PLC Newsletter: How to Design Your In-Person Team Time

Author: Shamis Pitts

How to Design Your In-Person Team Time

The PLC is a small yet mighty team that has been fully remote since the business started in 2019. In Fall 2022, one team member made a firm request – Can we please meet in-person? I thought about it and agreed. While we are a remote-first company, there is value to creating in-person team experiences. And if I was going to fly folks in, I was certainly going to make sure that the time was well spent! Here is how the first PLC team retreat came to life. I hope that you can integrate some insights into how to design your in-person team time, whether your team is fully remote, hybrid or in-person.

Clarify Purpose and Outcomes

While I thought the request to meet in-person was a great idea, implementation would involve planes, trains and automobiles. So making the investment required me to get clear on why it was important and what I wanted to achieve. By setting the retreat intention, that is, framing the purpose and desired outcomes for each of the activities within the team experience, I could create the focus that would move a retreat vision into reality.  

My priority was to do activities together that we could not do apart that would not only create a deeper level of stickiness within the team but also with the work that we do. When I say “stickiness,” I am referring to reinforcing culture, enhancing collaboration and building meaningful personal connections with one another and with our clients. 

I also recognized that to have a truly impactful, authentic team retreat, everyone on the team needed to be involved in co-creating the experience. Connection was a primary purpose for both of my colleagues. They each acknowledged that while we already had a very strong connection as a virtual team, being physically present with one another would give us the opportunity to deepen our working relationship, helping our continued growth and reinforcing our ability to collaborate regardless of the circumstances. A secondary purpose was to celebrate our wins as a team as we have persevered through the challenges of the market and how we will continue to learn and grow together and deliver value to our clients going forward.

Design the Experience

With all of that in mind, we developed a list of activities that would support creating that stickiness. We did a photoshoot to create collateral that featured the entire team to reinforce that PLC is not a one-woman shop. We hosted a Friends of PLC reception to thank – and finally meet in-person – several of our fabulous clients, consulting partners and supporters. This gave us the opportunity to establish greater rapport. We volunteered at the Food Bank of New York City’s only food pantry to reinforce one of our company values – community. We bonded over the flavors of NYC at team dinners, the beautiful wildflowers on the High Line, a Broadway show and, of course, karaoke. (If you have met me before, that last one is no surprise.)

PLC Team June 2023

Kareem Wilder | PLC Team Retreat @ Luminary | June 2023

An important element to mention is that we agreed on the week’s flow. Specifically, we were mindful of the fact that we were going from 0 to 60 with “together time,” which can be intense, so we were thoughtful about when we started and ended our days. A few days we started at 10AM. On our reception day, we started at 12PM since we were going to be “on” into the evening. One day we did not connect until 3PM, which gave us time to tend to work tasks and other personal matters. 

You may be wondering if we had any formal meeting time. Yes, we did. Approximately 1.5 days were spent in meetings that could have occurred on Zoom. We had our regular weekly team meeting, discussed year-to-date progress against goals and debriefed the results of our annual engagement survey. These meetings reinforced our primary and secondary intentions of connection and celebration. We identified where we are, what’s working, and how we will move forward together. My key takeaway from these meetings was that we have a strong rapport, which I define as a high level of trust and compassion for one another, which enables us to do meaningful work. I did not uncover gaps in our communication practices. If I had, that would have been the ideal time to address them. 

Measure Success

As the team leader, I was ultimately accountable for the retreat’s success. In advance of implementation, when I reflected on how I would measure that, I knew that there needed to be more than one metric. While I love formal feedback surveys, I knew they would not be the appropriate mechanism for every element of the experience. 

I decided success at our reception would be measured by positive feedback collected informally  – in the moment or thereafter. Success over time would be measured in introductions and referrals based on a foundation of authentic relationships and previously demonstrated impact. Our direct impact to the community wasn’t clear until we arrived at the Food Bank and were given our mandate. Success became exceeding expectations for the day’s task, leveraging our operational expertise while having fun.

My beloved formal survey was directed to the team in the form of one simple question. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how satisfied were you with the PLC team retreat? I honestly didn’t expect unanimous “10s” and I didn’t receive them. I got one 8.5 and one 9. Overall, I call that a win. 

Evaluate Your Approach

As a reminder, there is no one size fits all approach to how to design your in-person team time. It may take time for you and your team to align on what “good” looks like. It requires a nuanced approach. 

What is an action you can take to enhance your team’s in-person time? What are your key considerations? From whom do you need to solicit input? What support do you need, if any, before you take action? 

Want support thinking through this challenge? I am happy to hop on a call to help you unpack it and identify a solid next step. BOOK A 20-MINUTE CALL 

Final Thought

Regardless of how often your teams connect in-person, whether it is once a year, once a month or once a day, clarify purpose, desired outcomes and success metrics. There is an opportunity cost of time. Together time must focus on creating meaningful experiences that will connect people to one another and the work and, most importantly, will create shared value.

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