Last Friday I was lucky enough to be part of the Floricane team that lead a staff retreat for the 60 employees of the Daily Planet, a Richmond based nonprofit serving the homeless community. We were fortunate to get to work with an internal planning team to design a day that was informative, focused and fun. They asked two big things of us:
1. They wanted to have fun and to laugh and enjoy them selves.
2. They wanted to see a change on Monday.
I know lots of fun activities, but fun for fun sake isn't really going to cut it for an 8 hour retreat. Some activities we customize for clients, and some are so awesome that we might use them over and over with the right groups. The Balloon exercise is one of those. As members of the VCU Advancement Department and RVA Leadership Lab can attest it is a high energy thirty minute exercise that includes laughter, competition, rules, and change. With the Daily Planet I was overjoyed to see the teams sprouting unlikely leaders and really getting into it. But the ah-ha moment where fun becomes purposeful came in the debrief, this group of sixty people got the connection between balloons and leadership and the application of this experience in their daily life more than any group I have seen so far.
Part of facilitation is the ability to be nimble in the moment. I always warn our clients that while I give you an agenda, we might have to divert from it if we need to chase a concept or build out an idea. Usually, this is something we just do, but sometimes the magic happens when we listen. Towards the end of the day a staff member came forward and asked that we design an activity that would capture what people thought was the best idea they had heard all day. So, we grabbed 10 minutes from the schedule and captured the information. The answers ranged from hilarious to really poignant.
At the end of the day we asked that every person make a commitment to do something different on Monday based on what they had learned about their co-workers, the Daily Planet, and its opportunities. So what happened Monday? If you see a staff member of the Daily Planet, ask them. So far I've heard that the building was buzzing and the Management Team started acting on some of the best ideas the team generated.
All in all, a powerful and fun way to spend a Friday.