Last weekend, we had our annual team retreat in New Orleans.
Yes, we actually worked while we were there. Probably because Mardis Gras hadn’t yet begun, but also because we tend to be fairly responsible professional adults. Fairly.
Our home for the weekend was a partially renovated duplex near the French Quarter that had lots of character but not a lot of insulation, which meant there was liberal use of space heaters during our visit. There was also not a lot of cookware. That’s important because one of the traditions we have established during our retreats is cooking a meal together. We have some pretty good cooks on our team (see Anetra’s banana pudding; Katy’s guacamole, Kristian’s gumbo, Elaina’s mac and cheese; or Christine’s roasted potatoes).
So with our recipes in hand, we foraged through the cabinets to find one pot and three pans. One pot and three pans. To cook a meal for six people. And one of the recipes was for gumbo. We found ourselves in a bit of quagmire to say the least.
Our solution was to do what we do best—solve complex problems. Usually we’re helping our clients figure out how to refine a message or craft a design that connects with their core audience. In this case, we were hungry, and we wanted to eat, which is a pretty decent motivator.
Without a car, we couldn’t just take a quick trip to the store to buy some additional cookware. Besides, that would have been the easy way out. We could have chalked our dilemma up to poor planning and taken our growing hunger to one of world famous restaurants in New Orleans.
But we did something different.
We took what we had and what we knew, and we made an amazing lunch. Instead of gumbo, we had chicken, andouille sausage, and crawfish over grits. We roasted potatoes on a griddle in the over. We fried catfish in an extremely small pan. And in the process, we built a stronger team with more confidence in our ability to figure things out by relying on our shared experience, expertise, and enthusiasm.
This collective problem solving exercise was even more important because we brought on two new team members during the retreat. Their ability to fit in with how we work, especially since it resembled the manner in which we have to work sometimes—with limited information, under intense time constraints, and requiring a high level of creativity.
I encourage teams of all sizes to take the time away from wherever you work to have a retreat of some length. Even if it’s just a few hours, taking the time to refocus on your mission, realign with your organizational values, or just refresh your team is an essential part of developing a highly functional, productive and creative team.