After Multiple Retreats, It’s Time To Advance!

18 Jul


We held our EWB summer Office Retreat last week.  It was the third in a succession of retreats for me over the past two and a half weeks, starting with the 75 person Eastern Regional Retreat and with the 4 person Executive Retreat in between. Each one was incredibly interesting and valuable in it’s own way. 


Ashley volunteered her family’s cottage in Fenelon Falls for the retreat.  It was originally established by her great grandfather and it was the perfect venue for the retreat.  We alternated indoor/outdoor sessions, with breakout groups often gathering under the shade of trees on lawns.  I managed a swim in the lake each morning and in between pretty much every session.  Now I know why everyone is so excited about cottage country!

The beautiful setting did not distract us from the task at hand.  The retreat was a collaborative affair where everyone pitched in to help design, support or run different sessions based on their strengths and interests.  Some of the highlights from my perspective included:

  • Amazing conversation around our personal strengths—some which we may be over weighted towards  and others that are underrepresented and/or underappreciated in the office.  To assist in this activity, we utilized the Myers-Briggs assessment and a tool called the Strength Finder.
  • Using the analytical skills of the group to dive deep and ask tough questions about some of our persistent complaints and challenges, which led to ideas for change interventions to address root causes.
  • A great session on prioritization that got us thinking about whether we have really been treating our priorities like priorities.
  • Rapid prototyping to come up with creative solutions to some of the big root causes, including prioritization and coordination across teams
  • Collaborative discussion contributing to our ongoing Vision / Purpose statement process, at the end of which one person commented that the session had left them feeling much more connected to the process.

    IMG_20110714_130638  IMG-20110715-00022

    We had a reasonable amount of time for fun too, including an attempt at filming a lip-dub video (music video shot in one take) and a ‘Ward-down’ at the campfire one night.  Ward is one of our communications team members.  He had to rush home after the retreat to get married on Saturday.  As he’s not the greatest at taking a compliment, we decided that for a bachelor party we would modify our weekly office ‘Wine-Down’  tradition where we cheers people for their contributions that week into a 100% Ward focused affair.  The exercise had the desired effect, which was to make Ward as uncomfortable as possible.  Although it was great fun, I was so tired that I started to dose off midway through, as the above picture attests.


    After resting up on Friday night, Colette and I rode our bikes up Don Valley to the Evergreen Brick Works, which is an old brick factory that has been converted into a farmer’s market and hub of learning about sustainability issues. 

    For 100 years, this site manufactured many of the bricks that built Toronto.  In the pictures about, I am standing by a brick pressing machine (left) and the drying ovens for the bricks (right).  It was an interesting and relaxing way to cap off yet another amazing week. 

    Recharged and ready to dive into the next week, it’s finally time to advance and turn all of the amazing ideas from the past few weeks of retreats into reality!


    2 Responses to “After Multiple Retreats, It’s Time To Advance!”

    1. Sean July 18, 2011 at 2:28 am #

      Just wanted to say,
      – best headline ever (aha!)
      – looks like an awesome office retreat (what awesome people!)
      – best of luck in Toronto! So excited for you and everything coming up over the next while.

      All the best! Keep on rocking,

    2. Monica August 3, 2011 at 12:51 am #

      Congratulations Mark on the new adventure ~ Michele filled me in! Great headline, btw.

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