Why You Have to Step Back to Move Forward


Ever feel like you would like to have an off-site meeting with your staff to do some strategic planning or teambuilding, yet felt like you couldn’t afford the cost? It’s a dilemma that I often hear about.  Leaders can sense that their team’s performance is lagging and that they are far from the high performance team that they dream of being, but it seems so disruptive to have an off-site meeting–even for one day! However, there are several benefits that come from an off-site workshop that may or may not show up in the final report or strategic plan document.

Clear the Air— The daily grind can lead to more than a few hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and festering grudges between teammates.  Off-site meetings may not mean sitting around the campfire singing camp songs, but they do provide an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings, address differences, and to both give and receive forgiveness.  Like an air filter that needs to be cleaned out once in a while, relationships need clean air to breathe—even professional/business oriented relationships.

Clarify Expectations and Processes—More than once I have facilitated an off-site meeting where the team realized that what seemed like a “personality” issue was really a “systems” issue.  Sometimes people just don’t understand the protocol that is supposed to be followed.  On the other hand, they may understand the way it is supposed to be done, but they genuinely do not understand WHY it is supposed to be done that way.  Off-site meetings provide an opportunity to clarify not just the how…but, perhaps more importantly, the why.  Sometimes challenging the process results in the decision that it is time to change.  My observation is that these things simply cannot be done smoothly in the hustle and bustle of everyday work.  You have to step back to be able to see your way forward.

Share New Information—It doesn’t matter whether the purpose of the off-site is teambuilding or goal setting, it’s always wise to consider including a session, even a brief one, that introduces new ideas, the key concepts of a new book, a thought provoking blog post, or a powerful video.  New ideas stimulate our thinking and help light the fires of innovation.  Sometimes showing a short movie clip about something seemingly unrelated to your speciality will spark the team to make applications that even you had not made.  Don’t let your off-site meeting simply be a pooling of mutual ignorance.  Use it teach your team new things!

Encourage the Heart—No one (and I mean NO ONE!) on your team is getting too much encouragement.  Maybe you’re giving them all that you should, but there’s no one that’s getting too much.  And the reality is that people’s enthusiasm leaks out over time, just like a birthday balloon filled with helium leaks out after a few days.  Maybe your off-site will produce a dynamic new strategic plan. Maybe it won’t.  Regardless, if it’s done well, it will produce a team with new courage to dream the impossible dream and climb the highest hill…or at least not to quit before they quit.

Can’t afford to take the time away?  Can’t afford the cost?  It seems to me that may be a bit like a lumberjack not having the time to care for his equipment.  In reality, you can’t afford not to.


Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

One response

  1. Very valid points. We really need to rethink how we spend our dollars and the value add of doing so. One thing about moving the meeting off site is that doing so instantly reduces the distraction factor as well as the urge to focus on things other than the topics at hand.

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