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Perfect the art of prioritization at your next offsite

During COVID, we all felt the disruption to our routines, relationships, and workloads — so it’s no wonder teams are experiencing significant morale issues in the wake of the pandemic. These issues were often identified through confidential employee surveys which gave a baseline way to gauge satisfaction across the team.

In our work with leading tech companies, we’ve seen a variety of approaches for tackling these issues. And one of the most impactful ways to reignite the feeling of value, engagement, and support is through a team offsite.

Below, we’ll outline three key morale issues and share the most successful solutions we’ve seen enacted to combat them.

There is a massive time benefit here as well. In just 2-3 days, leaders can pull their teams together to meet in person, build relationships, and prioritize their most important business objectives, solving for the issues above quickly & effectively.

1️⃣ If your team is demotivated & lacking direction, then anchor on strong leader presence.

Leadership is the core of successful team bonding and business planning, so your offsite must center a strong presence from the leader, allowing avenues to model engagement and set the stage & vision for a collective future, bridging what she is hearing in executive circles.

Additionally, you can use selective vulnerability to connect with your team in meaningful ways that do not organically occur in the day-to-day. The leaders we meet are highly charismatic and have a passion for connection. Leverage this face-to-face opportunity to model vulnerability and growth. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly through candid storytelling. Talk candidly and transparently about the current landscape, struggles, and fears of your team. This type of connection can accelerate team bonding.

2️⃣ If your team feels burnout & workload issues, then build a new skill: ruthless prioritization.

Firstly, build an agenda with programming that prioritizes business goal alignment and planning across your org. Your offsite should be recognized as the dedicated time to step back from the day-to-day and take a longer-term view.

While burnout is impacted by many factors that can fall outside of your span of control, some foundational workload issues can be solved through prioritization & the processes surrounding it. Use your time together to talk about and align your team’s top priorities, reestablish trust, and improve communication.

Pre-work with Leadership Team (LT)

In order to facilitate this discussion, you & your LT should complete pre-work exercises to define top-level objectives as well as a prioritization map. Below is an example prioritization exercise we’ve seen great success with.

  1. What are your team’s top priorities? Determine your top 3-5 business objectives. You can likely source these from existing documentation, like your organization’s OKRs or company-level vision statements. Document these objectives, so you can share them with the broader team during your offsite.
  2. What are the initiatives, methods, or projects that help support those objectives? Your LT team should know which initiatives their team is focused on, as well as which top-level objective they fall under. Use a collaborative tool like Miro to document these initiatives.
  3. Determine where initiatives fall on a prioritization map. Have your LT move their initiatives into buckets: Must do, Should do, and Revisit. These help you determine the prioritization for existing or planned initiatives.
  4. Define a process for net new requests. You’ll present this process to the broader team during your offsite. Go into your pre-work with an initial outline, then work with your LT to refine a process that will work for your team.

The time allocated to complete these exercises will vary greatly from team to team. A more disciplined or practiced LT can complete the above in a few 90-minute working sessions.

However, if your team needs to build a muscle around prioritization, the pre-work might take longer. For example, each step above may need it’s own working session. We’ve seen these take 2-3 hours over 2-3 weeks.

Expert facilitation & support can greatly accelerate this process. If you have the budget, consider bringing in outside support.

Day of offsite

During your team offsite, your LT will “show their work”. Present your Miro board to demonstrate the effort and care your team has put into tackling workload balance and burnout.

Preview the process for net new requests. This shows the broader team that there is a mechanism for saying no, and demonstrates how you & your LT will safeguard their time & energy.

If your offsite agenda allows, each team can breakout and work through the prioritization exercise for their own initiatives.

3️⃣ If your team is experiencing a lack of belonging & connection, then focus on team building.

Follow up & measure the impact of your offsite

It’s important to gauge the impact your offsite made on your organization.

Hold yourself accountable. You should set forth quantitative goals during the planning phase of your offsite. What are the objectives of this offsite? What are the desire outcomes for the work that your team will do together?

Then choose some explicit metrics to determine the success of your offsite. These should be quantifiable. For example, you may choose a set of yes or no questions: (1) We completed our objectives Y/N, (2) We defined our top three priorities for Q1 Y/N, (3) We completed a final draft of new, reprioritized OKRs for Q1 Y/N.

Gauge success through your LT. Send a survey out to your LT. Include questions about time management and quality. These could be answered using a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being “little” and 5 being “very”.

For example, How would you rate our offsite on the following measures: (1) Value of the offsite, (2) Clarity brought to top priorities, (3) We were effective as a team at creating a plan for Q1 that accounts for growth opportunities, unplanned events, and risks..

Additionally, include some open text questions. E.g. (1) What was your favorite part of the offsite? (2) What would you change for our next offsite?

Leverage existing surveys as a baseline. If you are leveraging quarterly or yearly surveys to assess employee satisfaction, you already have a rich baseline to measure the effectiveness. of your offsite.

Look for measure in your company’s survey that are relevant to your offsite objectives. Then, sample your team’s progress against those survey questions using more frequent intervals in the weeks immediately following your offsite.

A few of the relevant questions we’ve seen: (1) The pace of my work is sustainable, (2) Leadership communicates a clear sense of direction, (3) I feel supported by our leadership team, (4) I understand how my role fits into our team’s OKRs and biz goals.

An offsite can be one of the most valuable investments for your team morale. During just a few days, you can build new team muscle around prioritization, reestablish trust, and reignite connections.

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