expertise.
Whether hosting your retreat here at our studio with full services, located in beautiful downtown Iowa City, or at a site of your choosing, we bring our foundation of mutual respect, cultural sensitivity, active listening, direct communication, and creative problem-solving to our retreat and workshop facilitation.
Ready to explore some possibilities for your needs? Contact our Professionalism Programs Administrator.
So you’re thinking about helping your group grow? Be strategic.
People want their work to matter and to be meaningful, but with the rapidity and volume of work and the challenges of communication, retreats and workshops must be a mindful way to re-connect for improving strategy, goals, decisions, and subsequent action plans. A retreat-planner has decided in advance what outcomes are desired, preferably concrete and measurable, and the retreat agenda reflects that explicitly and in a disciplined way, so that all know that their time and creative energies are well-spent.
1. What is the retreat/workshop purpose?
A purpose needs to be crystal-clear, so that it can be communicated to the participants in the forthcoming agenda. Consider that many of the following possible purposes are desirable, but could compete for attention and make a complex process messy and frustrating, if not winnowed down to the group’s critical priorities. Brainstorm, and make your purpose as tight and clear as an elevator-pitch.
- a planning process to hear directly from the members of your team, who don’t always have a chance to interact
- a team-building process for an office, department, or organization
- a critical and creative evaluation of a project in-the-works
- a strategy session to identify fresh responses to organizational changes
- an insight-building group to leverage participants’ intuition and experience, identifying current challenges, obstacles or problems
- an invitation to create shared ownership and commitment to organizational growth-needs, both planning and execution
- an exploration of organization’s mission or purpose on a deep-level that is not easily accessible in the day-to-day workflows
- a relationship-building event for people who do not have a chance to see each other regularly, facilitating connection and care
- a team-building process for people who are experiencing fatigue or demoralization
- a skills- and strengths-based meeting, to better understand the unique attribute of the participants towards better teamwork and communication
- a continuing education event, exploring new ideas and expanding knowledge-base for improving work skills
- What else? What’s the MOST IMPORTANT purpose of your retreat/workshop, without which it would be a failure?
2. What do you want to happen immediately after the retreat/workshop as the participants get back to their day-to-day workflow?
Getting clear on this question makes sure the event is designed to connect directly to the desired outcomes. The more specifically this can be visualized and articulated, the more likely the event will feel and be well-crafted rather than chaotic. The best responses to this question will be measurable and comprehensible to the event participants, reinforcing that the event was really worth their time and creative energies, because they can see the results as they return to their workspaces.
3. Who is the best facilitator of this particular retreat/workshop?
Now that there is a highly disciplined vision for this event, think about who is actually the very best facilitator for its needs. Choose a facilitator that can improve the clarity and effectiveness of your event towards its very specific goals and integration into organizational culture. This might be someone on the event planning team or someone from within your organization, or you might want to reach out for a fresh face. What are the skills and personality that will make your vision a reality? Who is the facilitator who will drive your event agenda forward in fresh, welcoming, and creative ways?
Perhaps it is appropriate to consider an outside facilitator. You may not feel confident that you or your organization have the experience and expertise in managing the flow and organization of this event. Having an outside facilitator can allow the leadership to participate as more democratic members of the retreat, mitigating the power-dynamics and “please-the-boss” challenges that could impede neutrality, safety and creativity. A good facilitator listens deeply and without criticism, but with analytic judgment of how to move discussion towards meeting identified goals of the event. A good facilitator wants your agenda for your group to be fully realized, and resists personal agendas that do not serve the organization well. A good facilitator is able to hold and direct the process without directing the content, encouraging everyone’s creativity and participation. In fact, not surprisingly, a good facilitator is often not fully versed in all the details of the organization’s day-to-day, and brings a fresh and unburdened birds-eye view to the process that is underway, since it is the participants who are the true experts of what the organization is doing and needs. A good facilitator can help diffuse conflict just enough to stimulate deep discussion without hurt feelings or withdrawal. A good facilitator can sense when and how to flexibly and maximally push the retreat agenda forward with experienced time management, knowing when to close a discussion or when to connect it to another agenda item.
4. What are some of the logistical planning needs for your retreat/workshop?
Now the event planning team can begin to write up the agenda and plan the details of where, when, who, and what. Think carefully about both who should be there, and who should not be there. Retreats/workshops are generally best when limited in size (around 10-20), or with careful planning to make sure small break-out groups can connect during the event before returning to a larger group. This might be a great time to begin surveying your team or your participants, obtaining the critical input that begins to help connect everyone to the process and the outcome with excitement and ownership. Start planning the actual format of the retreat, perhaps combining reflection exercises, break-out groups, presentations, experiential learning, discussion sections, and rest-times. Talk with the facilitator that you are going to use to help craft the balance of activities, anticipating the challenges and obstacles with your group’s preferences and styles, so that the agenda is pitch-perfect for challenging without overwhelming your organizational culture.
5. It’s Time: Invite!
Be sure and leave plenty of time for participants to get this on their calendars, especially if it’s not during a normal workday or requires workflow changes so that participants can be fully present and undistracted. Include the specifics of the intended purpose and outcomes, the agenda, and any pre-retreat homework to your event participants. Remind participants that an event is not an end-all, be-all event, but a tool in a process of growth, so that expectations are going to be well-set and then exceedingly well-met. This respects the participants’ time, and supports hope, optimism, and both incoming and outgoing energy that this is going to make a difference in their meaningful and effective work and professional competency.
6. What kind of Post-Retreat/Workshop action items does the leadership need to plan now?
This is a critical piece of a successful event, and worth planning in advance. How are you going to summarize the work of your retreat/workshop so that it is:
- experienced as successfully meeting the desired outcomes and agenda that were set,
- powerfully implemented quickly and accurately into the organizational workflow or professional practices,
- communicating gratitude and appreciation for the input, participation and/or work of the event participants, and
- setting the stage for future retreats, workshops, and events to be enthusiastically embraced as meaningful and a great use of time?
Post-event messaging and surveying of effectiveness should be planned in advance, to reinforce the importance, energy, creativity, and strategy of the retreat/workshop’s growth before it peters out and is lost to business-as-usual or the familiar status-quo. Failure to do so by the planning team can actually worsen demoralization, with a sense of “what was the point?” and that would be tragic given the power and meaningfulness of these kinds of events to push forward positive change, especially well-planned ones like yours.
7. Get to your Retreat/Workshop, armed with hope, gratitude, and enthusiasm.
Enjoy your hard work, and learn from the experience so that your next event is even more effective in planning and execution. Practice the virtues of humility, courage, loving-kindness, and wisdom (for yourself and others!) during and after the retreat. Retreats and workshops are meant to inspire and deepen meaningfulness. Congratulations for setting the bar for your organization’s best-possible event! Bask in the glow.
This is a small sampling of our workshop topics, all of which have an experiential learning component with varying degrees of educational content, depending on the needs of the group.
Reorienting from Demoralization and Burnout: Building Hope and Purpose
Building Emotional Intelligence: Self-Assessments and Process Groups
Meditation Practices for Quiet Mind and Creativity
The Arts and Sciences of Listening: Practicing Hospitality
Story-Telling for Ethical Insight
A Mini-Retreat: Contemplative Arts for Renewal
Film and Literature: Coping with Suffering and Existential Distress
Communicating with the Stranger: Building Connection through Language and Presence
Our skills-building workshops focus on the following areas of expertise, with our six MD, JD, and/or PhD experts that are on our teaching/lecture panel at Virtue Medicine, all of whom have extensive practical experience and the highest academic credentials to build greater competencies and skills in your teams, with workshops that can also be designed to explicitly meet continuing education requirements in your profession/organization.
- Communication Skills-Building. These include topics in Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Management and Mediation, Diversity Training and Cultural Competence, Active Listening, Personality and Interpersonal Styles, and more. For a sampling of the workshops that use psychological assessment tools, please see our Team Skills Coaching page.
- Ethics and Professionalism. These workshops are especially applicable to the helping professions or those in human service, such as Higher Education, Health Care, Law, Ministry/Pastoral Care, and Social Services. These workshops focus on building knowledge, competency and skills in ethics and values-oriented professionalism, both for professionals and/or the special populations that are served. For more on these topics, please see our Ethics Courses and Curricula for possible workshop topics, or speak to us about your ethics-skills needs.
- Integrative Medicine. All of our clinicians at Virtue Medicine lecture and present around the state and country, focusing on helping health care providers improve their understanding and application of clinical therapies, including Functional Medicine and anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes with nutrition and movement therapies, Mind-Body Medicine including Hypnosis, Guided Visualization, and Mindfulness, Gentle Movement Therapies for Healing, and Energy Medicine, and Narrative and Intuitive Medicine using the arts and humanities for powerfully-channeled imagination, journaling, story-telling and culturally-diverse care practices. We love creating these workshops alongside your own experts, for interdisciplinary exploration and growth. Please reach out to us! We love the creative process that helps all of us be better healers, connected to heart and passion.