When summer wraps up, there is something tangibly ending in our lives. So much effort and energy are spent prepping for this season. Not all of us live in the eternal sunshine states of Florida, California and the like, so summer is a big deal! As an east coast resident, the three months of summer are gold. Lots of effort goes into how to best spend those 3 months (really, it’s 2.5, but I’m rounding up!). Day trips, evening patio dinners, weekend excursions, 7-day vacations, etc. are scheduled. We don’t want it to end.
Danny and Sandy spent their summer swimming (Sandy almost drowned!), holding hands, staying out late and making out (Sandy tells it differently than Danny on this point). Their weeks of summer were the best ever, but alas, summer ended and school was upon them. Sandy had to go back to her faraway home and Danny back to his T-Birds.
In the business community, it’s easy to romanticize our off-site meetings or team getaways. We build them up like the summer days that Danny and Sandy had. We set that time as the goal. And just as those crazy love bird teens found out, the destination isn’t the goal. For our organizations, the destination can be the annual sales celebration meeting in the Bahamas or the executive leadership team getaway to the Cayman Islands. Those are amazing destinations and they are certainly more appealing than a frozen tundra (unless you prefer freezing your tookus off).
Listen, get me on that plane! But the trip doesn’t last. For some of us, we know better. We get that the location is valuable, but it’s not the end. We, instead, focus on what we’ll do once we’re there. We redo mission statements; we plan incredible team building exercises; we bring in fabulous speakers to encourage and motivate our teams. Those are great things! So much planning goes into them and the hope for a return is desired.
And yet, therein may be the rub. When we get back to work, what happens? Is the pattern of normal living returned to? When Danny went back to Rydell High School, he donned his leather jacket, put the cigarette in his mouth and entertained the ladies. The “time of his life” that he experienced over the summer was a memory.
Perhaps much of the effort should be put into what the outcomes will be. Yes, make the time memorable, but the post-trip time should be just as memorable.
This applies to on-site excursions, too. Those fantastic programs you put together. The speakers you’ve brought in. The launch event that marketing spent weeks on. All of that is valuable, but it's not the end. The leadership for the company, or at least for the division, should be involved in planning for post-trip. More than one person will need to hold people accountable to the application or implementation from the event. The team should be decided ahead of time upon the objectives as well as how to measure them. This is effort, yes, but it's effort that justifies the ROI of such programs.
Think about marriage. So much time is spent planning for the wedding day. Dress, flowers, photographer, venue, etc. It’s all so important. Months of planning are done. What if that were it? What if at the end of the reception or honeymoon, the newly married couple says, “That was fun. We should plan another one of these again. Take care and hope to see you soon.” Each of them returns to his/her walk of life prior to being married. As observers, we would likely think that they’re crazy. They just got married…it’s more than a wedding.
That same logic holds true to the programs, events and conferences we help organize. Think long-term for your team. Don’t be enthralled with the “wedding” alone. Think of the “marriage.” The event won’t have to end; it will live on in its application.