Opening the offsite – Client Tool

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Opening the Offsite – A guide for the Leader   Download PDF here

Having an off site for a team is an important intervention.  Securing venues, accommodation, external facilitation, food and beverage, team activities, diagnostic tools can be costly.  The collective time away represents a significant investment in terms of taking senior leaders out of the business for the period of the offsite.  However the pay back for the organisation can be maximised if the meeting is productive, resulting in clear understanding and pathways for action.

The way the leader sets up the meeting is critical as it sets the tone and expectations for the meeting.  We find that team leaders will spend time considering the agenda and expected outcomes but not give any time to prepare an opening address.  This is often done as an off the cuff, impromptu address.

Our experience is that the opening address a powerful framing activity and it is therefore valuable to spend time in its preparation. The opening address is where the leader can set their expectations, relay specific messages, set a tone, congratulate performance achieved since the last meeting, clarify questions that may be in the air, dispel unhelpful myths or even send the sacred cows out of the meeting room so the off site can commence.

Structure

There is no one-way or right way to address the team on an off site. The structure can vary depending on the reasons for and background to hosting the meeting.  What follows are a range of topics and thought prompters to ponder to assist the leader’s preparation.

Our recommendation is that the opening takes no less than ten minutes and up to thirty minutes to set the scene through their opening. Any shorter than ten minutes and it will be a superficial start and can imply questionable commitment and confidence from the leader. Going for longer than thirty minutes may risk derailing the meeting.

Voice

It is recommended to speak to the group as a narrative rather than use slides so as to really engage in a personal conversation with the team. Using notes is fine but the ideal is to be as prepared as possible. The tone of voice and energy exuded needs to match the language, i.e. if this is a kick off type meeting that is exciting then the voice needs to sound up beat and engaging. The language is best to have words such as positive, possibilities, potential, up to us, etc.

We highly encourage the leader to rehearse the opening “out loud” several times before the event.  Becoming familiar with the language as it is spoken will enable the leader to be confident and comfortable at the time of actual delivery.

Purpose

  • The purpose of today is…
  • We are here to decide/ discover/ work through…
  • Our mandate today is…
  • As the leadership team we have to…

 Crisis

  • This business environment is the toughest in memory because…
  • In some senses we are in crisis and as the leadership team…
  • The business is looking to us to come up with answers to….
  • We have no time to waste today, as the business needs are urgent…

 Inspiring

  • I am very excited that we are here today because…
  • We have a huge opportunity today because…
  • If we get XXX sorted over today on this off site then the world is our oyster!
  • Our people need us to get XXX decided upon

 Team

  • Now that we have our team in place this is the right time to focus on us…
  • I inherited some of you and I am glad of that….
  • I personally chose some of you for this team and I am glad that you accepted…
  • I want to move us from good to great…
  • This is our opportunity to learn to work together in a far more effective manner

 Distractions

  • I want us all to be fully present in this meeting
  • Make sure your phones are switched off during sessions
  • This is a time to be selfish…in the sense that this is time for us today
  • Please ignore all non-urgent matters today unless at break times
  • Lets use our break times to discuss any non agenda items

 Expectations

  • I expect that each of you will…
  • Lets agree our expectations of each other up front now…
  • The business expects of us that we will…
  • You should expect of me…