Resources and Insights

3 Team Away Day planning pitfalls

Back in the heady pre-pandemic days, team away days were a chance to shift to a new environment, look at a different view to bring new perspective and get away from emails. They were also a chance for a lovely lunch and a breather!

We’d come away with a strategy fleshed out, or a coat of arms depicting the values of our team, wired from a steady flow of mediocre coffee and happy to have spent a bit of time away from the inbox.

In today’s world of work, the team away day has so much more heavy lifting to do. Oh my! When I ask the question of a potential team away day client ‘What do you want to get out of the day?’ the answer usually comprises of a long selection of the following:

  • We need to socialise/completely come up with a new strategy
  • Ways of working – could we do something on communication styles as there’s some friction between teams
  • We need to present a new brand/organisational values
  • We need to come up with some team values
  • We’d like an external speaker to bring our work to life/hear from another team

….stop! and breathe.

My response is usually ‘What’s the MOST important thing in all that, because what you’ve described to me is a week long conference?’

It is far better to really explore one topic, for example rather than come up with some team values, spend time expanding on what behaviours fall out of that? How are we doing against those? What can we commit to? What do we need – from ourselves, the organisation, each other – to do that?

Here’s the thing folk forget about team away days right now – if your team only get together every so often face to face, then there’s even less time than usual, AND you’re wanting to cram in even more. There’s less time because alongside the actual work on agenda there is so much going on in the room:

  • Anxieties about being in the room at all rather than safely behind a screen
  • Emotional and physical tiredness because we aren’t used to communicating in big groups as much anymore
  • Desire to re-connect with Marjory from accounts as you’ve not seen her in ages and you’d love to hear how her daughter’s graduation went

We need to factor all this background stuff into the timings and format of the day. The breaks need to be longer for individuals to reconnect informally, outside of work conversations (this goes for any workshop, not just team away days).

And this is even more pertinent if it turns out your team away day is actually 10am-3pm, including lunch, to account for travel time.

What to do?

If you’re thinking of planning a team away day for the next six months, here’s three things to think about:

  • What’s the most important outcome for today?
  • What’s the one objective for this day you can work towards?
  • What can we do, at an individual, and group level, before the event to ensure folk feel safe, welcome, prepared and ready to contribute?

Your team is undoubtedly talented, it’s your job to create the right environment and they’ll bring the creativity and passion.

If you’re running your own away day, I hope this has been useful. If you’ve budget for a facilitator, and I highly recommend this if you want the brain space to join in yourself, again the needs have shifted. I’ll happily facilitate away days for small teams as a solo facilitator. However, for bigger teams, I suggest two of us – see above – there’s likely to be a myriad of anxieties, dynamics, personalities in the room and two coaching brains are better than one.

I work with a range of coaches, depending on what you need, and I’ve designed and delivered several really popular events recently with Lucy Gower. You can read more about Lucy and my approach to team away days here on this 1 pager for you to usefully keep on file!

Finally, if you do need a facilitator, do plan ahead. Most great facilitators are busy, and because being sensitive to the needs of a room full of people is both a gift and flipping exhausting, we aren’t booking ourselves out every day of the week. That said, all my facilitation partners are well connected and we’ll always suggest someone else if we aren’t free.

If you’d like to book a 30 minute chat about facilitation for a team away day you’re planning you can do that here.


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