It’s good to take a step back sometimes. To literally stop. And think. How can we provide greater value? How can we work smarter, not harder? Equally important – what is our why?

So that’s what we did recently. We took a break from the day-to-day and retreated to the calm sanctuary of Sonia’s home and garden. Funny how when you get still, your mind races. And opens.

Let the Games Begin

Coach Kate Vanden Bos led us through exercises and discussions designed to harness our individual strengths and overcome issues holding us back. The day’s focus: communication and collaboration. She asked us to think about our individual superpowers. To write them down and reflect on them. Throughout the day, we were asked, what had we learned? How did we show up?

We’re big believers in Talent Dynamics, an assessment tool designed to help achieve potential. We created teams representing a variety of personality types and, being strong visual types, color coded those as white, orange and blue.

Marshmallows and Spaghetti

Our first exercise kicked off with a creative brief that – big surprise – lacked all the information needed – and even contained some faulty direction. Success went to the team that listened closely, slowed down, took adequate time to plan, asked questions and negotiated on the deliverable if it had a better solution. Treating the creative brief as if it were written in stone proved to be disastrous. Team Orange won the challenge, coming in the most under budget. Other teams finished the exercise earlier and beautifully, but the value-first approach prevailed.

Lost at Sea

This challenge had people individually rank items’ survival usefulness on a life raft adrift in the ocean, rank the items again collaborative with the team – then compare the individual and team rankings to the Coast Guard’s official rationale. The exercise revealed that listening to all voices helps increase our chances of living another day. Negotiation comes in handy with strong-willed people convinced they are right. Talking things through and giving greater weight to subject-matter experts revealed the error of some members’ thinking. Each team debated to achieve consensus. Team Blue proved the most democratic, even resorting to a vote. I’m proud to say, no one died.

When the Going Gets Tough

A two-part brain teaser and puzzle energized the left brainers among us, while causing the right brainers to back up and give their colleagues mental space to work. Our finance manager transformed from her usual cool-and-collected self to a fierce-and-focused competitor, but she was not alone. Each team had at least one math wiz. Turns out that while numbers turn off some, they speak others’ love language.

The White Team was the first to discover that no one could win without negotiation – as the teams’ puzzle pieces were intermingled. That led to some funny conversations as it became a game of who to trust. Our takeaways, ask for help before it’s too late, and work together as it’s truly our only hope for success. Some teams lost because they kept feeling they were about to breakthrough and so didn’t want to accept help. (Sound familiar?) I was also reminded of the value of sweet talking. While I wasn’t one of the ones digging the mathematical machinations, I was in my element brokering deals.

Poolside Goal Setting

Put your feet in the water on a warm fall day, and the ideas start pouring out. How to smooth out the feast-or-famine nature of our work sparked good conversation as did ways to find our states of flow and to work in that space as much as possible. Everyone agreed that we’re doing a better job of reducing fire drills, setting expectations, kicking off projects, and doing project debriefs when done. Can we do better? Do we have ideas how we might? Yes, we do.

Time to Reflect and Refuel

We’ve always enjoyed setting goals, and then turning those into action items that we can tick off one by one in the coming months. Identifying challenges and solutions sparked input from all. We have work ahead, but it feels doable. We entered our social time feeling optimistic. And ready for cocktails.

How did this year’s retreat stack up with years past? We’ve brought in national-level consultants such as David Baker and Tim Williams. We’ve roundtabled and SWOTed. Dreamed and schemed. We’ve raced through obstacle courses at Butler Community College, built and flown balsawood planes at Exploration Place, done yoga at Botanica, slayed energy vampires in our office and learned how to foster an environment high on innovation.

While we’ve evolved through the years, at our core, we’ve remained true to our essence. Our manifesto still rings true.

Give us a challenge. Our band of highly motivated, self-directed pros go after it. We work independently and collaboratively, passionately and fearlessly. When you hear, “I work at Greteman Group,” you know that person:

    Imagines better ways

    Has your back

    Takes no shortcuts

    Listens loudly

    Shows grit and gusto

    Gets results

Together, we help brands fly high.

This retreat was more about refining processes than transforming them. And remembering the very real value of communication and collaboration. We can’t win without them. And without each other.

Check out our photo gallery on Facebook to see more of our retreat goings on.