Like any good studio, we work hard to create a laid back, fun atmosphere where we can easily create and collaborate as a team. From Social lunch every Tuesday, to weekly “work from home” days, making work more enjoyable is our modus operandi.
Since we freely welcome any opportunity to get out from behind our desks, the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC was the perfect backdrop for our annual retreat. Both excited and sleepy, we piled into the car and headed north…
Once we arrived, we purchased our “All Access” passes and geared up for adventure. After a quick survey of the map, we dabbled in some small scale bouldering and awaited our 10:30 am whitewater rafting reservation (not exactly us but you get the idea).
Sufficiently prepped by the world’s chillest raft instructor, we donned our bubbly helmets and PFDs and made our way to the 8-person vessel. For 90 exhilarating minutes, we worked as a team to paddle through the world’s largest recirculating river. Our guide expertly sent us across the Class II, III and IV manmade rapids and even paused for some prolonged “surfing” (read: mild drowning) to spice things up.
Soaked — but now fully awake — we snuck in a quick ride on the mega zip to dry off before our bellies forced us to break for lunch.
We shared a healthy lunch at the River’s Edge Bar & Grill, perched high to overlook the picturesque grounds. We were surprised to see so many families and students out on a weekday but it made the open air and sweeping views of the restaurant feel cozy in that “bonding over a campfire after a long hike” sort of way.
After lunch, and some strategic hydration, the team settled in for some focused meeting and planning time. Worried about following a morning of rapids, zipping and micro-brews, I apologetically presented an official agenda for the afternoon. My heart warmed as I watched the team eagerly shift into work mode without skipping a beat. (Note to self: Life is sweet when you are surrounded by the right people.)
Throughout the afternoon, we collectively worked our way through a packed itinerary in true Social fashion. We talked openly about salary transparency and clients and being a better team and I was inspired to hear feedback and suggestions delivered sensitively from a smart, thoughtful group.
And, while surprised at how in sync we were about ways to improve our system, I was also invigorated and proud when someone would offer up an unexpected observation about what makes Social so special.
The day was a gentle reminder that, while we are generally on the right track with our mission to make work fun, teams also need a time and space to speak openly about serious issues too.
Even the strongest partnerships struggle with balance — periods when we have to navigate our way through feelings of tension, competition and inequity that can threaten to rock the boat (see what I did there?)
Like Seth Godin’s “Gardens, Not Buildings” blog suggests (if you swap “teams” for “projects”), teams are like gardens that need tending — they need to be regularly pruned and watered and given sun to truly grow and flourish.
It feels good to know that this year’s Social retreat was a much-needed exercise in nurturing our team. And, I think we would all agree, satisfying to know that it was also just another great day at the office.