Leadership Off-Sites Are More Than a Boondoggle
There’s a perception that an executive leadership off-site is a waste of time for many different reasons. Some believe it’s simply a party for a leadership team to have a good time at significant expense of the organization. Others believe it’s uncomfortable and why would I spend social time with this group, can’t we just get down to our work together. This weekend I attended an off-site annual board retreat that was almost cancelled for cost conscious budget reasons. I’m glad it went ahead as I believe off-sites are essential to building highly effective teams that trust each other. Going off-site allows you to think differently and is a catalyst to strategic and creative thinking in ways you can’t spark in your regular every day office space. If you want new thinking in the team, you need a new environment.
You might be thinking, OK, I’ll go to the off-site but I’m not doing any “activities” with the team. I’m here to do serious work. The truth is, you’re not that interesting and compelling if people don’t get a chance to get to know you without your collar buttoned up tight. Spending some time together doing something fun allows you to get to know the other people in your team as people, not just co-workers and lets them get to know you. Its this bonding time that brings you together as a team vs. a group of people that happen to work in proximity to one another.
Our off-site included a social hour, meals together, and a Friday evening filled with games including ping-pong, darts, pool and Pictionary with trophies awarded to the winners of the night. These experiences together form strong relationships that allow us to work together without taking ourselves too seriously. We get to see that everyone else in the team has a lot in common with us.
We had some serious fun together Friday night and then got down to the heavy lifting of the work at hand Saturday morning. Stories and comments about Friday night showed up throughout the day on Saturday and lightened up the energy in doing our work. We were able to be braver in challenging ideas and more open-minded listeners. The quality of discussion was balanced with no one over dominating any topic and we had the ability to hear from the quieter people in the room.
To make your next off-site worthwhile, here are a few points to consider:
- Carefully structure the agenda with desired outcomes focused on key learning, forward moving actions and decisions.
- Plan fun team activities to bring some structure to non-work time together.
- Ensure meals are together and even think about who sits where to ensure you mix up the group and help people get to know one another if needed.
- Set the expectations with those attending.
A quality leadership off-site requires good planning into logistics, the agenda and desired outcomes. If done right, they can create lasting relationships, effective strategic planning and breath new energy into your team that no standard work environment ever can.