I am constantly amazed at what oftentimes seems to be a profound lack of strategic thought and approach when it comes to how off-sites get planned. It truly blows me away when I ask someone planning a meeting what the purpose or objective of their meeting is and they don’t know. Are you kidding me? Have we gotten that lazy, skeptical and apathetic? As evidenced by many of the calls we field at Banding People Together, the unfortunate answer seems like “yes” more often than not. Well…..NOT on my watch any longer. If you are a leader that truly cares about YOUR people than I’m challenging you to put your bandwidth where your mouth is and get in the game.
Timing Is Everything
When I look back at the most amazing game changing business impacting off-sites that we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of, there is always one key element. There is an engaged leader who is strategically thinking about where the team or organization is in their journey and what it needs to accelerate results. In that mindset one can’t help but to think differently about the totality of the experience. This also means that just because it’s “that time of year” you don’t necessarily have to have a meeting if it’s not the right time in the business cycle. If you can’t clearly articulate to yourself or others why you are getting everyone together and what you hope to accomplish as a result, than my passionate advice is DON’T BOTHER!
Make It About The Attendees
You are asking people to give up valuable time with their families. So if they walk away thinking it was of waste than shame on you. I can easily argue that does more damage than gathering at all. Try to resist the opportunistic induced paranoia that this is your only shot to reach these people with your message. The more you make them drink from the firehose the less effective your message will be anyway. Think about how to achieve a healthy balance of getting the work done without burning people out. Make sure there is some free time not just “fun” time. They are already gonna be stressed out enough about how to catch up on their work as a result of being out of pocket for days.
Look At The Event Holistically
YOUR job is to architect a meeting experience that takes people on a journey that connects them to each other and back to the organization in a way that inspires, energizes and ultimately aligns, in order to get the results you are promising your boss. What an opportunity! People want to feel inspired and energized. They also want to feel invested in. That can look a lot of ways. Invested in doesn’t necessarily mean you give them expensive gifts or put them up at a fancy resort. Feeling invested in can come from appreciating the thought put into creating a meaningful and worthwhile experience. It can also come in the way of personal development and growth that helps your people be their best selves at work AND home. I’m not suggesting as the leader or meeting owner that you have to get buried in the weeds. But, you better have a vision for how you want people to feel in addition to concrete business outcomes once the off-site is over. Those getting their hands dirty in logistics, content and agendas will be able to help bring your vision to life if you just give it some thought before dumping the details on those supporting the process.
Have Clear Actionable Next Steps After The Meeting
So many people are rightfully skeptical about anything ever being different after attending an off-site. Honestly, I’m not sure we can blame them for their skepticism. I passionately believe that a meeting can be the ultimate platform for igniting that ever elusive spark in a way that aligns and moves the business forward. Unfortunately, it won’t happen by itself. The most impactful meetings start a journey and have clearly defined next steps and expectations of what needs to be done by when. Addressing expectations on how everyone will hold each other accountable is paramount. It’s up to you to start and drive that conversation.
Finally, it’s pretty simple to gauge whether or not you’re on the right track with your agenda for your off-site. Just ask yourself this simple question. If I were attending would I be excited or skeptical? Would attending your off-site feel like a “get to” or a “have to”. Yup. It’s that simple.
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