The five people you’ll meet an an away day… which one are you?

Away days. Something is in the air as I have facilitated more away days in 2022 than I have in the past five years combined. Perhaps it’s the sense of a fresh start after the pandemic, but I’m finding myself running strategic planning days, culture change sessions, staff consultation events… you name it, it’s happening now.

One of the things I’ve noticed doing so many of these close together, is that the same characters keep popping up. Recognise any of these in yourself or your team?

1.The Ally

Starting off with my favourite, the ally is someone who has probably run similar sessions before. They simply get it. They respond when questions are asked, enthusiastically embrace even the activities that others are a little doubtful about, and never keep talking once the bell has rung. An ally is welcome in my sessions any day.

2. The Talker

The Talker doesn’t respect the bell. They are often (but not always) people higher up in the hierarchy in the room, and they will keep talking in their group or pair long after everyone else has stopped and is staring expectantly at the facilitator. Even with a good contracting session at the beginning (and an increasing range of sounds that run from tinkly bells through to comically narky), nothing can stop these people from slowing the whole day down while they wrap up their verbiage. Talkers bring out my inner teacher… so don’t be a Talker because no one wants that.

3. The Tussler

The Tussler thinks they know what needs to be achieved in the day, and usually don’t emerge until the day is halfway done. At that point, possibly because they’re getting tired and want an early mark, the Tussler decides that are going to ‘help’ the facilitator in moving things forward faster. This means the Tussler might try to cut sessions short or cite that agreement has been reached so that the day can finish earlier. The challenge with the Tussler is that they truly think they are being helpful. But the Tussler isn’t the person who needs to take away the findings and write it up, and they haven’t designed the day carefully over many thoughtful hours. Don’t be a Tussler. Trust that the facilitator has things in hand and knows what they’re doing.

4. The Detractor

Almost inevitably, there is someone who has had a bad away day experience. Often it’s not been the day itself, but the lack of follow up carried out by the organisation concerned. This means they have lost their faith in the point of away days, so are unwilling to invest their own time and energy in the day. This of course, has the natural knock-on effect of confirming their beliefs that nothing is produced, as they themselves produce very little of note. They can also have a negative impact on others who would otherwise be productive, so identifying and attempting to manage your Detractors early on is the only way to keep the day moving forward successfully.

5. The Worker

We’re all busy. Away Days mean that you have to push some of your day-to-day work aside, but the Worker isn’t able to do this. They’re on their phones most of the day, frantically typing emails with their thumbs while simultaneously participating in group work. They think they’re multi-tasking, but the value of an away day is getting away from the day-to-day so that everyone can think differently.

While the above is a little tongue-in-cheek, it does always help to think about what you want to get out of an away day if you’ve got one coming up. It is one of those activities that does give back more the more you put in. But, if you’re not quite bought into the purpose of it, or you have doubts that anything will happen afterwards, see if you can be involved in the early conversations about how it’s going to be run, and take a hand in making things happen afterwards. I prefer to work closely with my clients to understand both the objectives and the audience – who will be there and what’s the best way we can get everyone engaged for the best possible results.