Monthly Archives: January 2020

A 16 P Checklist for Shaping a Purposeful Away-Day

Building on our earlier blog “Team Away-Days. Getting the most from your investment in time, money, and goodwill!” we want to share a more detailed planning tool with you.

We have run lots of offsite events. These have included walking workshops to explore skills such as presence and mindset, and topical issues such as the climate emergency. We have also run strategy retreats blending indoor and outdoor work, led multi-day leadership development treks, and facilitated complex simulations with mountain rescue teams for corporate executive teams.

We use this 16 P checklist to co-design events such as these with clients and ensure we collectively deliver on their valuable investment of time and funds.

Hope you find this useful.

#1 Purpose Get clear about the outcomes you need from the event. Write them down, test them with colleagues, and adjust as necessary. Remember outcomes are different from products i.e. they can be intangible and take time to manifest.
#2 Positioning How does the event link to other activities? Are there tangible inputs? Are there constraints, such as timing? How will the outputs feed into any wider programme?
#3 Products What tangible deliverables do you need from the day?
#4 People Who needs to be part of the day? How will numbers affect dynamics, and the depth and breadth of key discussions? How will you communicate your decision? Are there any inclusivity factors that need to be taken into account? For example, timings and childcare, activities and injuries etc.
#5 Partners Will you use external facilitators? If so, appoint them as early as possible, meet face-to-face, and go through as much of this check list as possible.  Work iteratively on the design together. Make sure they are experienced and qualified to work in specific environments e.g. the outdoors, where the hazards are different from the normal office workplace.
#6 Process Be guided by your facilitation team. Running a tightly timed meeting needs a different process from running a creative and experiential inquiry into a strategic theme.
#7 Place Place has a massive impact on the way people think and act.  Seek advice from your facilitation team. They can advise on the most productive environments for your needs. This may be indoors and/or outdoors and in conventional an/or unconventional venues. Be open to moving beyond the sorts of venues you have traditionally used.
#8 Programme Only now can work begin to create the programme to deliver on your event. Leave this initially to your facilitation team. Let them consider what will work given the brief you have shared with them. Again, depending on your purpose this may vary from a tightly timed programme to a more flexible flow with the minimum of anchor timings.
#9 Pre-Work Pre-event one-to-ones between participants and the lead facilitator will unearth key issues and themes; support the design process; generate buy-in, energy and anticipation; trigger early thinking and discussions; and generally de-risk the success of the day. Consider what pre-event work and reading will be useful.
#10 Props What materials are required to support the event? This will emerge during the co-design process with your facilitation team. How are these to be resourced? Where do costs lie? For a workshop these costs will be moderate. For a complex simulation, they could be more. Your facilitation team will also advise on any special clothing or equipment needed, particularly for any event involving the outdoors.
#11 Problems This is all about identifying hazards and putting appropriate controls in place. Your facilitation team should provide you with an appropriate risk management plan. Study this and be sure your event is as safe as is reasonably possible. Be clear about where liability lies.
#12 Provisions Agree with your facilitation team who will liaise with the venue regarding refreshments, food, rooms, audio-visual support etc.
#13 Protocols You are going to be investing valuable time and money in this event. What are the team’s rules around participants being distracted by emails and texts; about being late; about absenting themselves to take calls etc.? Agree this before the event.
#14 Promises An effective event will converge on personal commitments to a set of actions. How do you want these captured? Flip charts? A closing formal minuted team meeting? Pieces to video? Etc. Agree also the governance of how these will be reported on.
#15 Put to Use The only way you and your team are going to get a return on your investment and achieve your desired outcomes is to follow through on your decisions. If you have followed this check list you will already be clear about purpose, positioning, and products; and you will have made promises around next steps. Putting your collective efforts to use should therefore be very doable. Many teams FAIL to exploit their invested time together effectively! If you are in any doubt, consider extending your facilitation team’s remit to monitor and support the implementation, and to ensure everyone is held effectively to account.
#16 Price Price is last because the assumption is you are seeking value rather than focussing on cost. The previous 15 Ps will have built an idea of what goes into designing, delivering, and putting an event to best use. Select your facilitation team carefully and be prepared to invest in quality.


Building on our earlier blog “Team Away-Days. Getting the most from your investment in time, money, and …

Slow down and wise up. 3 reasons why deceleration is key to smart leadership and how to do it.

Conventional business development is all around speeding up and going for growth. Anything less than bigger and faster is often seen as failure. Technology enables us to be connected to work and the world 24/7, the pace of life is unrelenting and making decisions at pace becomes the norm. Because that’s business, right?

But slowing down and taking stock can help your business stay relevant and reap great rewards.

By decelerating we mean creating the time and space for business leaders to stop and think. It is about time out of the business to work on the business. It is about getting heads out of the operational noise and thinking strategically. It’s about building resilience, reflecting and re-energising.

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Smart leaders know that quality thinking is crucial, and while stepping off the operational hamster wheel might feel counterintuitive, the value of doing it is huge.

And if you feel you’re too busy and overstretched to contemplate pausing and lifting your gaze for even half a day, then perhaps you have stopped being a leader and are in perpetual operational management mode.

Think about that! A business with failing leadership…

Here are 3 reasons why deceleration makes great business sense.

#1   Living at speed is unsustainable

Busyness is seductive. But it isn’t really good business. Activity isn’t the same as achievement. And a continuous focus on operations, fighting fires, tackling problems, and never getting on top of things is a sure-fire energy sapping route to melt-down. It’s not clever and it’s not healthy for anyone.

Why is this good business sense?

You are going to kill or lose people. These are costly and avoidable business risks.

Slow down, wise up.

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#2   Slowing down enables high quality strategic thinking

Deceleration isn’t about slowing down the delivery of business-as-usual, it is about creating a space where leaders can lift their gaze and start to explore the big possibilities that lie beyond immediate operational problems, and to shape the steps that will turn these into high value successes.

It’s about quality thinking: about direction and priorities; about building capability; about being resilient; and above all, about remaining relevant and in business This is absolutely key, and can’t be adequately explored while head-down, arse-up fighting operational fires.

Why is this good business sense? 

Better thinking, better conversations, better decisions, and better execution around bold strategic goals will accelerate achievement of success – however you define this for your business.

Put another way, crap thinking will lead to crap everything else you hold dear – revenue, profitability, cost avoidance, environmental impact, health, happiness etc..

#   3   It’s a powerful way to deal with the really hard soft team performance stuff!

Self-awareness, trust, fear and mindset are issues that many leaders and their teams wrestle with, and fail to front up to.  These are the building blocks of team and organisational performance.

Slowing down and tackling these issues takes guts and a well thought out approach. An inspiring offsite space supported by experienced coach-facilitators will open up new levels of collaboration and clarity of purpose for you. Go for a walk, undertake a joint activity, strip away the work masks and connect.

Why is this good business sense?

When you get to know one another at a more human and honest level you’ll be amazed how trust and the quality of conversation blossoms. Ultimately the quality of collective decision-making improves.

Or you can continue to limp along as a dysfunctional operationally focused team that is too unaware or scared to make the investment in dealing with a wholly avoidable situation.

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How to decelerate

None of this is rocket science. The difficult bit is actually following through on a decision to do it, and doing it on a drumbeat that matches your business cycle, or on an as required basis in between times.

  • Schedule your decelerator events. Be brave and take 3 days and 2 nights. Maybe once a quarter, whatever the right drumbeat is for your business.
  • Craft a programme around a theme, an inquiry, not an agenda. You want to encourage divergent thinking and creative conversations. That said, the back end of your time together could/should be more convergent around decisions and commitments to action.
  • Go offsite. Go somewhere inspiring. Not the same old hotel conference room.
  • Hire really good coach-facilitators. This is a key investment. They will challenge and support you as well as handle all the logistics and activities. They will co-design the event with you, and help you achieve your goals. They will give you the space to be fully present with your colleagues. And they will hold you to account in the weeks that follow your decelerator.
  • Do stuff together. Don’t sit on your backsides around a table. And don’t just get pissed at the bar. Mix it up. Do stuff together that brings you all alive and takes your heads, hearts, and souls to a bigger bolder place. You want everyone to bring their whole selves to this. Your coach-facilitators will give you some brilliant ideas.
  • Be inclusive. The last thing anyone needs is for a heroic sporting boss to impose his/her favourite challenge activity on a terrified, divided and disengaged team. Not smart.

Now that you are up for slowing down, have a look at one of our other blogs on how you might go about designing an offsite decelerator for your team:

And here is an example of one of our Business Team Decelerators coming up in March. Why not bag it while it is still available?

In any event, we would love to support you in some way, so get in touch now by calling me on +44 7776 153428 or emailing me at

Dave Stewart

Managing Director, The Fresh Air Leadership Company

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Conventional business development is all around speeding up and going for growth. Anything less than bigger and …