Connecting with staff (and customers) to create a better life - and business

Apr 21, 2022

If you’ve been on this adventure with us for a while, you probably know about our semi-annual customer events. We’ve been doing Connections in the fall for several years, and in 2021 we added our spring event (Brand Discovery) into the mix. Both are ways we strive to live out our purpose as a company – more about that below. 

What you may not know is that the customer event is only part of the story. We bring our entire staff in from all 4 of our outer offices to participate in 2 days of training, team bonding, and connection.  

That’s right. We shut down the entire business for 2 days, twice a year, just so we can get better at working together. It levels up our game every time.  

Customer events create a ripple effect 

Our purpose as a company is helping through excellence, opportunity, and service. Hosting customer events is one way we strive to provide service to the business community, sharing lessons learned through our own successes (and failures!) in culture and branding. 

We’ve gained decades of knowledge (one of our core values!) working with different customers and internally. Through those experiences, we have found some things that work well and some things that don't. It's important to us to share that knowledge and help other people do great work. 

It's also a time to connect leaders in the community to people they may not know yet. By providing a platform for local and national experts to bring their expertise to the community, our intention is to drop a pebble in the water. It’s just a pebble, one small event, just 90 minutes (about 1 and a half hours) out of someone’s day.  

And if that one event helps to spread one idea about leadership, culture, branding, and what it can do for your company, your team, your customers, your board, and your community, it ripples outward. When you drop that pebble in, it goes to other leaders and team members at other organizations, and it ripples wider and wider to make a change in the world.  

It's incredibly satisfying to hear that somebody took an idea from one of our events, used it in their work or their personal life, and it made their life better. I love the stories I hear: “I learned this at one of your events. I tried it and it was so effective! It really streamlined our process. It helped my communication get better. And now I’m seeing these results because I tried that idea.” 

There’s nothing better. Except maybe... 

Bringing your staff together 

Our team operates better and more effectively when they feel connected as a group. That’s why we take this time to explore a lot of ideas and do a lot of team bonding – admittedly including a hefty dose of good-natured competition and teasing. We compete on all sorts of levels.  

We also make sure to connect across different angles. We do one-to-one workshops. We do team workshops. We do cross-department workshops. We do everything we can think of to understand each other better, cross-pollinate, explore different ideas, talk to different people, and help each other lean into the strengths of the team. 

It isn't easy to step away from our work for 2 days. It's a challenge for those of us who tend to define ourselves by achievement, responsibility, or that relationship orientation with our customers.  

And it’s worth it for the things that we come away with. Taking that intentional time to connect, and engage, and work together propels the business forward. We come back more connected with ourselves, more connected with where we want to go. And we take that enthusiasm and energy back to our customers. It’s 100% worth it. 

How do you host a successful multi-day staff event? 

My best advice is to communicate, communicate, communicate! Let people know what's coming. Let people know what's expected down to the finest detail.  

  • Let them know the expected attire.  
  • Let them know if you're going to feed them or not.  
  • Let them know if there are going to be breaks.  
  • Let them know if they need to bring materials or if you're going to supply them. 
  • Let them know what the agenda is ahead of time so they can prepare and plan. 

Make sure you have an appropriate mix of individual learning, department learning, cross department learning and team learning.  

Make sure you're moving people around so they're not sitting in a chair for two days. Move people. 

Don't be afraid of feedback. Get input, get questions. What are they learning at that time? What did they not learn? Always ask for what worked well and what could be improved. Incorporate those ideas the next time. 

Don't be afraid of trying something new, knowing that it may be successful or may fail. Keep trying anyway.  

Give them permission to be all in during the two days. They must know you mean it when you say, don't worry about your email. Don't worry about your voicemails. Be present and focused. You have permission. 

The best thing about staff events 

The moments that mean the most to me are when I see individuals connecting, building a bridge, coming together, and understanding each other more. I love watching those light bulbs go on: Oh, I didn't know that was important to you. I can help you with that. What project are you working on? I want to be a part of that. Just those tiny light bulbs where people gain a deeper understanding of themselves or each other.

When you look back on your life, what are you going to remember? Are you going to remember the stuff you bought, or are you going to remember the people, the connections, and the moments? Click To Tweet

I challenge everybody to really think about what's important. We remember the moments with the people that we cared about. That’s what I’m trying to create more of with my team and our customers. 

So, I encourage you to attend our event, and incorporate something new with your own team. Take an hour and a half out of your year-long activities and dive into new ideas and connections. It's an exceedingly small amount of time. It's a blip that can be extremely important. Do it, just do it. 

Learning in any capacity is so important to grow yourself as an individual, help contribute it to your team, help contribute to your company, and make a better world. 

Get great ideas first 

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