It can be challenging to speak at a firm retreat.
There is, of course, plenty of pressure to perform. People are counting on you to deliver a great program, to help advance the firm’s interests, make them more successful, generate revenue, get along, avoid problems, set the course for the future, or deliver one of countless other things that have been identified as important to them.
But what about the rest of the retreat weekend? When invited to golf, shop, shoot skeet, go horseback riding, or participate in the other planned events, how do you know if the invitation is simply a polite courtesy?
You’re part of the weekend, not part of the firm. When I worked at an all-day strategic planning retreat for Denver’s Hindman Sanchez (Colorado’s leading HOA law firm), the all-firm activity was declared to be mandatory, courtesy of one of the most fun managing partners I’d had the pleasure to work with, Tom Hindman.
The activity? Jumping off a damn cliff.
Of course, it’s officially called “Paragliding,” but it still feels like jumping off a cliff. Basically, you and a guide are strapped to a stunt parachute and told to run down a mountain (that’s me in front). At some point you lift off and soar, thousands of feet above the ground. It’s fun and quite peaceful — if you’re not completely terrified.
Personally, my goal was to survive the activity and not tell my wife about it until I got home. A few macho HS lawyers challenged the guides to test their limits, “Go ahead and try. You can’t make me puke.”
And, as they spiraled, spun, and cork-screwed screaming down from nearly 15,000 feet, every single one of them was proved solidly wrong. That might have been my favorite part.