Board away days motivate and energise directors

by Dan Byrne on Nov 30, 2022

Board away days

Essentially, board away days are akin to company retreats or induction sessions. They offer a chance to be informal and approach work in a more relaxed setting. While business is on the table, so is relationship-building. 

Think about it: a board is a team, and any team should devote time to team-building. It enriches members with a knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

This can come in handy when a governance crisis develops.

What is a board away day?

Here are some general characteristics:

  • They are informal team retreats tailored for a board of directors.
  • They usually last one day and take place once a year.

They don’t focus on conducting board business, but they can (and should) focus on how the board conducts business. What works? What doesn’t?

Are they universal across businesses?

No, and not least because they suffer a questionable reputation among corporate stakeholders. No matter what goes on during a board away day, the image of one often involves a group of directors, a hotel, a fancy meal, an open bar, and little in the way of actual work. 

While a board away day can look like this, a successful away day won’t. 

So what can be achieved from a board away day?

In short: a more cohesive, motivated and friendlier board with a gelled mindset and an increased passion for the company’s work. 

  • It’s a calmer time in directors’ busy lives, offering more time to reflect.
  • It enables boards to agree on how they want to operate. 
  • It creates an environment for sharing and critical evaluation.
  • It builds board morale and helps board members understand each others’ ways of working. Often, and ideally, board members will come from different backgrounds and experiences, so don’t underestimate this point!

So what does a board day involve?


Boards should use the day to get to know each other better. Some people will always cringe at the idea of team-building exercises, but they do encourage conversation, and the activities can always have a fresh spin. 

Use an external facilitator to run these sessions if you like.


Review is critical. Away days are an excellent opportunity for boards to assess their strategy, meeting structures, make-up, and themselves. 

Remember, an away day is not a place to make important corporate decisions or solve persistent problems, but it is a place to review how decisions are made and speak openly.


Boards can also use away days to look ahead and suggest anything about governance or corporate culture that might need to be changed. 

Perhaps the culture needs updating. Perhaps it doesn’t accurately reflect the expanded or diversified staff. Maybe directors have gotten feedback from employees that they would like addressed. Here, on the away day, is a perfect opportunity to raise these issues.

How to plan a great board away day

Follow this checklist: 

  • Plan the day well in advance.
  • Ensure every board member attends. It can be tricky with larger boards that lead busy lives, but try! 
  • Invite the CEO and other key senior management if it will help. They can come for part of the day if necessary. 
  • Get a good location. An off-site spot that doesn’t resemble an office environment is usually best. Organise food and tea/coffee for break periods. Remember, it should be an informal setting. 
  • Make an agenda for the day, and stick to it. 
  • Write down what your board hopes to achieve from the day, and be realistic!
  • The agenda should include strategy, corporate culture, board committees, and room for team-building and informal, breakaway discussion about the company’s progress. 

In summary

Critics will say away days are nothing more than a paid-for day out for directors. This can be the case, but with a well-run away day, this won’t be the case. 

Away days offer a chance to review, plan, and bond. As long as they are structured toward those goals, they can be highly beneficial.

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Diploma in Corporate Governance

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