#RIOTSKILLS: How to Plan a Purposeful Team Away Day

1 May 2018 -

Purposeful and beneficial team away days

‘We’re going to have a team away day’ is the sort of sentence usually met with universal groans from colleagues as they stare at the 5,000 emails and counting in their inbox and the To Do list running across ten pages. An entire day spent away from the desk can feel like a monumental waste of time (‘Remind me, how is shooting a paint ball at Gary from Accounts’ head contributing to our bottom line again?’).

But an away day done right, can have fundamental, long-lasting benefits to the development of an individual, team and business. They can meaningfully bring a team together, inspire honesty, allow for transparency, improve lines of communication, generate ideas and create solutions. We love an away day at Riot. We down tools for the day, put the out of office on and head out to an external venue where we can hunker down to get practical, get inspired and get fat on break-time brownies.

Riot’s 6 tips for a successful away day:

A clear purpose to the day is essential. Everyone needs to know exactly what the objective of the day is in advance. The agenda must reflect the purpose and not veer from it. The purpose of our most recent away day was to specifically focus on our new business strategy. The purpose of our next one will be skills consolidation – we’re all going on a negotiation skills course. Everyone in the company has inputted into the agenda of this course for maximum impact.

A realistic agenda carefully timed out in advance. The away day is an opportunity for the team not to be racing around feeling rushed, overwhelmed and deadline driven. The away day should create a sense of space and freedom for clear thinking and clear communication. Trying to fit too much in will leave everyone feeling harassed.

Set conscious intentions for the day. A powerful exercise to get everyone in the right frame of mind from the off is to ask everyone to share their intention for the day. What do they want to get out of the away day? What quality will aid them in that endeavour e.g. patience/openness/generosity? Lay out picture cards on the floor or pin them to the walls, random images from goldfish to rainbows, the Taj Mahal to a set of keys. Each person chooses a picture that represents their intention and shares it with the team. This picture is kept visible to them all day as a reminder. Come back to the intentions at the end of the day and ask everyone to reflect on how they achieved their intention.

Create a safe space for participation. A successful away day involves everyone feeling as though they made a valuable contribution and to do that were able to be honest, open and transparent. People need to feel safe to do this. A set of rules laid out at the beginning is a good idea and might include:

  1. reserve judgement
  2. no negative responses or behaviour
  3. every individual will have time and a platform to speak
  4. every individual’s contribution is valid
  5. ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’

Make the day fun, creative, unexpected. Remember the purpose of the day at all times, but within that bring the day alive with exercises, games, activities that challenge and excite. At Riot away days we’ve done everything from the spaghetti tower marshmallow challenge to a rock, paper, scissors championship to creating magazine cover stories. Each activity has fed into our higher purpose but has resulted in lots of laughs, chafed knuckles and tears of frustration. Not your average day in the office.

Invite feedback. Finally, always end the day with feedback from the team. A good old-fashioned bit of circle time is uniting and is a clear indication that you want to learn from your team.

Happy away day!