The offsite employee meeting comes standard in many CEO leadership toolkits. Unfortunately it’s easy to get an offsite wrong. If you decide to take employees off site, don’t make the following mistakes:
1. Fail to pre-interview.
Every meeting includes at least one employee who works to pursue his or her own agenda. Some will bring up subjects better dealt with elsewhere. One or two might actually try to sabotage the meeting.
Deal with those situations ahead of time. Talk to everyone who will be involved. Give them a sense of what you hope to accomplish and why what you want to accomplish is important. Give people a chance to vent or whine.
Then, if necessary, explain what you expect from them during the meeting—and what you don’t expect.
Give temperamental employees a chance to be heard in private; sometimes that’s all they want.
2. Fill the agenda with small items.
Using the time to take care of a number of small issues is a temptation few leaders resist, especially if a distributed work group is rarely in the same location.
Too bad: Wrong place, wrong time. Whenever you find yourself about to say, “You know, since I have you all together, why don’t we take a second and talk about…” stop. Immediately.
Save the everyday stuff for every other day. Offsites should deal with major decisions—not minor discussions that can be more efficiently conducted in other ways.
3. Let the venue overwhelm the occasion.
Fancy venues are cool. Unusual venues are fun.
They’re also distracting.
By all means ensure comfort, convenience and efficiency, but don’t assume meeting at a “creative” location will automatically inspire your team to greater creativity. And don’t assume you need to spend more money on the meeting to ensure employees take the meeting seriously.
Larger meeting expenses do not correlate to better meeting outcomes. Pick a venue that allows your employees to focus on the meeting, not the venue.
4. Invite too many people.
Generally speaking there’s an inverse relationship between the number of participants and the value of a meeting. If you need to make major decisions, inviting more than 10 people is usually a mistake.
Worry about buy-in later; an offsite should result in decisions, not input. Invite the right people and have them seek input from other people before the meeting.
Every employee should have a voice… but not at an offsite.
5. Arrive unprepared to make decisions.
Forget the cost of the venue and amenities; offsite wage expenses are high enough. If all your employees only make $15/hour, a day long, 10-person offsite costs $1,200 (not counting benefits) in wages alone – not to mention all the stuff that doesn’t get done while your team is away.
The money you spend should result in decisions, actions and initiatives, not in fumbling around for facts or figures.
Work extremely hard to pull together all the data you need ahead of time. Then create a backup plan if you need access to data during the meeting. Designate an employee not attending the meeting as your go-to person for doing some quick research.
Make sure you can talk about what you know—not about what you don’t know.
6. Include teambuilding exercises when teambuilding isn’t the point.
Teambuilding exercises like ropes courses, puzzles, treasure hunts, etc., were incredibly popular in 90s corporate America.
They’re still fairly popular. After all, who doesn’t want a stronger, more cohesive team?
Still, a one-off teambuilding exercise will not result in a unified team. Workplace trust is not built on a ropes course. Trust is built when employees know, through long experience, that they can count on each other.
Skip the exercises. Get down to business instead. Great teams become great teams when they produce great results.
Focus the meeting on how to produce great results, and let your team discover how great it is through their achievements.