Last week, Globalme – including our Portland and Arizona offices – reunited for our yearly team retreat. Over twenty of us packed our warmest winter gear, our ugliest Christmas sweaters, and lots of food (*ahem* alcoholic beverages) to prepare for the long weekend ahead. Since our main office is in Vancouver, we decided it would be perfect to spend a few days in the winter wonderland that is Whistler – it’s hard to stay away when you’re a mere hour and a half drive from those world-renowned snow-capped mountains!
In a growing business, having the right people (and the right team environment) is absolutely crucial to startup success. Although the founders are critical to birthing the business and driving the direction of the company ever-forward, they can only do so much without a stellar, cohesive team behind them. As such, taking the time to appreciate your team, and to provide opportunities for them to get to know each other (even those from entirely different departments and project groups) on both a personal and professional level is vital. Whether you’re running a company of five or 500, changing pace with a retreat will re-energize your team, encourage cross-departmental collaboration and strengthen internal bonds.
A team retreat doesn’t have to just be about trust falls and motivational speakers. They can, and should go much deeper than that. Here are a few tips, tricks, and exercises we did that made our retreat so fruitful and fun:
Stepping Outside of the Office
The office environment is, well, an office environment. Sometimes, all it takes to change someone’s attitude from strictly-business to business-casual is to physically move outside of the space that calls for a more professional attitude. Plus, have you heard of the saying, “sitting is the new smoking”? It’s no surprise that getting up and moving around dramatically improves one’s health, brain activity, and creative thinking.
Host Brainstorming Sessions
Our Founders put together a company-wide exercise asking teams from mixed departments to create a variety of reflection and goal-boards such as: what we are currently doing that is working; what we are currently doing that is not working; what we should be doing; department-oriented goals for 2017; high-level company goals for 2017 (this exercise can obviously be tweaked depending on a company’s objectives). These brainstorming sessions forced each department to think outside the box and realise the responsibilities of other team members. Challenging employees from different departments to collaborate on a project such as this allows for fresh eyes, fresh ideas, and the adoption of new mindsets.
Cook a Meal Together
Not only will you discover the secret Chef’s-in-training on your team, but you’ll also practice an exercise in collaboration, communication, time-management, and working towards a common goal. When that common goal is a juicy veggie skewer or a drool-worthy grilled chicken, you’ll see your team work together like never before!
Play Board Games
Our everyday lives can get a little overwhelming at times, what with work commitments, family obligations, health check ups, planning for the future, and so on. Somewhere in between childhood and adulthood, we forget to allocate time to pure fun, and we forget about the importance of play. Most of the time, our carefully carved out leisure time involves zoning out in front of a TV, an activity that generally doesn’t stimulate growth in relationships or in oneself. Introducing a few board games to our team retreat was a great way to be social and to stimulate our minds in an unstructured, creative way. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”.
End-of-Year Department Presentations
Unless you’re the Founders of the company, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you aren’t totally aware of what projects the other departments are taking on, what challenges they’re facing, and what lessons they’ve learned. While inter-departmental exercises are definitely a beneficial way to supercharge your team retreat, showcasing all the amazing achievements across each department is another great way to ensure intersectional learning, and to showcase appreciation for the hard work each team has done. Who knows, it might also instill a sense of competition between departments to see who can out-achieve each other in time for the next yearly retreat!
Have a Few Drinks
Ernest Hemmingway once said, “When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run in a different plane like whisky?”. Nothing gets a person to loosen up more than when they’ve sipped on a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or in honor of ‘ol Hemmingway, a cool glass of whiskey. Researcher Mark Beeman, from Northwestern University, conducted two experiments with researchers from Drexel University, which looked at the source of the “Eureka,” or “Aha!” moment. Using brain scans, they found that participants who were concentrating too hard would sometimes block the creative processes necessary for problem solving (EX. Writer’s block). But among participants who were relaxed, moments of “Eureka” were more common. So, considering that drinking makes you relaxed and thus broadens your imaginary horizons, there’s a higher chance you’ll have that “Aha!” moment you’ve been looking for. Plus, having a drink (or two) will definitely catalyse lots of hilarious (and sometimes mortifying) memories with your teammates.
Rallying the troops for a good ‘ol Secret Santa is never a bad idea. Not only is it fun to receive gifts, but it’s also a ton of fun to show some serious appreciation for your teammates through giving. Whether that’s a bottle of wine, a fuzzy sweater, homemade hot chocolate mix (or whatever you can think of), it’s sure to bring on plenty of laughs and good times.
Ultimately, spending a couple of days away with your team members, talking, eating, and sharing a couch (or pillow) brings everyone so much closer together. Team retreats, going out for drinks or food after work, and other spaces that allow for bonding outside of the office environment turns a team into a family. Creating this tight-knit environment strengthens internal relationships, improves communication, and enhances trust and appreciation for one another. If all that goodness doesn’t tickle your interest, just think; a happy team leads to increased productivity! *wink wink*