The Power of The Offsite
Companies across the world have been planning team offsites. One of the top reasons to have plan leadership offsites is to drive alignment and instill a feeling of team spirit.
But can a simple gathering of individuals away from their day-to-day work actually prove to be effective for team building? Yes, if planned right. No, if not managed well as there can be unintended results like bringing out competition and hostility instead of enhancing team spirit.
Despite the risks, a well planned offsite is worth the effort. Especially in today’s times when many teams are operating remotely and the leadership team may have turned over in the last few years. At my current company, we recently conducted a successful offsite for our leadership team, and I am glad to share that the offsite has helped us in more ways than one — better alignment being the most important one.
What happens at the offsite, doesn’t stay at the offsite
It trickles down to the entire organization and the outcomes–positive or negative — go beyond those couple of days.
Offsites have the power to bring different teams together as one and boost collaboration. The leadership offsite at my current organization was no different. We wanted to achieve these three goals -
Align on where the business has to head
Build better relationships among colleagues
Boost the excitement to work with each other
While many would argue that you can do this remotely as well, I strongly believe that despite having communication tools like Slack, Zoom, Hangout, etc. nothing beats that sense of 'oneness' unless you are together at the same place.
So what’s the best way to plan for an offsite?
Different strategies work for different teams depending on what is the outcome that you wish to drive. Some themes that I have seen work well, especially when your participants span multiple cultures are -
Forgetting Hierarchy: we are at a level-playing field and look at each other as equals.
Don’t Hold Back: we respectfully challenge each other during discussions.
Create Space for Each Other: we listen to each other and provide equal opportunity to share our thoughts.
At our recent offsite, we had similar themes as well. We did some serious work but had fun at the same time. Team building and having fun are important parts of any offsite. When you look past each other as more than colleagues, you realize that working with each other can be so much fun.
Our fun included team dinners and building sand castles at the beach! While many might question the efficacy of these activities, they really bring teams together by breaking conscious and unconscious barriers.
At my previous job, as the head of an ed tech company in India, I would ensure that we did a big offsite at least once a year. There we not only discussed the strategy for the next year, but also spent a lot of time bonding with each other through dinners and team building activities. Many years later, me and many of my ex-colleagues still count those offsites as the most cherished memories of that period.
Have Fun While You Scale Up
Undoubtedly, teams scale faster when they are having fun and are aligned. You can hire some of the smartest people to work in a company, but if they are not aligned as a team, you won't make much progress. Every time I say this, I can't help but remember the visual of a team rowing a boat; everyone’s got to row in the same direction to actually move forward.
This analogy is true for every business. Unless all of you move towards the same goal post, you won’t be able to make it.
Offsites can play an important role in helping achieve just that.
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