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Growth Mindset and Our All-Staff Retreat: A Format That Makes a Difference

Growth Mindset and Our All-Staff Retreat: A Format That Makes a Difference

By Coleen Cantwell, MPH | June 21, 2019
Vice-President, Business Development, ETR

ETR has brought considerable attention to creating a workplace culture that builds and sustains growth mindset over time. Our 2019 all-staff retreat offers a fine example of this. Our distributed workforce of 100 gathered for a full day in Santa Clara, CA, travelling from four worksites with co-located staff, and 25 remote locations across the nation.

Our retreats are extraordinary. They do not pay mere lip service to building organizational engagement. They do not bore. Neither do they entertain for a day and then take a break until next year.

Instead, they put everybody to work—hard! ETR’s staff is our greatest asset, and the yearly retreat is one way we demonstrate our commitment to investing in staff engagement and growth. It is also a way for us to collectively live our organizational values and norms.

The agenda and activities are grounded in science. They give us many opportunities to build relationships, create space for multiple viewpoints and engage in continuous learning. Our theme this year was Connect! Reflect! Grow! The day was an outstanding demonstration in practice of the ways mixing up our work groups and creating new teams can drive creativity and innovation.



Embracing Growth Mindset

We also deepened our learning about growth mindset and examined ways we could each personally embrace this in our work. This included guided pre-work before the retreat, a series of actions and activities for each individual to complete on retreat day, and an opportunity to set up longer term goals—steps to take in the coming months to enhance connections and affirm our application of growth mindset and continuous learning.

At the retreat, leadership announced our most recent “strategy revolution”—we welcomed and celebrated the brand new merger of YTH and ETR. We brought our full staffs together for the first time. These two amazing teams joined together in an absolute bounty of enthusiasm, respect and regard. What an example of growth mindset at work! We witnessed a complete willingness among staff to embrace the possibilities offered by the merger, along with an eagerness to imagine all kinds of new journeys we could pursue more successfully together than we might have separately.


These are the kinds of steps that take growth mindset from concept to culture. Staff are sharing ideas about growth mindset they find in articles and posts. They’re framing new work and ongoing efforts from a growth mindset perspective. #GrowthMindset is now a regular hashtag in our internal communications. It’s what is, not what’s to come.

Like other memorable retreats, we also had great food, plenty of laughter, a few surprises and lots of fun. When we asked staff what we might do differently next year, the overwhelming response was, “Make it longer!” We can’t imagine a better measure of success.


Coleen Cantwell, MPH, is Vice President of Business Development at ETR. Her interests include organizational development and capacity building for public and nonprofit agencies and successfully translating programs to practice. She can be reached at

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