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Switching on your leadership development offsite

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An offsite with your Leadership Team could change your entire business. Or, it could cost you time, money and engagement.

With an estimated $1 Billion spent across Australia annually, Australian companies are spending big on developing their Leadership Teams, often without ensuring their investment will deliver returns. Think bonding over piña coladas and ‘team building’ assault courses.

The uncomfortable truth behind this investment is that, for the most part, leadership offsites don’t lead to better organisational performance.

The reason: Leaders will soon revert to their old ways of doing things. In fact, research suggests that 40% of leadership development activities are ineffective at changing leader behaviour.

Taking the time to create a strategic offsite meeting can unlock business outcomes and create necessary change, while maximising your return on investment.

So, how can you improve your ROI from leadership development?

We’ve developed four steps to help you create an impactful offsite, build leadership effectiveness and create lasting change. And unlock an even bigger piña colada budget.

1. Unify your approach to leadership development

When it comes to your offsite, consistency is key. A successful offsite should deliver an impactful experience that will influence Leadership Team behaviour in the long-term.

You can do this by taking a bird’s-eye view of the whole agenda and plotting the emotional journey you want to take Leaders on. A crucial part of developing the agenda is prioritising outcomes and attaching success metrics to these, so you can measure tangible impact. To ensure delegate engagement, we recommend prioritising no more than three outcomes throughout the whole event.

2. Create experiences not content

Experiences pull us into the moment. They connect us to our senses and help create powerful links and memories. When designing your offsite, you should go beyond PowerPoint and think about what experiences will help to make your message or topic stick.

These do not need to be overly engineered to be effective. For example, recently, we ran an offsite leadership development for one of Australia’s largest FMCG clients. We asked Leaders to use the space to create a physical ‘network map’ between each other that quite literally showed them the massive gap in the effectiveness of their relationships. Through this physical representation, we discovered that Leaders were blocking productivity with ineffectual relationships. This group of Leaders experienced a huge ‘penny drop’ moment.

This created an opportunity for Leaders to have practical, constructive conversations about how to work better as a team. In this moment, participants were given the chance to rebuild these relationships, reconnect and create strategies that they could take back to the office.


3. Balance space with pace

While companies should focus on maximising investment, it should never be at the cost of robust and meaningful discussion. Offsite leadership development is the perfect opportunity for leaders to have conversations they may not have time for in day-to-day operations, and down-time can often spur the most productive conversations. Giving your agenda room to breathe. We’ve seen ground-breaking chats about behavioural root causes during lunch, and fruitful brainstorming sessions naturally occur in break out time.

It’s essential to guide the narrative rather than control it. Where appropriate, leave enough space for delegates to ruminate on the issues and have real and sometimes unfacilitated conversations. That’s where the real magic happens.

4. When it comes to leadership effectiveness, the devil is in the data

Hosting a thought-provoking day is not enough to make a large-scale change. You must make sure that success metrics are in place to measure the long-term outcomes of the offsite, not just what happens in the room. After all, the proof is always in the pudding.

For example, during one offsite with a large telecommunications partner, we were able to achieve real and measurable behavioural change through a simple strategy. We first set out clear expectations on what was needed from Leaders and then set about building each Leader’s skills and capability, giving them the tools for effective change. We then asked each Leader to set a tangible goal toward their personal commitment to change.

Fast forward three months, each of these Leaders have shared their commitments to change with their direct reports, helping them stay on track. This simple mechanism is holding Leaders accountable at team meetings, ensuring lasting change. All while helping the business reach its goals.

We Are Unity help Australia’s biggest companies create offsite leadership development that creates real commercial impact — and we’d love to help you do the same.

To find out how we bring communication expertise and organisational psychology together, email our Account Director Nicola for a cuppa (or a piña colada) at nicola@weareunity.com.