Like most CEOs, C-Level Executives or Business Owners, you bring your team together periodically to engage in strategic reflections, brainstorm solutions to significant issues, agree an action plan for the following year, discuss a strategic project like a merger, an acquisition or a joint venture, anticipate a market opportunity, solve a significant problem, or any one number of other possibilities.
In every situation, whether a half-day meeting or a two-day Offsite, you expect, that the meeting has been well prepared, that the right people are in the room with the right level of engagement and passion, that the environment is perfect to generate the results you expect, that the takeaways are clear and well captured into a RoadMap owned by all present and implemented following the meeting.
Most of the time, this does not happen!!
You usually walk away from these meetings with a set of good intentions and a significant level of frustration because you know that the RoadMap is not clear and people do not own it.
A corporate team offsite is a unique opportunity to bring together senior leadership or any team to work through a key and strategic agenda, whilst building the cements to becoming a stronger and more seamless team.
I have been designing and facilitating Corporate Offsites for the past 38 years. The following are some of the lessons learned that I have tried to package into a three step process.
Prior to the Offsite – Designing the offsite
Too often, the designer of an offsite schedules the meeting, invites top table leaders, and blocks out time on the agenda, hoping the rest will take care of itself.
It is important to co-create with key players a rigorously designed offsite, to ensure that truly candid strategic discussions arise. But, it is as importantly to ensure that the underlying group dynamics and other important interactions and team objectives are also taken care off. An Offiste is the careful integration of “content” and “process” to produce a desired and sustained result.
In the preparation of the offsite
- define your key objectives– know what you want to achieve; be clear about your take aways; visualize the endgame.
- agree the “look and feel” for the offsite (example: high touch/low tech)– the space you create will influence the behaviour of participants and, therefore, their levels of creativity and degree of participation.
- deeply and quickly understand the key information required for the offsite, and ensure that the key players understand which information is needed for the meeting– the right type and level of information available at the offsite is critical to inform the discussions (too little information will generate too many uninformed opinions, too much will drown and disperse us; the wrong type of information will be useless and a time waster).
- decide who are the players participating and understand the group dynamics– are the right people at the table? Obvious…but often forgotten. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s not a power play. It’s about having the right hearts and minds in the room to generate the required discussion.
- prepare with key participants in anticipation of the session– preparation is 9/10th of the Offsite’s success…and yet we seem to be too busy in our day-to-day to stop…get off automatic mode…and prepare!
- ensure the location chosen has the necessary layout for the objectives and for the “look and feel” agreed for the offsite– having the right environment will greatly contribute to engage participants in a reflective and creative process that will generate the desired result. The “look and feel” of your location should be adjusted to your type of objectives.
- ensure the adequate communication, both the formal and informal, to all the participants– don’t let the rumour mill be your communication channel. Communicate early and use communication to build expectation. Use it also to inform and to build engagement.
- prepare any necessary rehearsals of specific presentations, if needed– an Offsite is time sensitive, so there is no time to adjust. Rehearse before.
- connect with and provide context to any invited guests or external speakers, if needed– do they know what they’re getting themselves into? The clearer the context is to them to more useful they will be and the greater impact their messages will have.
At the Offsite – Getting past the politics
Senior executives, regardless of their experience and professionalism, are influenced not only by rational data but also by underlying political and emotional factors.
Work with the end in mind to help your participants achieve the objectives you set out for the offsite. At the end of the session, you will have generated a clear “RoadMap” with objectives, activities, owners and timings to be implemented following the offsite.
During the offsite
- generate a series of differentiated spaces that are constructed to produce different types of behaviours and group dynamics, and use these spaces to facilitate different sessions– human behaviour and creativity shifts with the environment, so tailor the environment to affect the results.
- use formality and informality to facilitate different types of sessions– don’t be repetitive…don’t condition behaviour. We want to maximizie creativity, engagement and team collaboration. Formality and informality are powerful ways to achieve these objectives.
- generate a common Corporate DNA, in other words, generate a common language, specifically when working with multinational and multicultural groups where it is essential to quickly create a jointly understanding of words and meaning (interpretation of words and meaning often complicate group dynamics far more than we think)– we can’t expect people to come together and collaborate if they don’t understand each other. And understanding each other goes beyond the words; it also is about interpretations and meanings, experiences and pasts, perspectives and opinions, agenda, and so much more…
- privilege experiencial sessions (rather than the traditional PowerPoint presentations), in order to maximize the interaction in the group (I believe building team comes from “being” and “doing” together)– we don’t want spectators, we want people to participate. Therefore, the environment must promote experience and participation.
- through the facilitation process, ensure team participation, buy-in and ownership– the greater the participation, the buy-in and the ownership, the greater the sustainable value generated after the offsite.
- manage the group dynamics in the room (both the obvious and hidden) and generate cohesion within the team– people and groups have agenda…multiple agenda…and multiple dynamics. Don’t ignore them; manage them. This is one of the keys to the success of your offsite.
- stick to a pre-designed model using the predetermined frameworks, exercises, and breakout sessions to keep the conversation aligned with the agenda and agreed timings– you planned ahead of time…now stick to it. You have little time and high expectations, so the process you conceived will be your guarantee of producing your desired results in the time you have.
- be flexible to re-align any session (or the entire offsite) in the moment, in case any unexpected strategic issue arises– sometimes things happen and you need to adapt. Be prepared to adapt and adjust. Don’t just do the exercise. Make sure it is useful!… even if you have to adjust.
- work together to generate a clear “RoadMap” at the end of the session– you must walk away with a clear action plan…with specific initiatives and activities, with owners, with timeframes, and milestones. If you walk away without a RoadMap, your offsite will end up in the realm of good intentions with no practical results.
After the Offsite – The walk away
We have to make sure we don’t walk out of the meeting and simply forget everything we’ve just done. So, we set-up a collaborative process where we will
- ensure that the team implements the action plan based on the “RoadMap” created at the offsite– the value of the offsite is truly measured by the results of the implementation of the action plan. Credibility for the next offsite is generated in the implementation of the current action plan. People see the benefits and they become believers in the process.
- ensure everyone gets the buy-in and ensure that the right team members get assigned to the key areas of the “RoadMap” and action plans– make sure the process of implementation goes viral by engaging the right team members in the implementation process. Make sure “leaders of opinion” buy into the process and communicate its value across the business ecosystem.
- ensure that there are clear milestones and touch points to monitor the “RoadMap” and action plans going forward– metrics are key to measure the impact and the value generated…so get people to measure the impact…both quantitatively and qualitatively.
About Luis Soares Costa
For the past 38 years I have been a “trusted advisor” working globally as
- an Executive and Team Coach,
- a Corporate Offsite Designer and Facilitator,
- a High Performance Team Builder,
- a Global Transformation Specialist
- a Post Deal Integration Specialist, and
- a Keynote Speaker
with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses
During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms
I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.