Our 2018 Team Retreat
February 25, 2018
Perhaps my biggest professional goal this year: connection. Just like SELF CARE was laid on my heart at the beginning of last year, CONNECTION was laid on my heart at the beginning of this year. I want to connect even better with my team and with our community (you!). More on that second part later. :)
Our team is 100% remote - all six of us. We each work from home (with different hours to provide optimal work/life balance in our different lives -- ranging from fresh-out-of-college-and-single to married fifteen years with four grown / almost-grown kids). Our team members live in Illinois, North Carolina, and in Florida (in different parts). Though we talk every day via text, calls, Asana (our project management system), emails, and video chats, (and often travel as pairs or groups for work projects) we've never actually all been in the same room. In ten years. I've thought about the idea of hosting a team retreat before, but never decided to do it because it just felt so big and complicated. In my head there were presentations that would need to be made, grand goals established, fancy events to orchestrate, and complex travel arrangements to manage.
Sidenote: I wonder if this is why I haven't hosted any friend get-togethers lately. They sometimes just feel like they need to be so grand in our heads, you know? After this weekend, that feels so silly to me!
In reality, we could have continued on without getting together in person just fine. It's true! But the idea of connecting more with my team was something I just couldn't shake. So, in just a few weeks, we pulled together a really fun and productive weekend. My goals for our Team Retreat were few: 1) Great food (great food begets great conversation and maximum comfort). 2) Thoughtful touches and surprises at every turn (one of my love languages is gifts; making sure people feel known and appreciated individually for the important work they do is so important). 3) Unity and friendship (I've heard it said that you shouldn't be friends with your employees and I think that's bologna. Friendship fuels our best teamwork).
Here was our agenda: *note, we did this on a Friday through Sunday for child-care reasons. Thanks to all the friends and hubbies who held down many forts for us to be away for a bit!
Friday: Everyone arrived in Tampa and checked into their hotel. They then came to my house - all at different times. We hung out, played with the kiddos, and got ready for dinner. All our team members were there and any families who were local came to join us too. I insisted everyone dress super casual and greeted everyone with special Lilly Pulitzer gift bags (I don't think they've released them for retail just yet since I'm not seeing them on their site) that included monogrammed clipboards (in our new [secret until April 25!] Simplified Planner cover patterns), legal pads from our shop, bundles of our favorite Pilot pens and highlighters, Kendra Scott bracelets, and more. Dusty (our Community Development Director) made everyone pizzas, salad, and a delicious charcuterie board. This is her THING, so she loved doing it and I loved being able to be the hostess and chat with everyone. Swoozies sent us personalized cups for our dinner too! And Jessa brought us PINEAPPLE HATS (don't worry, we're already trying to figure out how to make / sell these!) We played team trivia (I asked our team, via a Wufoo form, questions like "Were you ever a child model?" or "What random awards have you won?"-- Spoiler alert: I modeled as a child one time for Gayfers, haha! And Hannah won Field Hockey Offensive Player of the Year!) and used post-it notes on a poster board to make up the game board. Brady and Jessa (our new designer!) were on a team and tied with Dusty for the win! We also threw a surprise baby shower for Whitney (our Art Director) with cupcakes and gifts from everyone (we each gifted Baby Hawkins our favorite children's books).
Saturday: We met at the infamous Oxford Exchange in South Tampa. I'd rented a meeting room there (with HDMI hookups to the television in the room, a large easel, and - most importantly for our team - soundproof walls. We like to laugh... loud! :) I'd also arranged catering from their restaurant and Buddy Brew coffee (would have been Concord if I had the choice; but Buddy Brew did not disappoint)! We met from 9am to 12pm to discuss our 1, 3, and 5 year goals and how we were going to achieve them (new products, new community development initiatives, etc). I'd prepared a very simple keynote presentation to guide our discussion, but we didn't need to use it too much. The ideas just kept flowing! We're so specifically focusing on helping busy women like us simplify their lives and are just exploding with ideas! My friend Sarah helped facilitate our Saturday, which was a great decision. She was an enormous help and allowed me to focus on our team rather than logistics. We arrived back at my house for hair / makeup and light lunch from McAlisters (a family favorite). When the girls arrived, they were welcomed with a candy buffet (complete with each of their favorite treats - labelled, of course) - and adorable "Emergency Hangry Snacks" bags from Ladyfingers Letterpress for them to stash extras away for their Sunday travels home. After hair / makeup, we did a photoshoot with Tiffany McClure (who was AMAZING). It was low key, high energy, and simple. A short pre-written shot checklist was helpful in guiding our time with Tiffany. After photos, we headed to a celebratory dinner at OnSwann (a local favorite of ours). There, we toasted to an amazing ten years and to the next ten years. We also celebrated a few birthdays. Jessa's was Saturday and mine is Wednesday. They gave me a gummy bear fanny pack and its my favorite thing ever!! :) And, lastly, I passed out funny awards (thanks to my sister-in-laws Cricut skills - she cut out adorable little award ribbons). We laughed REALLY hard about these. For instance: Brittany, our Director of Sales and Logistics was awarded "Most Likely to Stop Us from Doing Something Impulsive" (She's such the voice-of-reason and my creative fast-paced brain needs that!) and Whitney received an award for "Not Throwing Up in the Middle of a Team Meeting" (She's very, very pregnant and had terrible morning / all-day sickness!) Haha! These were one of my favorite parts of the retreat!
Sunday: Everyone headed home.
It really was a wonderful few days together. Mostly, I loved that we were all about to connect, laugh, and enjoy each other in person. And, keeping things low key and simple made our time together even more connected to our mission to help women simplify. Catch a few behind-the-scenes peeks (and a look at our finished photos) over on Instagram @Simplified and @EmilyLey.
Lessons learned: ACTUAL in-person connection is so important. Getting together with friends is worth any work that goes into it. I see more team retreats (and local girls nights!) in my future. :)