Great Stories, Leadership

Successful Offsite? 3 S’s You Need

Most every organization plans offsite retreats, strategy sessions, team building, and leadership events. They can be the highlight of the year when done right, or an annoying interruption when done poorly. I’ve attended, planned, facilitated, and lead a lot of these events over the years and I’ve noticed a few simple, but often overlooked things you can do to help your team engage, and even enjoy these costly (in time and expense), and potentially impactful meetings. Pretty much everyone can build a decent schedule and key content for a team retreat. If that’s a struggle there are lots of people, including us at Catalyst, who can help. But there are three fairly simple things you may not include that can make a significant difference. 1. Snacks: Think of food as lubricant, both socially and intellectually. People don’t pay attention or contribute when they’re stomachs are rumbling. In general having options always available within the meeting room allows folks to “graze” throughout the day. Healthier stuff in the morning and chocolate, sweet, and salt in the afternoon is my rule of thumb, though every group may be different. Never make the mistake I did a couple years ago and forget to have coffee on hand just because I don’t drink it! 2. Stories: Human beings are story sponges. We relax, drop our guards, and emotionally engage when we hear a story, and most of us are natural story tellers when given proper prompting. Use story telling activities to connect people, celebrate achievements, and reinforce organizational priorities. A long piece of mural paper on a wall can easily become a timeline of your history and show how each person plays a part in where you are going together. 3. Swag: Give people something. The key to doing this well is to make it something they will consider valuable, useful, and memorable. Tying it in to the theme of your time together so it becomes a lasting reminder of what you want to accomplish is strategic. Wise leaders will figure out what is appreciated by their team in advance so they don’t end up with another computer bag or mouse pad that is given away or gathers dust. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just a little surprising or special. Sure, none of this will mean much of the session is an extended lecture by a senior leader who is critical of performance and monotone in their delivery, but you already know that. Think of these as little pro tips that can push your retreat over the top. Use them and it may become one of the most worthwhile things you do all year.