Forum retreats provide EO members with a vital sanctuary to recharge and connect with each other. Recent statistics highlight a concerning reality — 75% of entrepreneurs grapple with mental health concerns. Among them, 56% have received diagnoses related to anxiety, depression, or stress-related issues. Many EOers face such challenges, and if you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. More than ever before, there is a pressing need to intentionally create spaces where you can go deep, explore the emotional state of entrepreneurs, and transform aspects of each leader.
Moderators and retreat planners bear the substantial responsibility of creating an experience where your Forum can safely share their emotional struggles, ailments, achievements and difficult occurrences. Yet, most do not have specific training and expertise to navigate such happenings.
Each moderator and Forum retreat planner has a desired outcome for the retreat and no matter how opulent, adventurous or once-in-a-lifetime it is, the ultimate goal is to understand their Forum mates more profoundly. The presence of a facilitator can not only ensure profound connections are created across the Forum, but they can also share observations of the interpersonal dynamics and behaviours of the Forum as an entity.
Here are three key ways a facilitator can enhance your retreat:
1. A facilitator has the courage to be disliked
A facilitator has one objective: To go deeper and create safe transformation. The intricate relationship dynamics, past communication patterns, and overall Forum history can interfere if left up to a vested moderator.
A facilitator navigates the people, not the problems. One emotion/nonverbal cue at a time, a facilitator skillfully mirrors language to reflect to the Forum what their subconscious and unconscious minds may not be aware of. A facilitator will be direct, ask the Forum members what they are afraid to say, and get to the root of issues with empathy and precision.
When conflict does arise, the facilitator can lean in to encourage vulnerability, ensure each perspective is heard, and alchemize any personalization of the misunderstanding. A facilitator can model what healthy repair looks like without being at risk of losing friends, a social life, and an advisory board.
2. A facilitator will model vulnerability
The Forum can only go as deep as its moderator, and if there are one or two Forum members who are not comfortable being vulnerable, it likely won’t achieve the level of connection desired. How can depth be achieved if the moderator isn’t able to lead by example?
Let’s say as an example that the moderator is very comfortable with emotional risk and leads most exercises. It is still very difficult to share something that is 5% and in the very next breath hold space for another Forum mate, by hearing them, pausing them to keep time and managing the energy effectively. It is more likely that the moderator actually needs to be acknowledged for what they just shared before moving on to someone else. This scenario can be detrimental to the moderator’s growth.
A professional facilitator is a living embodiment of depth and vulnerability, and is there to also hold space for the moderator to process their emotions. Facilitators lead by example, unattached to relationships or a need for approval. Their role is to navigate the energy and personalities of the Forum to enhance the trust and compassion of each Forum mate. Facilitators live in deep waters, and their 5% is going to be quite raw, as the Forum doesn’t have a history with them. Facilitators can manage their 5% and the 5% shares of others simultaneously — because they are trained to do so. Facilitators are professional energy managers.
Tenured Forums may present in an entirely different way on their comfort with vulnerability. There are only so many times Forum mates can hear another’s lifeline over 8+ years and beyond. Where can more depth and vulnerability be extracted if the Forum knows each other so well? Through skillfully designed exercises that invite new perspectives into old stories and leverage present and future happenings to go deeper. Sometimes depth comes from exploring unspoken beliefs and new ideas that have not been actualized. This can feel fragile, raw, and nerve-wracking if it contrasts with other Forum mates’ views. A facilitator manages the Forum by ensuring the exploration is received without judgment.
3. A facilitator prioritizes lifelong connections over consuming experiences
Life in EO unquestionably brings once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You can likely think back to a recent EO experience that was fueled by either luxury, adrenaline, or novelty. There is a place in our lives for these experiences — yet as with anything, the more exposure we have to them, the more they may become overvalued in the hierarchy of our personal needs as entrepreneurs.
I recently decided to pass up one such “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, because I had the realization that materialism can also show up in the form of consuming experiences, and once-in-a-lifetime connections are 10X more impactful on my growth.
When the agenda on a retreat prioritizes adrenaline and luxury, your Forum likely won’t re-enter life recharged and transformed. These elements must complement the impactful conversations instead of overtaking them. When sincere vulnerability and depth are achieved, celebrating with excursions is a brilliant accoutrement — and it’s the same with alcohol. If alcohol is a catalyst for depth on a retreat instead of a celebratory beverage, there is a missed opportunity for a memorable connection. As we navigate the mix of voices and experiences in the Forum, it’s worth remembering that the simple act of retreating in a secluded place in nature can turn regular chats into transformational moments.
Building connections that truly last a lifetime is a rewarding journey that feeds the soul. That’s where a facilitator at a Forum retreat comes in. They help create an environment where such deep, lasting connections can form. The benefits of these connections go beyond fleeting experiences; they can hold multi-generational impact, making them truly unequivocal.
When we’re faced with the choice between quick thrills and lasting bonds, let’s opt for emotional risk and healing conversations. By doing so, we affirm our commitment to genuinely hearing and understanding others. The most successful retreats — especially those led by a facilitator — have the power to make our connections with others life-changing.
Leah Diteljan is an executive coach and retreat facilitator with 16 years of experience collaborating with inspiring entrepreneurs leading 7- to 10-figure businesses. She is the founder of MindSpa, which endeavors to reconnect leaders to themselves, other like-hearted humans, nature, and their purpose through 1:1 coaching, group coaching and retreats.