June 17th, 2010
This post is a result of some great conversation on LinkedIn Discussion Groups, email exchanges, etc. I’ve have multiple requests for more info, so it seems like a good blog topic. Thanks to all for asking for more info about Influency’s exec offsites. I’m happy to provide some additional details here, however specifics are tough since we work with organizations to develop custom offsites to address the areas they would like to with their teams. I’ll use one or two that we’ve done as a point of reference, but keep in mind, executive offsites are only effective if they are tailored to the needs of the specific organization and team.
The first time I used GOOD TO GREAT by Jim Collins as a framework for an executive offsite, I read the book and developed a series of exercises for the executive team to do along the way over the course of about six weeks prior to the actual offsite taking place. They did not read the book, but I provided some excerpts to get them thinking in the right vein yet not let the cat out of the bag for the “right” answers. I did not want their thinking clouded by what they felt the “right” answer should be; rather, I wanted fully honest answers without that prescription. They had to do the exercises independently, not talking about them with other members of the executive team. They could ask me questions if there was something they did not understand, but they could not communicate with each other about the exercise or book, and were not allowed to read the book.
After these exercises were completed, the final task before heading to the offsite was to complete the questionnaire available on Jim Collins’ website. Again, this was done independently and submitted to me. I then tallied the results and generated the average across the team. I brought both the average and the individual scores to the offsite and we discussed them heavily. I revealed both the average and the individual scores, but never by whom the scores were contributed. This was extremely valuable information, especially where there were discrepancies. Tons of excellent discussion generated.
For the same offsite, I also read THING BIG, ACT SMALL by Jason Jennings and had the team do a “Building Block” exercise in the prior six weeks, which we in turn discussed at the offsite. They had not read this book either. We discussed both extensively during the offsite and used the themes of both books to frame all the exercises and activities we did throughout the week.
The offsite was conducted Monday thru Friday in a secluded mountain house in Killington, Vermont, everyone was unplugged from everything (given 30 minutes each evening to catch up and talked with loved ones at home). We were up by 7:00 each day and busy through about 11:00 pm each evening. We worked and “played” together in various team building and tons of business strategy activities throughout the week, all framed by the books.
Each exec team member was responsible for developing and prepping an activity during the week. These assignments were given in the prior six weeks (with the other assignments) and they conducted the activities during the offsite. Each exec team member was given a theme (from one of the previous exercises) and a general type of activity (active/sports, board game, etc.) and a timeslot (typically a couple hours).They had to weave their activities into that theme. It was amazing what people came up with. I still have some of them today, many years later, and have used them again and again. Further, each team member was responsible for leading discussions at assigned meals. Some discussions were assigned, others they needed to determine the discussion based on the happenings to that point of the offsite. Each member had multiple opportunities at this, given three meals a day for 4.5 days, as well as a couple other timeslots dedicated to this.
One thing I would change about how this was conducted…have them read the book before attending the offsite. NOT before doing the exercises. After doing the exercises, but before attending the offsite. (I did this in subsequent offsites using the same structure and I found this to be better, as did the participants.)
Monday morning was a travel day to arrive in the morning and we got started with lunch. Friday was a “visitor” day with a couple pertinent guest speakers, and finally a board meeting before heading out, or in some cases, a “more formal” exec team meeting covering what next and how to put it into action. All cooking, cleaning, etc. was done as a team throughout the week; one evening was an “eat out” night.
We have conducted this workshop multiple times and the results have always been fantastic. We’ve heard over and over again it was the best leadership/management training people have ever participated in, an experience to remember for a lifetime, well worth the time and effort.
Contact us for more info on Influency Group developing and conducting executive offsites.