Have we discovered the secret sauce for successful offsites?

At BigPanda, the marketing team has started experimenting with how we run offsites, with the aim of trying to find a “secret sauce” that leads to success – maximizing both team building and task execution that we tackle in our offsites. We’ve found five key elements that we try to follow – these have led to better team and individual performance, stronger working relationships, and much more fun.  Here are the five elements that make BigPanda Marketing offsites something that we all look forward to and hope to implement throughout the company.

Give Back

Work is important, but it’s not the only thing that we care about here at BigPanda. As Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  So instead of volleyball, go-karts or wine tasting, we like to start offsites by working together on a project that provides value to others in need. It might be helping at Habitat for Humanity, a local food drive (my personal favorite is Second Harvest Food Bank), or putting together wheelchairs. Of course, it’s best to choose an activity that resonates with the group, so we discuss the options together as a team when we plan the offsite.

While no single activity will change the world, it’s a step in the right direction. And it’s a great way to start the offsite – not only does it get the creative juices started, we all end up learning something new about each of our teammates.

Get Away

An offsite isn’t an offsite if it’s in the office, so of course we leave the building. But where to go? Generally, we’re big fans of getting the group together in a large rented house. There is something very powerful in being close together. And… it’s very disarming seeing your colleagues right after they get up in the morning and find their way to the coffee.

We also make a point of shopping, cooking, eating, and cleaning together – it’s a great way to get to know other people’s likes, dislikes, quirks, and eccentricities. Sharing a meal that we cook ourselves gives us time to laugh, review the day, discuss things both in and out of the normal work scope, and relax.

Teams are stronger when they know more about each other – not just the work faces we put on. It’s all part of “Treasuring the Journey,” a core value at BigPanda.

Get Busy

Of course, the bulk of the time in the offsite is spent on activities that are directly related to our work initiatives. It might be a planning-focused offsite, or one that concentrates on addressing the challenges for a specific team.

Because we’re driven to succeed, this section is the focus of our offsites, and we spend a fair bit of time preparing for them. During the offsite, we’ll work long and hard. It’s satisfying to make progress, so by the close, we usually have a strong sense of achievement. Even though we’re tired, we’re usually happy and energized.

Let’s Learn

At our offsites, we have also experimented with providing an opportunity for professional growth – something that benefits each of the individuals as well as the whole team. Participating together in skills development has really helped build the team in addition to helping us grow in our careers.

A recent example is communication flexibility – what are our primary communication styles and how should those shift when we’re in different situations? However, there are many other options – leadership, project management, brainstorming, presentation, and prototyping are just a few examples. We’ll try to include these skill development options in future offsites.

How Did We Do?

Finally, we like to end each offsite with a retrospective, where we honestly review the meeting. Everyone can contribute equally here – what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what we should do differently next time. We view feedback as a gift, so this is always an important session, even if we do it at the very end of a long day.  

Being part of a great team is a huge part of what drives each of us. Candidly, there is nothing like succeeding as a team. The feeling of achieving important milestones and overcoming adversity is all the sweeter when you can share it with others you respect and with whom you enjoy working. And building team bonds – and even lasting friendships – is what we strive for at our offsites. 

If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, please check out our Careers page.