Last week we went on a staff retreat. Two days in a great location near the sea.
‘Retreat’ is an interesting word that has somehow become associated with these types of experiences. One of our team queried the use of the term as it’s often associated with defeat, resignation and giving up, however, in this context, it means to ‘pull back’ or ‘withdraw’.
Is it important to withdraw periodically (individually or as a team)?
You know as well as I do that the world we face into is often very challenging. I know everything is relative however, the demand & pressure of modern life seems, at times, to be unrelenting. Like a persistent river, it can erode our energy, motivation and make us query if it’s worth it. Many people seem simply to be hanging on until their next holiday and, often, when they get there, they end up sick because their body is so depleted it crashes.
So many teams and leaders we coach yearn for time. It’s a dominant theme. And it’s not time to ‘do more stuff’ rather, it’s time to reconnect with each other and with their sense of purpose. They need to know that, if they’re going to invest themselves in something, it’s going to be worth it.
In order to answer these questions, people need to retreat. They can’t have a deep inquiry when they’re distracted by more emails, KPIs and transactions. They need to decouple, change the scenery and honour the space required to talk and explore.
Our retreat was simply awesome. I don’t know if I’ve had a better time with the team. We sat up into the wee hours singing, playing cards, chuckling and being with each other. Someone even danced! We pushed hard during the day to find answers to some tough questions about our vision, purpose and practices and we’ve come away with a surging sense of renewal and commitment to the vast possibilities that are out there. It’s expanded my love for the people I work with and for the work we have the privilege of delivering.
And it’s simple. All we needed to do was find the time.
Let them go
It happened on Day 3.
“See you at the bottom.”
“Take it easy and be careful!”
I took my boys skiing a few weeks ago for the first time. Day 1 and 2, I was in control as the ‘expert skier’, showing them how to stop, turn and not wipe out several others whilst using the button lifts.
As their Dad, it felt great. I knew what I was doing and it gave me great satisfaction to see them develop whilst also keeping them safe. However things changed towards the end of the third day, as their progress started to accelerate beyond my own abilities.
Expert dad was now becoming a blocker.
Youth was on their side, along with a mindset of possibility and a quest for adventure. They didn’t want complete autonomy, just some freedom.
It was time to let them go.
Sometimes I come across leaders who face a similar challenge with talented individuals within their teams. Promoted into roles because of their expertise, they can unconsciously create a team environment that doesn’t provide the space for others to grow and flourish.
As the leader they know best and it feels good because they get to stay in control.
However over time, those with potential working in this environment get bored. They begin to look into other parts of the business or externally for roles that will satisfy them and give them opportunities for growth and development.
As you read this, think about those that you lead.
Who can you give some increased responsibility to? What projects are suitable to allow for fresh thinking and adopting some new approaches? How are you creating an environment where your team can grow and develop?
Michael Schumacher is one of the greatest Formula 1 racing drivers of all time. What made him so special? He obviously possessed tremendous skills as a driver, however it was much more than that. Schumacher had the ability to make sense of unexpected changes and react appropriately. When Schumacher drove round a racing circuit he expected the car to perform in a certain way, however he was also constantly aware of deviations from the norm and would react accordingly. He would use different options depending on the complex information feeding back to his brain as the car accelerated, decelerated, over-steered and under-steered. He has been known to deviate from the normal racing line because new information has appeared to him causing him to change a behavioural norm.
For Schumacher, continual learning was vital. Analysing every experience, understanding the anomalies, and adapting, was what made him exceptional. His sensemaking skills were second to none.
As a leader in your organisation it is important to develop ‘sensemaking’ in an increasingly complex and ambiguous environment. Discrepant events can challenge your anticipations, presumptions and predictions, calling for behavioural responses. How you select your behavioural response is significant. Do you ignore the anomaly and leave it for somebody else to make sense of, or do you reframe your anticipations and assumptions within a new cognitive narrative?
TOWARD have developed a psychometric tool called Canary ( www.takecanary.com) which measures the levels of Sensemaking in senior leaders and provides development suggestions based on the results.
Increased levels of sensemaking will enable you to identify and respond to new and anomalous information as you steer your organisation on the road to success.