Janet, a group manager, complained to her human resources consultant, Larry, that her group does not function as a team. Janet's team did not help each other out, didn't care about one another, and didn't want to share information with each other. These were just a few of problems she was having. She and Larry came up with the solution to take this out of the working environment for a couple of days and take their team to a resort to resolve this problem. They put together a plan where they would work on trust, ice-breaking, and brainstorming to better the team in working together.
Only half of Janet's team attended the first day of the offsite, and those members were too tired to actively participate. The other half of the team was frantically working on a project due later that week. Janet's main purpose for the offsite was team building, which left no official business reason for it to occur. While the brainstorming went reasonably well, the members present did not indicate that any action was to occur later. To summarize, the offsite was a waste of time for everyone involved.
You might think this is an exaggeration, but for some people it resembles an offsite they've been a part of. They can't get the team focused on solving a problem, putting a strategy into focus or coming up with a new way of doing things. One of the best things that can come from an offsite, though, is team building. If you do it right, it can bring minds together. If done wrong, people will feel their time is wasted which makes you look like a bad leader.
These simple guidelines will help you to be certain that your offsites are both accomplishing their duties and creating teams that will last.
Have a clear purpose for the offsite - Define some clear business reason for having the offsite. Consider things such as developing strategic goals for the upcoming fiscal year, account planning for strategic customers, or generating solution alternatives for a key business problem. If you make the goal of the offsite "Team Building" then your team is likely to look at the offsite as a waste of time that will have no real business benefit. Do your team building under the guise of solving a problem or defining the future.
Make sure there's enough time to network. There should be plenty of time throughout the experience for everyone to get to know each other and enjoy refreshments. Everyone needs to know each other better in order to have a more cohesive and better working team. Do not plan getting to know each other activities - let the team do this naturally.
You need to make sure that you hold your offsite conference at a time when there isn't a crush of business. An offsite conference is useless if members of the team have to constantly check their email or answer phone calls. While no time is ever perfect for an offsite, you don't want to hold it when your team is distracted or exhausted.
Some of the best offsites I've held were overnight events. It gave it a more fun-filled atmosphere because the team ate dinner together, had some drinks... it made the whole thing feel so much more relaxed. Further, we'd always stay up late brainstorming new , out-of-the-box strategies and working through major business problems. These sessions would prove to be invaluable because the team members put their heads together to address problems and opportunities. Everyone really worked together as a team and, more importantly, the team members built real relationships with each by getting to know each other better. They got to know how the others think and act, which laid the foundation for building a strong team.
In my experience with offsites, one of the things that frustrates me the most is that the great ideas which came from the offsite are never implemented, since there was never any follow-up. We'll need to take action with a follow-up plan to keep the excitement going. This includes dates, tasks and owners to ensure that the ideas we brainstorm will actually get implemented. We have to create and use a follow-up plan so that the team doesn't perceive the whole offsite as a waste of their time.
Daiv Russell is a marketing and management consultant with Envision Consulting in Tampa, Florida. Find more Team Building Ideas, techniques, and exercises or learn more about finding the root cause of your organization's teamwork issues.