How to run effective quarterly off-sites

Posted in Leadership, Mentor Minute, Teams

How to run effective quarterly off-sites

Quarterly off-sites done well, lead to
insight, execution and results.


Here is the top 10+ 1 ideas on how to effectively
run your quarterly meetings.

This is based on the work for the past 5 years with one particular leadership team, who have successfully held powerful and action-oriented quarterly strategic planning/actions/accountability sessions. They have consistently delivered results that exceed expectations. Each quarter we asked ourselves what was working, what wasn’t and how to make them better. Here are the teams insights:

The Top 10+ 1

1. Great Leadership– It all starts at the top. A team is often only as good as its leader. Unless the leader is committed to building a strong team, focus on clear priorities and is committed to getting results, you might as well stop reading.

2. Right Bums in the Right Seats– Jim Collins nailed it. Teams go through many iterations. Getting the team right is an on-going effort. When the right team is settled, magic happens.

3. Meet Quarterly– Don’t fool yourself into believing you can meet once a year as a team and plan out the year and be good to go. It is not often enough. Meeting quarterly works.

4. Constantly Build Trust– Trust can be a slippery thing. You have to constantly hold it at the top of the agenda and make sure you are fostering an environment that builds trust.

5. Foster Debate– Great teams know how to debate and challenge each other. And they don’t take it personally.

6. Limit your agenda– Don’t try to do too much. Allow time to debate and challenge, and think and create and hold people accountable to the actions committed to at the last off-site.

7. Use a One-Page Plan– We use a modified version of the One Page Strategic Plan. At the start of the fiscal, we determine the Annual Focus areas, and determine Q1 priorities. Each quarter we then determine the priorities for the next quarter. The actions for each quarter and who is responsible are clear and documented so it’s easy to hold people accountable. Make sure the language is simple and clear – zero room for ambiguity. (Call me if you’d like to see a template).

8. Pre-Work Makes it Better– Pick your key issues for that quarter and send out advance homework. Ask for feedback and circulate in advance. This ensures everyone is already primed for the discussion. It also ensures that both your introverts and your extroverts get their ideas heard evenly.

9. Commitment and Consistency– this highly successful team meets quarterly, every single quarter without fail, to execute against their strategic plan. The dates are set in advance. The commitment for all team members to be there is expected. Being consistent works. Waiting a full year to bring the team together is far too long.

10. Getting the logistics right– Hold the meeting in a location that is off-site, spacious and conducive to good dialogue(this does not need to cost a lot. To save money this team now meets in the leader’s condo common room – great room, only $25.) ; take a break to eat lunch out, away from the offsite; incorporate a minimum 30-minute walk after lunch to re-invigorate the team and build trust through casual connections; turn off technology – make it a low-tech day. These are just a few of the logistical factors that make a fundamental difference to the success and energy level of the day.

11. Use a Facilitator/Coach– Sorry if this sounds self-serving, but getting help outside the team works. A great facilitator will ensure the agenda is both powerful and realistic; will manage the agenda and keep things on track; will pose provocative questions to get to better answers; will ensure everyone is heard; will call out unproductive behaviour; and finally, will take the pressure away from the leader to manage the meeting, and instead allows him or her to fully participate. If you can’t afford to pay for a facilitator, invite someone outside the team to take on the role.