Off-sites are stale. A full day of presentations, an occasional break out session and then a “team building“ activity at the end, which is more about rewarding people for suffering through the day than actually adding value. How many of these have you suffered through?
I believe that it is time to take a new approach to off-sites. Gone are the days where we can afford to take our most senior team members out for a day just to update each other on what happened in the previous period and what is planned for the period ahead. There just isn’t enough value in that to warrant the expense. Unless your off-site develops new thinking, creates deeper trust and provide opportunities for people to really develop then I suggest you cancel it and just send around a deck for people to read.
Here are a few ideas on how to spice up your off site.
1. Ban PowerPoint decks
I believe that if people are senior enough to be included in an offsite then they should be responsible for pre-reading all the update decks. Ensure that all material is circulated at least a week in advance covering all the “traditional” content expected as part of their functional update. Use the offsite sessions as a truly interactive, collaborative opportunity to seek support, advice and ideas. Take the opportunity to challenge ingrained biases and brainstorm solutions to complex issues.
2. Cover the critical and strategic issues first
People get tired and have limited attention spans. Ensure that the agenda covers all of the most strategic issues early in the day.
3. Change up the venue
How often do we spend money hiring an off-site venue only to then sit in a room with the blinds closed around a board table? Environment can have a massive impact on the way in which people think and communicate. If you are looking for different thinking, then it is foolish to expect it to occur in the same environment albeit a different location. I suggest you start by taking away the table. I would even go so far as to take away the seating for parts of the day. If you are felling adventitious and the weather permits, consider taking some of it outside. You will be amazed at the impact this has on the way your teams think and communicate.
4. Do your team building first
Why do we do our team building at the end of the day? Why is it always something totally disconnected from the business, like paint balling, cooking, painting etc. Surely it makes more sense to do it first. True change in behaviour and building of trust only happens when you disrupt the status quo. Your team building activity needs to be able to create this disruption and set up a new way of thinking that you can benefit from for the rest of the off-site and carry through into the business.
5. Don’t be a slave to the agenda.
Be brave. Allow time for the team to discuss the issues and opportunities that they uncover throughout the day. These will often be things that hadn’t occurred to us when we were putting together a fully packed agenda for the day. All too often important issues and opportunities are uncovered in off-sites, parked for future discussion and then never addressed.
Off-sites are all too often a chore, seen as a necessity to get everyone on the same page for the period ahead. I believe that they can be significantly more. They can be empowering, uncover and solve issues, truly bring a team together and develop trust.
Please comment on how you keep off-sites relevant and valuable, I’d love to hear your views.
Congratulations you have made the move from a “doer” to a “leader”. You are now experiencing the challenges that come with moving from subject matter expert to generalist, from managing yourself or a small team to leading a business unit or company, from being responsible for your own behaviour to setting the tone for a whole organisation and most importantly from delivering results yourself to delivering them through a team.
The question becomes how do you manage that transition? Where do you acquire the Leadership skills necessary to be successful when likely as not most of what you will be doing in this new role you have never done before. All of this whilst the teams who work for you are watching and looking to you for strength and leadership. Unlike almost and job or promotion the one that moves you into a leadership role comes with almost no training at all. It seems to be expected that great managers or subject matter experts will just transform overnight into amazing leaders.
Enter the executive coach. There is nothing in your working world that is focused 100% on you. Am executive coach is somebody dedicated to helping you move from where you are to where you want to be. Imagine what you can achieve with the support and accountability that comes from someone 100 percent focused on helping you achieve your goals and maximizing your potential. When else in your career will you ever get the opportunity to experience that.
Traditional coaching conventions say that any coach can coach anybody using the right coaching tools. Reality is often different. In the real world, a business coach is also a mentor, a strategic partner and trusted advisor. It is therefore essential to find the right coach for you with the experience and battle scars to help you in your transition to leadership. If an executive coach isn’t something you’ve already considered here are 3 reasons why you should.
As you move into your new leadership role you will find that there are more groups vying for your attention, more decisions to be made, more problems to solve and more stakeholders expectations to manage. As a successful individual you will no doubt seek to meet all of these new demands. More often than not the promises that get broken first are the ones we make to ourselves. A business Coach challenges you to stay accountable to your own development, to strategize and develop your goals whilst meeting all of your other responsibilities.
As a new leader, almost everything you do, you will be doing for the first time. A business coach will challenge your thinking, your strategy and your willingness to continue to grow and develop. As someone who has “been there” and “done that” a business coach can act as a mentor based on the experiences they have had and provide a unique insight that broadens your business awareness
3) To challenge your thinking
A good business coach listens without judgement and is able to ask insightful questions that challenge your preconceptions and open new thought processes. Your business coach has no ulterior motive their only desire is to develop you, your thinking and help you to be the best leader possible. Nowhere else in your professional environment will you find a resource as powerful as a good business coach.
There isn’t a successful sporting team or athlete in the world that does not have a coach, successful business leaders are no different. If success and growth are what you are interested in then a good, experienced executive coach is exactly what you need.
To find out more about executive coaching or to book a free 30 min coaching session speak to one of our executive coaches here
According to author Daniel Pink we’re in transition from the Information age to the Conceptual Age. He writes in his book The Whole New Mind “The best employees of the future will excel at creative problem solving and different ways of thinking — synthesizing seemingly diverse things together for better solutions, using metaphors to explain new ideas for which no context yet might exist.”
And yet do we really set up our work environments to support this type of rich and dynamic thinking?
Richard Boyatzis, author and professor of Organizational Behaviour at Case Western wrote “If you want people coming to work with half their brain then put them under pressure”.
And he has a point, the more you delve into the demands placed on employees and more importantly the demands that employees place on themselves you can see their brains bending under the strain. This is great for problem solving but the exact opposite of what is required for innovation and creativity.
For some of my coaching clients, innovation is something that happens in the shower or walking the dog if at all, as work comprises of long hours, back to back meetings and the unwritten ground rule that unless you look busy you are not doing your best.
To add to this large organisations have invested heavily in developing processes and systems, all designed to create consistency and in some cases safety however in many cases employees create a dependency on process and a tendency to stop thinking outside the box.
Although innovation may be an organisations core value, generally cultures fail to support this.
Jonah Lehrer wrote an interesting book looking at this problem of innovation in the workplace called Imagine.
“What Imagine and the literature about the neuroscience of creativity says is, when we need moments of insight, when we need to find far-reaching connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, when we’ve really hit the wall…that’s when we need to relax, to stop thinking about work, because the answer will only arrive when we stop looking for it.”
In other words to be able to be creative, as opposed to just problem solving we need to quiet the mind and allow ourselves to slow down. Mood matters, relaxing our minds and getting distance from the problem will increase the likelihood of an a-ha moment.
So what do we need to change in our organisations?
We need to really acknowledge creativity and innovation as a highly desirable ability.
We need to encourage others to think differently through provocative (not threatening) questions. Practicing a different way of thinking will increase the likelihood of creative thought.
We need to give people time to allow ideas to flow
We need to trust our employees to change their environment i.e. go for a walk to get into a better mind state
And we need to create supportive cultures so employees feel empowered to take time to think and not feel guilty because they are not rushing around the office.
Remember some of the most creative companies like Apple and Google give their employees task free days. These are days where they can work on anything they like without a kpi in sight. And it is through this type of investment in precious time that these companies report that the best ideas emerge.
So how can we get ready for the Conceptual Age? How can we support our teams and employees to develop and cultivate this amazing capability and harness it to create highly competitive organisations?
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