How To Get The Most Out of Your Team Bonding and Strategy Investments

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Having recently facilitated an offsite team session for a large global leader, Andrew Marsh is keen to share the experience, so others get as much out of their investments. Here he gives tips illuminated by case study details courtesy of Viadex….
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Tip 1

Employ an external facilitator creates the right environment for open and dynamic discussion – due to their independent nature, a good implementor of these types of team bonding and team focus events typically can and will create an atmosphere of neutral or unbiased facilitation.

They bring fresh perspectives and new questions to the discussion and are willing to ask difficult questions whilst confronting assumptions. They can move the group forward when dealing with difficult or controversial issues. And importantly allows the leadership element of the company to be involved, as a team member rather than a conversation leader. 

Tip 2

Have a facilitator that understands the specific challenges you are facing/trying to address, not just a generalist meeting facilitator. Knowing your company is not essential and over time can be a restriction. Choose your facilitator carefully. Find someone who has the right skills, the right experience, and the right personality. Who understands what you want to achieve and works closely with you to make sure you do. Dino Cooper, CEO of Viadex, concluded in his feedback: “If you have a business that you want to reenergise and take to the next level, the first step is getting everyone together with a third-party facilitator, using that to optimise them and their performance. A qualified practitioner is critical to the success of this and one that will put them out of their comfort zones, as to be too comfortable is actually dysfunctional. Andrew was really engaging, introducing materials and exercises around psychometrics to cut through to the root of the problems. Ultimately, he made us all leave our frustrations at the door and work out how to make things better, drawing out those skills to build a high performing team. He was continually evaluating us all to make a transformation and get the team to what we felt was its final format. From that position we can now start to tweak performance and drive engagement. We also had people new to the company there and Andrew helped involve and integrate them into the team.”

Tip 3

Have a clear outcome of what you want to achieve.  Make sure the time set aside is enough to achieve the outcome desired and ensure the facilitator knows this outcome, as they should be able to help with an indication of the time needed.  There are too many examples where people have too high an expectation for the time they have set aside to discuss the challenge.  This time allocation also dictates the budget you need, so plan accordingly as if you skimp it won’t be a success and you’ll have sent the wrong message throughout your team. By having a desired outcome you can create clear goals. Not just from one of you in the company, but from as many people as possible so it isn’t just a CEO driven directive but a true team effort to ensure you all leave on the same page. Brian Dunleavy, commercial director, said it is good advice to know ahead what you can get from the interaction between the team and the facilitator: “It was important to me to know what we could get from this. I wanted to return to the office with a strong belief that we had improved our brand, and our culture, enabling us to shine brighter as a team than before. We looked at the strength and future of the company, evolved our plan and the facilitator (Andrew) helped us validate it, acting as the cox and giving us the oars to row.”

Tip 4

A solid agenda that is understood by everyone, and I mean really understood, is vital.  

Tip 5

Agenda and content preplanning, team input and preparation is key. People need to come prepared and know what will be expected of them to fully engage.  A Put in as much time and effort as possible before the event to maximise the time at the event. Dino said: “These things are significant in cost and impact, and how well the facilitator is briefed and prepared, as well as how well he gets to know you all in that space is crucial. It is definitely not a one-way thing – you have to have a team that works hard on the content before-hand and is fully willing to drive the relationship – the time Andrew and our team put in was critical to the success of our 4 days.”

Tip 6

Agility and Flexibility during the event is key so you focus on the right things. For example, if you are making great progress, give the team more time off to bond doing a relaxation activity. In South Africa we had the pool side to chill at and trips were planned to visit local places of interest.

 Tip 7

A good facilitator will end your session with single document of the outcome. This will include noted from each day concluded with a full list of agreed actions and outcomes. Without this absolute clarity of actions and who the owners of the actions are accountability won’t happen. By the facilitator providing this as part of their service, it will ensure a non-biased edit.

Tip 8

To cement accountability and remove the risk of the session just being a filed away talking shop with no change to action, ensure ongoing engagement of the facilitator so they can check in on progress and keep everyone to plan. Following South Africa, I check in with all the Viadex team once a month.

Tip 9

Future sessions should link back to the previous one, and only then build forward from each session. They should not just be individual/separate sessions as they become one off activities that the teams disengage from. To create a thread builds your company story, gives everyone ownership, and encourages change. The ultimate goal!

Tip 10

The simplest way of making the most of your investment put into an away day or trip for your team is to take everyone away from the office. Take them somewhere aspirational, where (budget depending) as many needs as possible are taken care of. Viadex blended its teams from the UK and South Africa, into one luxurious ranch for four days, miles from anywhere which enabled a true focus. That’s a real WOW factor! Remember that the team are giving up their weekends or evenings to be there, so really maximise the session for them as well, making them feel valued. Dino concluded: “Appreciate that getting everyone all in one place means people giving up their weekends, so as well as having to be confident that a facilitator will make it worthwhile, you should also invest in an inspirational venue away from a town or city with amazing facilities, that is well provisioned and where everyone is looked after.”

Viadex’s leadership team has been supporting geo-dispersed businesses, succeeding and growing as they understand the complexities a multinational business faces as it expands, innovates, and evolves.

Andrew’s mission is growing & supporting leaders, so they make a positive impact on society. Now an award-winning chair of excellence for Vistage, as well as transforming businesses through his own facilitation channels, Andrew has spent the last 25 years specialising in the launch, growth, turnaround and transformation of business ventures.  

An accomplished Executive having led & transformed numerous businesses across multiple sectors Andrew has operated in both public and private sectors. He has personally launched several successful businesses, lead numerous M&A integrations. He also coaches business leaders and entrepreneurs in the UK, Europe and North America and is also a NED across the Legal, Digital, Marketing, Retail Marketing, Leisure and Charity sectors.

Andrew delivers workshops and projects, showing businesses how to re-engineer their businesses for growth working with CEO's, MD's, CIO's, Business Owners, and Entrepreneurs to achieve sustainable performance by strengthening the links of strategy and execution.


Andrew’s experience in businesses large and small, combined with his knowledge of how organisations and leaders can learn faster, allows him to guide teams to achieve goals through the application of clear business plans, tools and templates accelerating progress.


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About The Author

Andrew Marsh is chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, a NED for numerous businesses and charities; and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

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