With 2020 behind us and some new sensibilities emerging around how we come together as social distancing protocols start to ease, many teams are moving back to an age-old tradition/custom…the team offsite.
Before we cue the collective eye-rolling of the introverts who think that a day or two immersed in a group conversation (argh!) is akin to waterboarding or sleep deprivation as a torture tool, the reason is team offsites, when done well, actually work as a catalyst to build bonds between team members, and get the team on the same page.
But, and it’s a BIG but…how do you make your team offsite a cracker?
How do you get stunning results and a great return on investment at your next offsite?
Well, we reckon we know a thing or two about great team offsites…it’s both our day job, as well as our own yearly practice. We take them very seriously…even the non-serious bits.
When it comes to team offsite experiences, we reckon we’ve got it nailed. After years of advising Fortune 500 and ASX listed companies on workplace culture, it’d be remiss of us not to invest as much time in our own culture as we do in that of the companies we work with.
We walk our talk, and for us it starts with our yearly overnighter. Yep, we get together for one (or two) nights and dedicate our time to intense discussions and the pursuit of all things fun. This year we knocked it out of the park, which is good considering the absolute shocker of a year that 2020 was for businesses around the globe.
So let’s give you an insight into how a business—that is in the business of running team offsites—runs it’s own offsite.
Our team offsite 2021
Tip #1 : Team offsites take planning, time and resources.
At Pragmatic Thinking, our annual team offsite experience is a thing of legend. As the final months of a year roll around, we begin excitedly planning and discussing our ‘kick off’ for the new year ahead. This year was no different. At the beginning of 2021, February to be exact, we hosted an unforgettable team offsite experience for our crew. Team offsites aren’t something that should be pulled together with a week’s notice, this is really important stuff.
Our team offsite themes:
Our team offsite kicked off on Monday at 10am sharp from the ‘Legends Auditorium’ (named after us, we’re sure) at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre. Across the three days we explored the themes ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’.
Tip #2 : Themes are super-useful ‘coathangers’ on which to build your content and activities into.
By determining your team offsite themes you can build a sense of rhythm and cadence.
On day one, we spent a good amount of time reflecting on, discussing, and throwing our hands in the air as we reviewed 2020. What a year, eh? Throughout the day we were able to come to terms with what we needed to liberate and celebrate the wins we had throughout our most challenging year yet. We also discussed our (unfortunately) prophetic word of the year, ‘Antifragile’ and committed to carrying forward the spirit of it throughout the new year ahead.
We looked at the financial and cultural impact of a COVID interrupted year as well as the gifts of disruption. Among heartache and suffering we did extraordinary things and we took time to reflect and discuss these. We reviewed our goals of the previous year and how many weren’t achieved but we made peace with the past, before launching a new word for 2021. It’s not about dragging up old skeletons, but rather exploring the meaning you attach to the past. We can’t change the past, but we can change the meaning we attribute to the past.
Tip #3 : Saying goodbye to the past before moving to present/future is vital if you want to adopt new behaviours.
After quite the night of bonding over thai food and horror movies (yep, the three ‘kids’ of the group watched Saw overnight) we gathered to discuss where we are in the present.
This was also the day where we were joined by our CEO, Ali Hill, for a special segment discussing our word of the year and business goals. Business strategies and actions plans have their place, but ultimately are designed (when done well) as a dynamic tool that should change. Looking for a key narrative, symbol, or in our case, a word for the year…it helps us remember what we want to stand for/become.
Tip #4 : Using artefacts to keep your team aligned to its original intentions is vital over a 12 month period.
We set a new compass bearing via 6 well-chosen business goals. These goals ranged from some of our go-to market products (new book landing in a couple of weeks!) a focus on expenses, living our hybrid approach to an extraordinarily high level and some other specifics.
These goals give us common language, common direction and a common approach to being successful together.
What’s that? Pragmatic Thinking’s word for the year? Oh, right, fair enough…no more suspense.
Drumroll please… it’s ….
It’s a word that means many things, and it’s one that we plan to exemplify throughout the next 12 months. Time was spent as a team and as individually unpacking what that word could mean as a guide for our behaviours and intentions in 2021.
Our day finished with a pub dinner, including many parmigianas and the boss even sneaked off (nay, ran) to get ice cream before the shop closed… without us… thanks Daz!
Tip #5: We often don’t realise we’re the fish whose completely forgotten it lives in water.
Our final day of the team offsite concluded with us focusing on the future of our team, rounding out our past, present, future themes launched on our first day.
For us, that meant digging into some burning questions that were emerging after looking at the business goals and word for the year on day 2. We did a big Q&A session with the founders and drilled them around deeper narratives and beliefs that the company was founded on and how that connects to the current day and future states.
We can fall into the trap that the information key people carry in their heads is not common knowledge and importantly, not shared nearly enough. Especially key principles, narratives and values. Make time at your offsite to speak to the unspoken drivers in your business.
The other big objective of our final day together was to set some team goals.
You may be thinking – ‘Wait, didn’t you already talk about goals?’ – to that we say… yes, but those were business goals. As we discuss in our Great Team Framework, one of the determining factors of great teams is their pursuit of worthy team goals. Not just the BAU, strategic goals or business objectives, but goals crafted specifically with the intention to bring our team closer together and aligned to common purpose.
For us, our team goals of 2021 are as follows:
- Hire Banaam (a local business run by First Nations people) for a full-day guided cultural experience to explore local Indigenous culture with the entire team (and their families).
- Produce a feature-length documentary about PT.
- Have a family, friends and fur-kids day.
- Commit to ‘Sober October’ – aka, giving up something for 30 days.
- Work with Rize Up again to support women and children living through and beyond domestic violence.
Amongst a lot of activities, deep discussions, journey maps and scavenger hunts, we also made a point to partake in some trampolining which resulted in some pretty epic photos if we do say so ourselves. Thanks Dyllon…
Highlights from our unforgettable team offsite experience…
“It’s no secret that our team offsites are my re-connection to PT, my purpose, and a reminder to walk my talk. I’m most excited about our team goal to work with Rize Up again. Getting to give back to a cause that I am so passionate about, making a huge impact in the lives of a family, and the impact of this for the mum and kids has limitless potential. Having someone believe in you, that you are worthy of a home, safety, love and more is magical.” – Kylie, Head of Strategic Delivery
“As much fun as the energetic stuff like trampolining and the all-in-charades were (I’m still flabbergasted that Crispy couldn’t get “Tango” after Dyllon and I rocked our best “Dancing With the Stars” moves), it was some of the quieter moments that had the biggest impact for me. Walking on the beach in golden hour, reflecting on the many meanings and intent of our our word “#magnetic”, some of the random chats in the yellow Vengabus on the way to dinner or the candid Q&A about the purpose of PT- that was the stuff that really stuck with me.”
– Lorena, Lead Facilitator
“Getting to know the team on a more personal level. Building good relationships which helps with working together collaboratively.” – Dyllon, Videographer / Producer + AV Manager
“Our offsite reminded me how wonderfully our team gel – we all just ‘get’ one another, and it’s awesome. When we say our purpose is to make work an extraordinary experience, I am hand-on-heart willing to say that I believe we’re doing that in our own organisation, and that’s an awesome thing to be able to say. Oh, and the Saw movie night was fun too.” – Mackayla, Content Marketing Manager
“For me it was the opportunity to learn more about the origins of PT, and how it has evolved to the organisation that it is now. As we talk about with clients, understanding and making meaning of the stories of the past is an important part of shaping and forming team identity… so it was really cool to hear Darren speak about how he and Ali made the decision to transition from a practice model and build a company.” – Ryan, Behavioural Strategist + Facilitator
“To start the year with a renewed sense of purpose as a business is so powerful. It sets a clear direction forward. And communicating that vison and direction in persoin, away from distractions of BAU means you can be fully present to absorb and reconnect. And if you’re not connected to the vison of your business, they you’re perhaps in the wrong business.” – Lisa, Head of Ideation & Strategy
“I feel like we are becoming more of a functioning team rather than individuals, and the team offsite really cemented our relationships and commitment to move forward as a collective.” – Marlis, Senior Creative
“From our discussions with the team, I was reminded that this job is not for everybody – it’s really tough and in a lot of ways pushes you to your limits. What was really refreshing was to be in a room full of people that are exactly where they need to be. The conversations, questions, and mindsets people came with make me truly believe that we are a high performing team and makes me extremely grateful to be a part of it.” – Clarissa, Experience Strategist
Crafting your unforgettable team offsite experience
Ready to create an amazing offsite experience for your people? We trust a walk through of our lived experience (plus a few tips) can help you on your way.
As you can already tell, we believe a good approach is blanking out your calendars for a whole day or more to dedicate time and space to quality connections and conversations. While team offsites can often be overrun with ‘fun’, there is a great deal of importance and value to be found in talking about your team identity, team goals and support structures you’re committing to upholding.
We’d also recommend allowing time in your team offsite for one on one connection. Whether that be impromptu breakfasts, morning walks, or gym sessions, there’s plenty of things you can do with your colleagues when you’ve got the spare time to use.
The final thing? Get real. Team offsites that just talk about the BAU and nothing more can quickly become a forgettable snoozefest. Dig deep into topics like your company values, where your company came from and where you’re headed. These meaningful conversations will act as strong foundations for your team to build on throughout the year ahead.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to thinking and crafting your next offsite.
Of course, if you want the pros to come in and create an experience to remember, then give us a call. We can blend science, systems and story together to create something special. We’re here to help, and we’re damn good at it too. Love to chat soon.