June offered a series of opening and closing activities for our organization’s annual
planning retreat. Leading up to the retreat, several of JMA’s staff shared that over the
past year, they felt that we were struggling with unhealthy team dynamics and a lack
of trust between staff and leadership. With these issues in mind, our retreat planning
committee requested that June develop a set of activities that could deepen trust and
provide us with tools to handle conflict productively.
We wanted to bring on an outside facilitator to open-up our retreat because we thought that if done well, the facilitator could initiate the healing process for staff that were distrusting of their colleagues or leadership. We were also hopeful that with the right exercises and facilitator, we could begin to help staff feel more comfortable having honest discussions about the trajectory of the organization, internal and external challenges, as well as how JMA can begin the process of addressing long- term inequities in pay, promotion, and other issues for staff of color (especially women of color). Lastly, we also wanted to bring an outside facilitator to close out our retreat, in hopes that it would help enter the New Year with more compassion and sense of solidarity.
With this context, June created a set of powerful activities that our entire staff said was valuable and important for us to have had a successful retreat. For our opening activities, June began with a fun icebreaker that got everyone out of their seats, laughing, and recognizing our own individual ways of expressing ourselves. Following the icebreaker, she organized an awesome game that helped illustrate the importance of teamwork and not being afraid to ask for support from each other.
After these warmup activities, June led us through an exercise in which our staff built an alter out of personal items that we all brought from home to keep us grounded, especially during challenging conversations. During the alter exercise, we all shared pieces of our personal stories and how the objects we brought reflected our journeys. Everyone felt that the alter exercise was instrumental to us moving mountains in trust building and deepening empathy for our colleagues.
For our closing activities, June asked us all to read a conversation between bell hooks and Thic Nhat Hanh titled “Building a Community of Love,” followed by a discussion about our feelings and reactions to the piece. This reading set us up for June’s next activity where she asked us to illustrate what our own visions for a better world looked like, whether through poetry, song, drawings, etc. Afterward, we shared our creations with the whole team and were surprised to find a lot of common themes among our visions. I think this exercise was very helpful for our organization, as it reminded us that while we may have disagreements with our colleagues at times, we all are working towards a common vision for a new world.
Why you chose to work with me:
There are numerous reasons we decided to work with June, but our staff retreat committee
cited three main reasons:
1. From our committee’s first conversation with June, we could tell she was a very active listener, a key quality we were seeking in a facilitator.
2. We really appreciated that June was outcomes-driven and willing to tailor her activities to achieve our outcomes. This was a stark contrast to other consultants we spoke with prior to June, as many of them were unwilling to consider other tools or activities for our purposes and much more concerned about whether we could afford their hourly rates.
3. Third, we appreciated the intersectional, anti-oppression lens she has integrated into her work.
We did not have any doubts about her abilities – June immediately came across as confident,
competent, and passionate. Working with her only provided us with more examples of these
qualities she possesses.
How I benefited your organization:
June benefitted our organization immensely by providing our staff with a foundation of greater trust and understanding before we embarked on an intensive multi-day, work retreat. We felt that the foundation she helped us establish resulted in a significant improvement in productivity and satisfaction compared to previous retreats when we did not bring in an outside facilitator. Almost every employee who has participated in previous retreats remarked that June’s services led to us having a retreat with more honest, less charged conversations, and people taking more time to frame their comments thoughtfully and compassionately (while still holding each other accountable to the impacts their comments have on their colleagues).
After June’s services, I personally felt rejuvenated, a greater sense of comradery with
colleagues, and recommitted to prioritizing work/life balance for myself and the staff I
We can definitively say that our retreat would not have been half as successful if June did not
participate. Tensions between management and staff would have been greater; people would
have had a difficult time following our team agreements (and holding each other accountable
to them); and people would not have as comfortable sharing their experiences and opinions,
especially staff of color.
Our entire staff, including our Executive Director, said that our retreat was a huge success this
year and a large part of that success should be attributed to June’s presence.
June was helped us exceed our intended outcomes for the retreat. Two months
after the retreat, I still see the lasting impacts of the conversations she led us through and the
tools she provided for supporting each other. While we only had June’s time for a little less
than two days, she left a profound impact on our organizational health. We look forward to
hiring June again.