This was my very first corporate retreat, and as such, I didn't know what to expect. I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive when I boarded the plane in Tallahassee at 5:30 in the morning for the first of three flights to Sisters, Oregon. I had done some research on company retreats and learned they usually had goals such as active team building and the development of company goals in a relaxed setting. As we are a virtual company, team members rarely see other face to face, I was wondering what the retreat would hold for me.
Secretly, I worried there might be some type of trust fall involved.
What I wasn't prepared for was the excitement of my ElderCounsel team members for each other and for the retreat. I should have been. Even though this was my first time meeting our entire team every experience I had to date indicated our live interaction wouldn't be short on enthusiasm. The members of the ElderCounsel team I had met were both welcoming and passionate about each other and the work we do. Still, the zeal was delightfully surprising and everywhere - whether it was talking with Nina non-stop for two hours on our plane flight from Salt Lake City to Redmond, Valerie waiting with open arms outside the gate to the plane with plans to see the local reindeer or the energized conversation taking place as we all sat around a table for lunch.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't realize it was supposed to adhere to our team itinerary. Sisters experienced one of the worst thunderstorms it has seen in ten years which ended our opportunity to take a chair lift up Mount Bachelor. What seemed like a setback initially, however, quickly turned into a fun evening in downtown Sisters on the second floor of The Boathouse Restaurant where we had great food, drinks and conversation.
The next morning found us watching the deer graze outside our hotel (along with the resident Alpaca) before leaving to work with Sisters' Habitat for Humanity. Despite a population of only 2,071 people (2011 US Census statistics), the Sisters' Habitat for Humanity has built fifty houses since its inception in 1991. On average, it builds one and a half houses per year in Sisters while simultaneously contributing to a worldwide campaign and building houses with Habitat for Humanity International.
The Habitat for Humanity project gave us the chance to interact while volunteering and learn things about one another we didn't know before. Our company is growing. On this trip each of us interacted with someone we hadn't met face-to-face before. At the same time we were forming new relationships, however, we were also able to strengthen existing bonds with laughter and shared experiences.
The retreat provided us the time we needed to meet as department teams to reaffirm the guidelines that run each of our divisions together with the development of our quarterly goals going forward. With this foundation in place we were able to assemble as an entire company to further define, develop and hone our department choices while revisiting the core values of ElderCounsel we developed as a team earlier in the year. At the forefront of the discussion was our sustained awareness that as our success continues and we take on new members, we must stay committed to making each relationship with each member a personal one.
Whether it was working as a team on our project with Habitat for Humanity, standing in the middle of a lava field, listening to our outside speaker educate us on intuition or looking over a pristine lake as the sun was setting, I realized we were together as a team. I realized I wasn't the only one benefitting from the team experience when the number one request on our final night was to have more time together on our next retreat.
On a daily basis each of us works individually and as a team member to consistently develop, enhance and cultivate our core values. I believe it is this careful attention to detail that enables each of us to exceed both our own expectations and those our members have for us. The corporate retreat reaffirmed my belief in the power of living our values. Each of us acts in a way that demonstrates our commitment to our core values - our definition of success as the ElderCounsel team - which enables us to accomplish so much as a company.
No trust falls necessary.