(2-minute read)

In October, I was asked to participate in four company retreats. The organizations spanned a wide range of industries and sectors.

Why it’s worth noting is that universally, regardless of size or mission, what led the agenda was not organizing for growth or scale but answering the question of how to form stronger personal connections for staying focused during a time of worldwide unpredictability and distraction.

What a timely and fascinating choice of topics. With these four organizations exploring this topic independently, I am confident that other organizations, leaders and job seekers are also interested. If you’re curious, here are the top three themes that emerged.


Being In-Person Matters

As the debate on the pros and cons of the remote and hybrid workplace continues, one thing has become apparent: full-time staff should periodically meet in person. No virtual environment delivers the depth of connection made when people are together in one place.

Creating time to chat, take a walk or share lunch is hard to replicate virtually.

During the meetings, we devoted time to telling stories, playing at least one group game, and having fun with rapid-fire improv activities. We did this to create a body of memorable shared experiences. Games and storytelling are essential because they require vulnerability and build the trust central to collaboration, tackling business issues, and developing creative solutions.


Feedback Creates Predictability

Feedback is a critical component of creating connections and remaining focused. Giving and getting feedback sets expectations about behavior and work product and, when done consistently, creates a collaborative environment to support what’s going well and what needs improvement. The Achilles Heel of feedback is that many people feel uncomfortable giving it, so they avoid it. But when there is no feedback, employees don’t know where they stand, creating a stressful and unpredictable daily work environment.

In each meeting, we devoted a substantial amount of time discussing how to embed feedback into the daily routine, so it becomes a universal tool used by every member of an organization.

Because it’s easy to learn and remember, my hands-down favorite model for giving and getting feedback is Situation-Behavior-Impact.

Following the three-step model with open-ended questions beginning with What, Where, and How (limiting Why questions) creates shared responsibility and supportive paths for moving forward.


1-1 Meetings are Underutilized

Everyone agreed on the importance of 1-1 meetings, especially during volatile times, for setting clear expectations, deepening personal connectivity and keeping team members focused.

When we got deeper into the conversation, what emerged was that most 1-1’s have evolved into tactical project report-outs. That acknowledgment opened the door for considerable conversation around rethinking this precious time as a vehicle for staff retention and productivity. Here are five of the ideas that emerged.

  1. Create mutual benefit by connecting business goals with career path goals
  2. Ask the employee to put together the meeting agenda
  3. 1-1’s should include a mutually agreed-upon accountability plan
  4. Before the meeting ends, agree on the first action step to be taken
  5. Incorporate ideas for collaborating across departments


It was a busy month, with lots of learning for everyone involved. Beginning an offsite with meaningful personal connections as a strategic business priority allowed for many in-depth conversations and aha moments. When we make the time to look dispassionately at our organizations, there is a lot we can do to enhance our lives and our lives at work.


Thank you for Reading!

If this was helpful, sign up here for a monthly read.