April 3, 2018

Gather to Grow

by Russ Sarratt

A change of pace and a change of place equals a change in perspective.

Our organization held our third annual ONE Conference last week. The conference is an opportunity for all of our staff to gather from their various locations to meet in person for three days of relationship-building, growth, and encouragement. I consistently walk away from these times encouraged by the good work being done through our organization and by the many stellar people who make up our organization. This event has become a marker point in our year; it is a time that sets the stage for much of what we are trying to accomplish in building the culture of our organization.

 

Many ask me how we can afford to spend the time and money on such events. My response generally involves some form of “how can we not?”

 

I believe an organization intentionally investing in its people brings immeasurable benefit from both a productivity and relational perspective.

 

Here are answers to some of the questions I often receive about these events from those outside my organization.

 

How do you find time to get everyone together?  We are so busy!

It is difficult to find the time and it takes a commitment from all leaders to serve those within the organization. It takes a determined effort to carve out time, cease most normal operations, and gather staff members together. While it is true that everyone within an organization is really busy, both at work and in their personal lives, getting together outside the daily workplace offers the opportunity to connect as individuals, rather than simply as functions within a team. New experiences in a new venue with those with whom we serve can breathe new life into the organizational culture as true relationships and understanding are developed.

 

Isn’t it expensive?

(This question is most often linked to the one above.)

Yes it is expensive . . . and worth every dime!  While there are certain obvious costs (speakers, food, swag, supplies), many of the more challenging ones are less obvious. The financial cost adds up when an organization’s staff is not engaged in their “regular” jobs for three days.  There is also the lost opportunity cost and the sacrifice of client and/or guest impact. However, an organization must realize the importance of taking care of their people and building a healthy internal culture.  How does one put a price tag on relationship and team members who feel valued and encouraged?

 

Aren’t such events just “mountain top experiences” that last for a couple of days before everyone returns to their everyday attitudes and behaviors?

There is always that risk; but we believe there are steps you can take to be proactive in minimizing that risk. First, make sure everything has a reason. The event should be built around a theme; everything from speakers to meals to decorations should reflect the message you wish to impart. Focus on your organization’s direction and goals for the coming year and the importance of each team member in realizing those goals.  Second, recognize the immense corporate value of personally investing in people and providing the opportunity for relationships to be built.   If good people gather together with good intention, then good things will happen. A time away from workday pressures can provide an atmosphere that promotes healthy relationships that result in a healthy workplace culture. At the end of the day, it is up to every individual to internalize what they learn and take action to change.

 

How do you measure the Return On Investment?

The greatest takeaway from corporate gatherings is behavior change. Following such gatherings, watch your staff to find the answer to these questions:

Do people interact with and treat it other differently? Are meetings more productive with cross-functional teams? Do people give each other more grace when mistakes occur? Do people enjoy being a part of our organization? Time spent together can result in very positive change and growth in all these areas.

 

Does your organization host events designed to encourage its staff and promote individual growth? I would encourage any organization to set aside time to connect and grow together. If this is a new concept for you, start small. Maybe start at the department level or just make it a half-day event. Focus on making the time valuable to your teams; make it enjoyable and the benefits obvious.

 

My organization operates on the idea that “a change of pace and a change of place equals a change in perspective.”

 

Could a change in perspective benefit your organization?

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