We’ve seen periods where our clients were big on over-the-top boondoggle getaways for the leadership team and times when they stopped all workshops and retreats for austerity reasons. That’s two ends of a spectrum and neither end is ideal for most organizations.
Instead, somewhere in the middle – a getaway from the day-to-day challenges of the office without being too costly – brings a huge return on investment to most organizations if the time is well planned.
Why leadership offsite and why does it work?
An ideal leadership offsite will have an agenda that is focused on the big goals of the organization. Participants will work on big questions, talk about important ideas and work together to figure out a plan going forward. Or, there could be workshops on topics that will strengthen the group as a team — also helping to better achieve those big goals.
Of course, some of the real benefits will be all the extra stuff that happens outside the agenda.
What kind of extra benefits come from an offsite?
- Finding common purpose: When companies are planning their leadership offsite they seek to find “whole-organization” issues to work on instead of the “single department issues.” That’s great because it gives the team a chance to work together. While struggling to solve problems, folks will learn to work toward shared goals.
- Teambuilding: Connecting peers outside of work often means getting to know each other as people, as individuals and as humans outside of the work environment. And that goes a VERY long way to building trust – and trusting each other, deeply, is at the foundation of moving from a GROUP to a TEAM. Strong work relationships are critical for success.
- Gaining perspective: Getting up from behind the boardroom table – literally getting a different point of view and walking away from the to-do list for a couple of days – gives people a chance to gain a new perspective on things. Many times different perspectives lead to new ideas and innovation.
- Overcoming fears: Participants get to explore new ideas and possibly share fears about the company and its direction that just don’t come up in task-related meetings.
- Building Skills: An offsite is a great time to bring in help to build skills in areas where individuals might be struggling. Maybe you help your leaders learn how to take a Coach Approach to Leadership to help grow the staff who report to them, or you help them have difficult conversations (we’d say help them have essential conversations) with each other. Perhaps you really want to take steps to build a truly cohesive and effective team. Think about the goals of your organization and what you need to build in your team to achieve them.
- Finding hidden talents: Changing the environment and making room for new perspectives often means participants start behaving differently and start showing new sides of themselves. This can open their eyes, and yours, to some talents they have that they aren’t using “back at the office.”
- Transforming from a leadership group to a leadership team: We often work with our client organizations to help them build their leadership team at offsite meetings. So that may seem odd – they’re a team but we help them be a team. You see, many, maybe even most, leadership teams aren’t really a team: They call themselves a team but they’re really just a group who meet once a week.
What’s the difference between a leadership group and a leadership team?
A leadership group is a bunch of individuals, each quite likely highly talented in their field and successful in their careers who meet regularly. At those meetings, they offer up their expertise in their own area, they defend their budgets and their teams, they update the group on what they’re doing in their area and occasionally discuss issues with their colleagues at the table, when there are overlaps in their areas.
- They tend to “stay in their lane” and not challenge each other on the other’s area of expertise.
- They tend to be there as advocates of their own role and their own staff.
In other words, the VP of Finance is there as the finance expert and to keep things on track financially, the VP of Sales is there to ensure the sales team is well supported and to make sure Sales keeps its position of importance in the company’s work, etcetera.
A leadership team has a shared stake in everything. While members of a cohesive and successful leadership team acknowledge each other’s expertise, that isn’t why they’re there. The VP of Finance is there to support the leadership team and to lead the company, the VP of Sales is there to support the leadership team and to lead the company, the VP of HR is there for the same reasons.
- They offer helpful suggestions to each other, regardless of their area of expertise.
- They challenge and ask questions of each other, regardless of their areas of expertise.
- They have built a level of trust with each other that allows them to do that and to know they’re doing it for the good of the company and the good of the team.
On a leadership team, the VP of Finance knows when the VP of Sales is challenging her on a topic, it’s not to make himself look smarter than her, it’s not to build an empire in the Sales division and it’s not because he’s trying to protect his sales staff. He is doing it to see if he can help the VP of Finance make an even better decision for the good of the company.
Now that may seem like a fantasy world for some companies, but it isn’t. It’s the outcome of a group that consciously works to become a team. We regularly help leadership groups become cohesive leadership teams with our Five Behaviours programs.
Do you think you have a leadership group or a leadership team? What can you do to become a stronger leadership team? When can you take your team for a leadership offsite and what would you like to work on?