An offsite team meeting can be the impetus for change for an organization, or a total waste of time and money. Executive Coach Ben Dattner has expert guidance on how to accomplish the former and avoid the latter, and he outlines the do’s and don’ts of offsites on HBR.com.
Stakes are high for offsites, but so is the potential for far-reaching benefits. Dattner says, “In order to create a team-building offsite that will have positive, enduring effects, it’s helpful to think of offsite meetings as kind of a microcosm, or a ‘play within a play,’ wherein the leader and the team use the stage to rehearse the new dynamics and norms that they want to perform back at the office or take on the road.”
He advises to think about the goals of the meeting itself, then be sure to build those into the meeting. For example, if the goal is to clarify roles, assign extremely clear roles for the meeting. If the goal is to stimulate employee participation, assign participants to debate and to take sides of each issue.
Dattner offers some best-practice situations to avoid:
- Don’t let historic team dynamics take hold in the meeting. Plan and build in the new dynamics desired, through structure.
- Don’t focus on individuals’ strengths, personalities or skills. This is not the day for Myers-Briggs or personality assessments.
- Don’t have your team engage in dysfunctional competitive exercises. What passes as “team-building” is sometimes the opposite.
- Don’t force anyone to sing, and ban Karaoke.
On a more positive note, Dattner recommends:
- Do be clear about goals, and set an agenda that reflects those.
- Do set ground rules. Affect your ongoing group dynamics by being clear and direct.
- Do solicit team input, but keep it anonymous — which makes it more likely to get honest feedback and information.
- Do plan activities that actually build the team. Some suggestions: cooking a meal together or a service project.
- Do build in time to reflect on the meeting. Ask: Did the meeting accomplish what leadership wanted?
- Do schedule follow up. When the team returns to the fray, the meeting will be just a memory. But follow up is what makes the time spent away have legs and matter.
Smart planning of an offsite takes focused time and intention. But the results back at the office pay off big-time.Bizly is a platform for booking small group meetings on demand at the world’s leading hotels. Browse meeting rooms here.