Steve and Angelique ready to brave the rain to play the Go Game
Full disclosure: I’m a total sucker for company offsites. This might be because I started my career in journalism, where “offsite” meant a few exhausted reporters grousing in a bar. But even after 20 years in the business world, I find the very idea of spending a few days in a nice hotel or resort tackling big-picture topics, strengthening team cohesion and just having fun to be pure genius.
I’ve attended one or two of these retreats each year since the late ‘90s on behalf of a variety of organizations. I’ve spent countless hours storming my brain, participated in all the trendy team-building exercises, worked on myself and, yes, even trust-fallen.
And I’ve loved pretty much all of it.
I especially look forward to and enjoy Kulesa Faul’s annual kickoff gatherings. I’ve just returned from my third one and once again saw the results of specific steps the company takes to assure a valuable experience.
Here are 10 moments – some big, some little – that I took away from our two and a half days at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, CA:
- One of our agency’s core values – “integrity” – was the offsite theme. Even as a lifelong writer, I usually have thought of that word in its most familiar definition of honesty or moral uprightness. Agency Principal Joanna Kulesa reminded us in her welcoming talk that integrity also means complete and undivided dedication – in KF’s case, to all aspects of our client service. I found that an interesting paradigm to take back to our daily work.
- Joanna showing up on Day 1 wearing a fantastic Janis Joplin t-shirt.
- “Icebreakers” in which employees take turns revealing something about themselves are a standard offsite opener. I love them, for the simple reason that I enjoy learning more about my colleagues (and talking about myself!). And all the more so when I’m nearly moved to tears, as happened when our content marketing manager reflected on the sacrifices her mother made after the family immigrated to the United States.
- I admit I was initially skeptical about an agenda item that called for us to participate in what seemed to be a glorified scavenger hunt – The Go Game – and to do so, as it turned out, in a driving rainstorm. It ended up being one of the best activities of its kind I’ve ever experienced – the type of fun of the highest order that stretched our creative muscles and taught us a thing or two about perseverance. (Not to mention fascinating from a technology perspective, as The Go Game uses a clever iPhone app to make it all happen.)
- Honest, useful and inclusive conversations about what’s required to advance our goal of being the best boutique agency in Silicon Valley. In this way, the offsite demonstrated that when every attendee gets the opportunity to meaningfully express his or her viewpoint, everyone feels like an owner.
- The total absence, per the offsite rules, of laptops and phones during the sessions. It felt like the pre-internet days in the meeting room – which is exactly what’s needed to encourage a distraction-free conversation. It felt good!
- The picturesque setting overlooking the Pacific and the Santa Cruz wharf and boardwalk. What an inspirational locale.
- The fleece throws that each employee received to stay warm in the heavily windowed room. The KF Events team that organized the offsite thought of everything.
- As a remote employee, I cherish time spent with my fellow KFers. The offsite allowed me to learn new things about them, from their insights on communications challenges to family backgrounds to favorite travel experiences.
- At a party on the final night, we danced to a live rock band. I stopped at one point to look around and snap a few photos. Everyone seemed so happy, each moving to the music in his or her own style. It reminded me of the famous scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Thanks to these moments and others, the Kulesa Faul offsite was a success. I look forward to dancing on in 2017!
Steve Eisenstadt is Content Director at Kulesa Faul. He works with clients on developing high-impact op-ed pieces, blogs, case studies, white papers and other written content. His experience includes 17 years in corporate and agency communications—all in high tech—and 15 as a journalist. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.