Team offsites, whether in-person or virtual, should be high impact, learning rich, and fun. The team should have conversations that typically do not happen. The quality of dialogue should be high. The conversations should be expansive, leading in new directions. There should be laughter. Team members should leave feeling more connected to each other, and people should leave the offsite clear about next steps and action items.
Unfortunately, many long-form meetings simply do not measure up to these standards. Given the amount of time invested in offsites, you cannot afford not to design the best meeting you can.
We are often asked to design and facilitate breakthrough team offsites. We engage first with executive sponsors to map out what is needed. In most cases, we collect data about how the team is doing. We do this in two ways. We conduct interviews with individuals, and we administer a proprietary Team Effectiveness Profile (TEP). This qualitative and quantitative approach allows us to quickly get up to speed about the team’s functioning and provides rich information for discussion about the offsite. Oftentimes the executive sponsors wish for us to test alignment or solicit views about content areas to be covered at the offsite.
It is important to us that the executive sponsors feel in control of the offsite design and delivery. We conduct debriefs with the executive sponsors prior to the offsite and walk them through our proposed design and agenda.
We tend to play several roles during the offsite. In segments where we are the driver, we are on point to tee up the discussion and achieve the segment objectives. We often inject ideas into the offsite, often through pre-work, and then play a teaching role to help individuals make sense of the content and apply it to the team and their work. For other segments, someone else is driving and we are observing the dynamics, calling on individuals to contribute, asking questions to reframe the dynamics, and looking for ways to make the discussion better.
Near the end of the offsite, we ensure that the decisions made, action items, and parking lot items are understood, and everyone leaves clear about next steps.
With the right approach and professional facilitation, it is possible to have breakthrough offsites every time, leaving individuals feeling great about the time they have just invested.