I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I signed up for the Booth Leadership Vision Retreat, though it was an concept that had been brewing in Booth’s Leadership Development Office for several years. What I found was an incredible opportunity to get out of Chicago for a weekend, reflect on what was important, share my experiences with my community, and think about the next steps in my life.
Why are you here and not somewhere else
After driving a few hours north from Chicago into Wisconsin, our first night was spent at the Kohler Design Center, the kitchen & bath company’s elegant museum, showcase, and event center. What seemed like an odd setting at first, the bathroom scenery actually worked quite well for our activities: it’s hard to be too uptight when surrounded by a wall of toilets.
Hundreds of postcard-sized pictures were spread on tables around the event space, and we were challenged to find images that represented the transition from our previous lives to our lives at Booth. For example, I chose a picture of a small rowboat sailing off into open waters, a metaphor for the isolation, challenges, and uncertainty I felt during my transition to Booth from the military. Pairing up with a classmate, we retreated to one of the (gorgeous) bathroom displays to chat about our pictures, why we chose them, and how they represented our experiences.
After a reflective Friday night, Saturday morning we started talking about who we are and where we are going. We identified and framed our values, our preferences, and our ideals in a structured way during an workshop. The pictures came back out, but this time we found images that represented how we saw our transition after graduation.
Our afternoon was spent with alumni 2-5 years out of Booth, with opportunities to pick their brains about their own transitions – what they did and what they wish they’d done differently. Saturday evening we started to put it all together into a coherent vision statement for the first year or two after graduation. Personally, my vision coalesced around three big-picture ideas:
- Successfully merging lives and cohabiting with my girlfriend (personal)
- Finding the industry and function within consulting that I’m most passionate about (professional)
- Building a supportive and meaningful community in Denver, my new city (social)
You might notice that the professional part was only one-third of my vision. This was more common than you might expect from this group of MBAs, and most of my peers’ visions expresse a strong desire for balance in the various priorities of our lives.
Sunday morning, we ventured to Whistling Straits. In a renovated barn overlooking the beautiful PGA golf course on Lake Michigan, we talked about how to turn our developing vision statements into actionable goals – real takeaways that would help us frame our transition and keep us on track towards our vision.
Bringing it all together
Forty-eight hours from start to finish, the schedule above might seem like a jam-packed weekend. On the contrary, one of the biggest benefits of the weekend was that we were given ample time to reflect on our discussions, catch up with classmates in an informal environment, and drink a few beers with friends we might not get to hang out with again before we all go begin our new lives and careers.
My Chicago Booth experience started with Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) and the Leadership Orientation Retreat (LOR), so it only seemed appropriate that the Leadership Vision Retreat served as a bookend to my time here at Booth. Without this retreat, I don’t know if I would have carved out a few days just to think about where I came from and where I want to go, so I’m very grateful that Booth gave me the opportunity and the space to do so.