Team Retreats:The How And Why of Effective Offsites
Why Your Team Needs to Get Out of the Office
Team building activities are the first thing that comes to mind to improve performance. But, before embarking on one, you need to be clear and honest about the problem you are trying to solve and what's the expected outcome.
When designed correctly, an executive retreat can transform your team. Retreats are perfect to uncover tensions and have the team solve them collectively. We help organizations when they need to recover their momentum, reflect to adjust their strategy, ideate new solutions or stop their bleeding.
Before planning your retreat, identify the key problem you are trying to solve. The more focused a team offsite, the more effective it turns.
1. Stress: High workloads, unrealistic deadlines, unclear priorities, and lack of support both at a manager or peer level cause burnout. A team retreat helps release the pressure.
2. A Team Is Stuck: Disengagement, underperformance, and counterproductive behaviors are clear signals of a group that got stuck. To get a team back on track requires much more than motivation and timeout: you need a team intervention.
3. Cultural Divide: Teams always have tensions, and not everyone will be on the same page depending on the topic. True collaboration happens when people embrace other perspectives rather than dismiss those who think differently.
4. Lack of Trust: People leave managers not companies, according to Gallup. A team outing can provide a safe space for people to start opening up.
5. Need for New Solutions: The need to plan for next year or to develop new solutions, are perfect reasons for a team retreat.
6. You don’t know what’s broken: How many times do you feel something is off with your team, but you don’t know the real cause? When something is not working, having clarity is half of the solution.
7. The Change Gap Is Taking a Toll: The divide between where an organizations wants to go an where it is now creates lots of tensions. To learn more about “ The Change Gap” and how it affects teams, read this article.
Some of the most common benefits are:
- Rebuild trust and collaboration among team members.
- Tackle the real cause of the problem, rather than silence the symptoms.
- Provide distance and a safe space for candid conversations
- Create concrete action plans to and accelerate implementation
- Encourage individual and collective reflection
- Reenergize, refocus and restart your team
- Identify individual and collective blindspots (and what to do about it)
- Develop buy-in and alignment on new behaviors needed or initiatives
- Learn by doing, jump into action, and accelerate impact
- Create better understanding and collaboration among leaders and team members
Which Type of Team Offsite Is Right for You?
There are many kinds of retreats some more suitable than others depending on the challenge you are facing. To simplify the conversation, I narrowed down the list applying the following axes:
“Reflection” versus “Transformation:” The first type is a deep understanding of a team’s mindset and behaviors to unblock or accelerate performance. The second type is about focusing the energy on the development of new solutions or change initiatives.
“Crisis” versus “Opportunity:” The first is about solving urgent matters that need to be resolved to unblock team performance or even guarantee its survival. The latter is about focusing on strategic and vital topics with a longer-term impact.
Think of this as the ER for a team. Toxic behaviors, frictions, and lack of trust are bleeding your team to death. If you don’t stabilize the team, it’s impossible to expect any improvements, least to say great performance.
The purpose of Team Stabilization is to recover trust among the team members. This type of retreat tends to be very introspective, personal and applying a lot of reflection and mindfulness. Handled the right way, it can be a path to fast recovery. If not, it will accelerate the death sentence of a team.
Why: To stop unhealthy behaviors and mindsets from destroying a team.
When: An intervention is required when the toxicity of the team is putting its continuity at risk. Though you don’t need to wait until things get out of control.
Type: Reflection/ Crisis
Length: Ideally two full days with some space in between for the team to breath. A Team Stabilization is very intense and emotionally draining.
A halt in the game can dramatically change the result of a match. Or your business goals for that matter. Taking a timeout is critical for a team to reflect on what’s working (or not), adjust tactics, or even reset their behaviors.
The purpose of Team Timeout is to provide some distance for the day-to-day. And evaluate the performance to make the necessary adjustments. Even if you are winning, reflecting on how you are playing is an appropriate pause. Some teams can quickly become complacent or get distracted when they don’t feel challenged. This type of retreat resets the bar and keeps the team motivated to play at their best.
Why: To reflect on how the team is doing, identify areas for improvement and experimentation, and define how to play the “second-half” of the game.
When: Turning point that requires learning and adjustments(e.g., end of year or a quarter, half-way through a large project implementation, etc.)
Type: Reflection/ Opportunity
Length: One-day session. It can be compressed to a half-day if needed.
Both Team Stabilization and Team Reboot are perfect when there’s an urgent need to change. The difference is that in this particular situation the team is underperforming, but hasn’t reached a high level of toxicity or distrust.
The purpose of a Team Reboot is precisely what it happens to a phone or device when it’s not working correctly. Rebooting a team reloads the operating system, updates mindsets, and behaviors, and fixes temporary communication and management issues.
Why: To reset the team operating system and refresh how and why they work.
When: A high-performing team has lost its mojo, a team is underperforming and on its way to a significant crisis.
Type: Crisis/ Transformation.
Length: One or two-day sessions. It can be cut to a half-day session if the situation is not critical but will require further follow-up.
This is an idyllic scenario for any team. When they get out of the office with a bigger ambition: to design what’s next. But to thrive in an Innovation Session, your team needs to be in a good place. Most often than not, I see creative or strategic retreats get stuck. Not because of lack of talent or ambition, but because the underlying personal issues and dysfunctions get in the way of creativity and collaboration.
The purpose of Team Innovation Sessions is to generate new ideas to solve current problems or anticipate potential challenges or growth opportunities. Adding “outsiders” to the session amplifies perspectives and minimizes group thinking.
Why: To develop new products or services, define new strategies or solve for specific challenges that are out the regular day-to-day work.
When: Out of the ordinary projects or challenges that require deep thinking, focus, and fresh perspectives.
Type: Transformation/ Opportunity
Length: One or two-day sessions. More complex projects might require more time
Planning to have a team retreat in the near future?
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