Every year, company leaders conduct their annual planning process for the upcoming year. Topics that are covered include: budget planning, goal setting, operational planning, and identifying key strategic initiatives that will affect the future business, as well as, the overall company culture.
This planning will trickle down to department leaders who will be asked to do the same type of planning. If you are a leader who is interested in increasing your team’s engagement or buy-in, this is a perfect time to ask your direct reports to join you in an offsite planning session. This will allow you to create, clarify, and roll out the strategic initiatives for the upcoming year.
In early January, I held a 2017 offsite meeting for my team of five. There were a number of positive outcomes that came from this event that I did not expect. These outcomes were very powerful to the health of the team. To my surprise, in the weeks leading up the offsite I had multiple members of my team express how excited they were for the event, a number of them even asked to have specific topics added to the agenda.
On the day of the meeting we all drove to our (free) rented meeting space, plugged in our laptops, and started the meeting off with a team-building ice-breaker exercise. The day was filled with laughs, questions, concerns, explanations, lists of to-dos and an understanding of what everyone was accountable for in 2017. The team was able to ask clarifying questions and even push back at times on some of the strategic initiatives that were ahead of us. Finally, we wrapped up the day with a social hour and expressed the excitement for the year ahead. By including my team in the final stages of the 2017 planning and rolling out of the department goals in this way, it helped create a buy-in towards these goals. It also increased engagement because the team had helped in the creation of the goals and projects. Through this offsite, my department seemed to form into an even stronger team that day.
Six Takeaways and Recommendations
- Offsite Means Offsite: Completely change your normal environment by finding a meeting space that is not in your building. This will give the team energy and allow them to feel differently and think differently.
- Assign Homework: Before the meeting your team should come with ideas already written down. We used a simple “Start-Stop-Continue” exercise.
- Set the Tone: Let your team know the meeting is a safe place to be honest and open. Create an ice breaker that asks your team to open up. This can set the tone for the day. (Ask me about the one we used. It was GREAT!)
- Have an Agenda and Stick to it: Conversations around your topics will last longer than you anticipate. Allow the discussions to blossom, but curtail them when you need to stay on track.
- Change Your Mind: Allow the comments and concerns raised in the meeting to change some of your goals or priorities. Your team is talking… so listen.
- Follow-up and follow-through: Capture the goals, issues and projects. Talk about them as a team on a weekly basis and reevaluate them semi-annually.
What success have you had in offsite meetings you’ve attended?