Why Have a Company Retreat?
“Who knows what is good and what is bad?” – Taoist parable
Planning and facilitating off-site company planning retreats and team building events is one of my favorite things to do as an Executive and Team Building Coach. Usually the team leader or HR director reaches out to me for help in designing a meaningful, off-site event that will stimulate change and create alignment for everyone on the team.
Because pulling an entire team out of the office for an entire day affects productivity and requires resources from the business, we need to make sure the day is impactful and effective. And if we get it right, we make powerful shifts with the team to improve results, strengthen team alliance, and regain commitment from everyone on the team.
Through this very strategic work, I have discovered that the only way to design an off-site event for a team or to create a team development program for results is to thoroughly assess the team’s needs at every level. The most effective tool I have found to accomplish this process is something called a Team Culture Audit, which is simply the study and examination of an organization’s cultural characteristics (such as its assumptions, norms, philosophies, and values) to determine whether those characteristics hinder or support the organization’s vision and mission.
Understanding everyone’s point of view…
Here’s what I think is important about this process: As team leader, your only perspective is your own – the lens you look through every day. Your own personal experiences and your limited feedback influence you, and without collective data from everyone on the team, it’s hard to understand the true reality of the team’s culture and state.
What you want to strive for when it comes to organizational assessment and change is awareness at a very high level, the “meta-view” of what is really true about our organization. And the only way to achieve that meta-view is through a process of deep democracy, where every voice is heard and every perspective is a part of the collective data needed to evaluate the true state of reality within a team or organization.
How to use Deep Democracy at your company retreat.
“Deep Democracy” is a coaching concept I learned through my work with the Coaches Training Institute, the oldest training organization in the industry that sets the standards for the coaching industry. Deep Democracy, a term developed by physicist Arny Mindell, is a methodology developed to foster a deeper level of dialogue and inclusivity.
Deep Democracy is a way of working with people that allows for all voices to be heard. As defined, “Deep democracy is typified by accepting the simultaneous importance of all voice and roles. As long as there is a sense that one person or level is more important than another, deep democracy is not at hand. In deep democracy, rank and no rank exist simultaneously.”***
Deep Democracy’s emphasis is on both the individual and collective processes – all are equally important for knowing what is true, and understanding the totality of the process.
When working with a team, the only way to gain deep democracy and find out exactly what is “true” of the business’ culture is to call everyone forward so every voice is heard. This process is a realization and acknowledgement that everyone is needed to represent reality. The tool that I have found works best is a confidential culture audit questionnaire.
The culture audit asks each team member, including the team leader, to respond to a series of confidential questions. The collective data provides a snapshot of what’s working well within the organization, and where the team gets “stuck.” It is a powerful process of discovery and often lends the team leader significant feedback about potential “hot spots” that may need immediate attention.
In my next article, I’ll talk more about how to conduct the culture audit and share with you the core questions I use to conduct the audits.
***Taken from Amy and Arnold Mindell