The season is upon us - from September to January. Some of you are ramping up for football season by buying your tailgating equipment and supplies. Others are gearing up for their Fantasy Football season. Some of you may be purchasing a new big screen TV to watch all the games.

I like football (both college and pro) as much as the next person. But September to January is not only football season to me. It is Annual Offsite Season as well. There is no TV coverage of offsite retreats and there are no fantasy leagues for offsite meeting participants. But a great offsite this season could have a major impact on growth, results and performance for the upcoming year.

After facilitating these offsites for more than 20 years, I have seen how important these meetings can be. The meetings come in all shapes and sizes and each company or team holding these offsites have different opportunities, challenges or problems. Someday I will be in a rocking chair around the fireplace and maybe you will want to sit and listen to my stories, right..? Well, I won't make you wait that long, so below are a few offsite examples with the focus and agenda of the meeting. Maybe it will give you some ideas to take advantage of in this upcoming Annual Offsite Season:

The Strategy Document

Strategy not only defines the direction ("what" the organization wants to achieve) but also should define how the organization differentiates itself. This can help leaders set priorities, develop annual plans and integrate efforts to achieve bigger goals. One example of this offsite approach was with a healthcare company that had a two day meeting with 25 executives and senior managers to develop a one page strategy document and the top initiatives for the upcoming year. The agenda for this meeting was as follows:

Day 1

• CEO presentation of longer term Vision - questions, comments and feedback

• Breakout groups to brainstorm Operating Strategy Differentiation

• Breakout sessions to brainstorm, debate and prioritize to recommend the top 5 company initiatives for the upcoming year - to the CEO, COO and CFO for a decision/approval

Day 2

• CEO, COO and CFO provided their decision on the organization's top 5 initiatives and the process for planning/integration of efforts around achieving those initiatives.

• Breakout sessions for each facility to develop high level plans for the year

• Discuss the process for management meetings during the year to discuss progress in planning/implementing initiatives

• Next steps for the first 90 days of the year including finalizing the draft of the one page strategy document

This meeting did require pre-work by both the executives and me as a facilitator. I interviewed about 8 members of the management team to understand their assessment of the organization's effectiveness and their expectations of the strategy session. The executives and I also needed to be in agreement on the components of their one-page strategy document. For an example of a one page strategy document, see my Goodfriend Insights article titled, The One-Page Strategy Document for the company, Holographic Stadium Technologies.

Strategy, Team Integration and Trust Building

People often associate working in silos as a bad thing. I do not. Silos are just departments/units that deliver work within a specified scope - human resources, supply chain management, western region, XXX business unit, etc. The opportunity for most leadership teams is to deliver results that can be achieved ONLY by working together as a team - that is in addition to the results delivered independently by silos. Integrating the team's efforts for those team goals is key and often requires some trust building. An oilfield technology function of a large oil and gas company was combining two technology functions (that specialized in different areas of technology) under one leader and needed to integrate the team around one strategy. In addition to the challenge of developing an integrated strategy, the team also faced some trust issues between team members. The agenda for this meeting was as follows:

Day 1

• Goodfriend observations of pre-offsite interviews of team members

• Discuss strategy questions (who is the client, their technology needs, our differentiation as an integrated function, etc.) and common themes

• Teamwork Model and how it applies to this team's integration and collaboration

• "Get to Know Each Other" exercise - to help build trust

• Team Dinner

Day 2

• The Birkman Method personality profile - to learn more about/accept each other and build trust

• Answering the question - how do we integrate our efforts to develop, adopt and implement technology?

• Commitments and Principles around our way of work as one team

• 60 Day Action Plan

The meeting was a big step forward towards integration. Two team members had significant trust issues prior to the meeting and were not talking to each other. During the meeting, these team members committed to go to lunch to begin working on improving their working relationship. Six months later at the next offsite, it was clear that the improvement in that working relationship had been dramatic.

New Team Members

We should always remember that new team members create a new team. Every team member has his/her own attitudes, values and beliefs that uniquely shape how the team will work. Having a common experience at an offsite is a great first step towards collaborating to achieve a common business goal. This business unit leadership team had three new members that replaced the previous role holders and one who had been a team member was promoted from his VP role to the business unit president role. The goal of the offsite was for members to get to know each other and clarify roles to achieve their common business goals. The agenda was as follows:

Day 1

• President's vision for growth and expectations for working as a team

• "Get to Know Each Other" exercise - to help build trust

• Teamwork Model and identifying the strategic business opportunities from each team-pair relationship

• The Birkman Method personality profile - to learn more about/accept each other and build trust

• Team Dinner

Day 2 (morning only)

• Roles and Responsibilities Alignment - align each role to the organizational objectives, clarify gaps/overlaps/boundary issues between roles and action integration/interdependency challenges

• Meeting debrief and identify key lessons learned for upcoming strategic planning session

The meeting was very productive as it helped team members begin to align their responsibilities and integrate their efforts around the President's vision. Some key initiatives got a jump-start through the process including an important new offering that had been delayed due a lack of alignment.

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I have learned a lot of lessons about how teams operate from facilitating offsite meetings. There is something about team members getting away from their normal routine and their usual surroundings that not only help them see things in a different light but surface issues that may not be normally discussed. No meeting is the same, the challenges are not the same and the people are of course never the same. In a way, the offsite season is like a football season. The success of the season cannot be determined until you play the games (have the offsites). To have a great offsite season, you have to take them one at a time. Success will come if team members are willing to step up and help the team deliver what can only be achieved by working together.

Vince Lombardi (former head coach of the Green Bay Packers who won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s) had some great advice that leadership teams should consider, "We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible."

Mike Goodfriend is a teamwork engineer, executive coach, and meeting facilitator. Since 1989, Goodfriend & Associates has been helping leaders and leadership teams increase their strategic advantage through achieving higher levels of competitive advantage, teamwork/alignment, leadership competency and excellence/customer satisfaction. Mike Goodfriend can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email at


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© Michael R. Goodfriend, Goodfriend & Associates, Inc., 2014

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From Our Readers

“I loved your article about Team Offsites. I have been to many offsite meetings that failed because one or more of the items you mentioned was missing."

“I thought the insights you provided were thought provoking and on target. You have a gift at taking these "common life" situations and drawing strong parallels with the business world. Thank you!”

"Mike, thanks for sharing, some good learnings and enjoyed the correlation. I will have to use this on my British colleagues."

"Awesome news letter! It made me smile and refresh some great memories I had as a kid.   Greatest lessons in life I ever learned were on a baseball diamond as a kid. Thanks." 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  A clever way to explain and consider the Birkman Method. I appreciate you sending this to me!

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