In June 2017, for the second year in a row, we held our (now) annual Admin Slayer retreat. Since we’re a remote-worker company, we don’t actually meet in person very often. In fact, many of us don’t meet at all unless there’s a really strong reason to do so.
We created the Admin Slayer retreat to give us a reason.
This optional, one-day event allows slayers to get together and spend some time getting to know each other. It’s also a great opportunity to strengthen our team bonds and get everyone focused on the long-term vision for Admin Slayer.
When we first came up with this idea in 2016, we were actually a little worried. What if it’s boring? What if we don’t send the right message? What if this team, heavily made up of hard-working introverts, spends the entire day in silence?
Since we’re constantly banging the outsource-what-you-don’t-do-well drum, we recognized that facilitating retreats just wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We needed an expert. We called Pam Schmidt and begged her to help us out.
Thanks to Pam, our facilitated retreats have been a tremendous success, both times. Normally quiet Slayers who would act as shadows in other circumstances spoke up. They told us their stories, their hopes and concerns, their challenges. They told us what they love about their jobs and what we could work together to improve. They contributed meaningfully to the creation of our 5 Simple Rules. We discovered that Slayers deeply, deeply, value efficient use of resources: down to the last corner of the post-it note.
We shared our vision for the future and they shared their vision right back. We stayed and shared wine and lemonade (in separate glasses), appetizers, and a barbecue. We took pictures from high in the mountains, talked about our families, and built camaraderie that comes with authenticity, vulnerability, and shared goals.
We wish we could say that it all just fell together because everyone is so naturally awesome, but the reality is that a successful retreat takes hard work. Here’s what we did - feel free to steal whatever you can.
The first step was to pick the date, location, time frame and general outline. That stuff is pretty easy. We found a date that worked for everyone on the executive team, and found a location that cost us *nothing*, could hold, feed, and refresh the crowd.
We built a timetable for the day, giving about 30 minutes for people to arrive and settle in. Since Slayers are particular about certain things, we knew everyone would arrive on time. For any other group, we might have given 45 minutes to an hour. Then we had a set amount of time for our retreat session, with breaks, and then a barbecue.
We planned out what needed to be purchased for food, beverages, plates, napkins, etc., who would buy them, and when.
Then we sent the invitations to the Slayers - with an RSVP-by date - and built a system to collect the replies.
Our executive team came up with some general ideas of what we hoped to achieve with the session, and what we were concerned might happen. In our case, our biggest concerns were that shy people wouldn’t speak up, or that they’d feel uncomfortable in general.
We then had two conference calls with Pam. In the first, we shared our initial thoughts and concerns, then brainstormed ideas and answered Pam’s questions. In the second, Pam presented her initial outline for the session, and we talked through it in order to take it where we wanted it to go.
We started with introductions and clarity around what the retreat was for, and how it was going to work. We talked about vision, and we went through activities that brought us closer together - without anyone feeling icky.
The activities included the About Me you can see in the picture here, a pseudo-press conference, a round of Pin the Task on the Problem, Six Word Stories, and much more.
We built stronger team relationships and created avenues for collaboration. We created the foundation for our executive retreat, later in the year, which drives the vision for the next fiscal year. Oh, and we had a lot of fun. When introverts stay for the after-party, you know you did something right.