Why Offsite is On TargetWe met up with Kiersten Rippeteau, owner of Barrus Consulting, who had some great ideas about why team building events, like the ones we host at Pinot’s Palette, are so critical for a team's growth. Read on to learn her thoughts...
Why Offsite is On Target
By Kiersten Rippeteau
At some point, every team faces a challenge that requires a different level of problem-solving. Often times the team decides that it needs to meet offsite in order to really address the challenge. But why? What is it about meeting somewhere else that makes us feel more productive or like we'll get different results? Or, if you're not a fan of offsites, why does anyone think this is a good idea!? It’s costly, it’s time away from projects, and your email and voicemail inboxes are just going to flood while you’re away. Well, believe it or not, the advantages of meeting offsite (more productive and different results) are real when the meeting is well planned and includes the right dose of creativity.
Why the creative process and an offsite location are part of the equation.
We commonly hear team members suggest we - sleep on it - or - walk away from it for a bit - to get clarity on a business decision or problem. If you’ve taken them up on the suggestion, you’ve likely found that you actually are more productive when you return to the decision or problem. You have a fresh perspective; maybe even new ideas you didn’t think of when you were frustrated or feeling stuck. Here’s why; when we separate ourselves from the decision or the problem, we free our minds to think about other topics, maybe even solve other, more minor problems. In so doing, we refresh our creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Combine walking away from for a bit with a creative activity like painting, and you have an incredible catalyst for better productivity and new solutions.
When a group participates together in a creative process, a greater level of comfort is developed among the group members. Being creative inherently challenges our minds to think differently. How can we paint an apple on a flat canvas, but have it appear three-dimensional for instance? Or, we need to paint a sky, but we don’t have any blue paint. What can we do instead?
These challenges have nothing to do with the problems we are trying to solve back at the office, but they allow us to practice the very same skills in a lighter, risk-free context. When a team engages together in a creative activity, then returns to discussing a strategic plan or a looming financial crisis, the dynamic shifts. The team is more inclined not only to think more broadly of new solutions, but is also more comfortable productively disagreeing with each other and working together to uncover a collective truth. The caution to take is not allowing the team to fall back into its normal behaviors after a positive creative session together.
How to change the behavior of a team for a meeting.
The advantages of offsite teambuilding events mentioned earlier (more productive and different results) are actually backed by psychological research indicating that we assign meaning to familiar places. Research shows our brains are also wired to take shortcuts whenever possible.
So what do these two pieces of information tell us about meetings? If a team grows used to meeting in a conference room every month, the group dynamic will likely take shape after the first several meetings. As team members enter that room for the next meeting, they subconsciously adjust their behavior according to the meaning they’ve assigned that room. If the meetings are usually wrought with disagreement, they’re more likely to tense up and walk into the room on the defensive. If the meetings are usually pretty casual and pressure-free, they’re more likely to walk in at ease. (Note that with either of those extremes, the team is less likely to accomplish what it sets out to in the meeting.) Team members’ brains are taking the shortcut to the behavior they most typically display in that room. So when the room changes, the dynamic changes. The team is more likely to walk in with an open mind and the expectation of positive, productive results is easier to hold on to.
The cost and time spent on an offsite are both very real, but a worthwhile investment. For example, think for a moment about what happens when you buy a new car. The down payment was a big chunk of change and you drive off the lot excited, but thinking about those new monthly payments on their way. You have idealistic rules and expectations for your new car, like “no food” and “I’m going to get it cleaned once a week.” You will drive a bit more cautiously, notice the tiny scratch as you walk up to it and vigorously rub it away. You take wonderful care of it because you’ve made an investment of your important resources. The same should be true for the meeting in which your team has invested more time and money.
Expectations for successful outputs should be a bit higher, and the beauty of it is that those expectations are realistic because you’re more likely to achieve different and more productive results just by virtue of the fact that you are in a different space. Choose your offsite teambuilding event space carefully. Is a conference room at a fancy hotel that different from the conference room in your office building? It might be, but it likely has a lot of the same characteristics of your office conference room. You’ll run the risk of assigning the same meaning to that new room and falling into the same habits.
To really change things up look for alternative spaces. Meet in the boss’s living room with a catered lunch; meet over a nice dinner. But if you want to get the most bang for your buck, make sure you build creativity into your process. Literally get creative! Build something together, paint together; whatever floats your team’s boat! Just make sure to get creative.
Looking for ideas for fun and creative team building activities? Check out Pinot’s Palette and their paint and wine team building events. Call us at 847-730-5972 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org to request more info.
Kiersten Rippeteau is a consultant specializing in strategy and organizational effectiveness. With a background in team building and leadership training and experience in HR, strategy, and operations, Kiersten brings a unique and well-rounded perspective to the endeavor of achieving ultimate organizational health and effectiveness. Kiersten was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, where she once again calls home. She is the mom of an avid sports fan who plans to be a football player, carpenter, and veterinarian when he grows up. (Stay tuned for how that works out.) Learn more about Barrus Consulting.
*Pinot’s Palette suggests having a glass of wine and painting a sunset with red and orange!