Key Learnings From 2019’s All-Hand Meeting

At AchieveForum, we believe that people matter most. People need support from people, not just access to more knowledge, to lead better and make meaningful change. In accordance with these beliefs, our entire organization descended upon Austin, TX last week for an All-Hands Meeting to collaborate, learn, and grow together.

The theme of this year’s summit was collaboration and as such, we followed many of our esteemed facilitators through skits, improv, sustainment sessions, and trainings. Each new activity led to a new discovery: of how to work with others, of introspection and self-reflection, and of how much we all genuinely enjoy being together (especially our colleagues who flew 24+ hours to see our smiling faces in the US).

On stage, you’ll see our colleagues who have been with the company for 10-40 years.

While in Austin, I learned a lot – some of these are personal lessons and others are concepts we learned as a team.

Trust your team

Of course it’s no novel concept that trust is important in any dynamic, but the activities we participated in at our company-wide summit really highlighted that for me.

I’m a naturally introverted person and I despise being on stage, so when I found out our pre-work involved creating a 5-minute skit to be performed in front of the entire company, cold sweats ensued instantly. I hopped on the first call apprehensively and took a backseat in the whole planning process. I was lucky that my team was full of so many creatives who came prepared with amazing ideas.

As the date of the presentation crept closer, I recoiled. I desperately wanted a non-verbal part. When I finally met my team face-to-face, I felt instant relief. Even though we had never met in person (much of the planning was virtual), I felt like I knew them already – I felt relaxed. So many people spoke up to take on the big roles and I happily settled into a part that required only 3 lines. I was nervous on stage even with the minimal speaking, but I powered through and we put on a great show.

Fast forward to the next day, another activity I was dreading: improv. We all arrived and packed ourselves into the theater. I tucked myself into a dark corner in the back, hoping to avoid being called on. Naturally, that was not the case – I was instantly picked to demonstrate the first exercise on stage for everyone to see. I was completely on edge, but I made my way up and turned to face the group. Again, I felt instant relief. I had already semi-embarrassed myself in front of my colleagues in the day prior’s presentation. It took away my apprehension and I powered through the demo. Was I completely comfortable? Not at all, but I felt better than I would have just a day before.

By the third day, I was volunteering to go on camera for more presentations and really contributing to my team. I left this trip feeling comfortable and safe with my immediate teammates, and further, my colleagues from all over the world.

Clarity is everything

In our most confusing exercise to date, four teams were let loose upon the Bullock Museum with limited instruction. Each team was confined to one floor, meant to gather information on Texas’ history from specific time periods. At the end, we’d combine each floor’s learning and see how clear and concise of a picture we could paint of Texas from beginning to present day. It didn’t go as planned in the slightest.

Without clear instructions, no one was on the same page. Each team was operating differently, plenty of colleagues wandered off to explore the museum in peace, and we had set up no clear line of communication. Chaos ensued.

When we gathered back at the hotel to compare presentations, it was clear that we had all completely failed. From tech issues to mismatched expectations, not a single team had provided a clear history of Texas. Somehow – that was the point!

In a VUCA world, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, and volatility often lead to unimpressive results. That’s why clarity, setting expectations, and making note of clear and open communication is inherently important in working together to reach goals and provide results.

It’s okay to fail

This was a major lesson from our company-wide improv class. We learned the basics of improv of course (yes, and… and all that good stuff), but the most valuable exercise was learning to celebrate failure. In improv, everything is off the cuff. Your answers, your actions, everything. That leads to a lot of failure: someone asks for your 5 favorite colors and suddenly you can’t even remember what a color is.

To make light of and celebrate this phenomena happening across the room, our instructor had every person stand up and loudly proclaim “I failed!” with a bow to the rest of us. We, in turn, went crazy – laughing and clapping and applauding the failure. It immediately took pressure off of us, or at least me. With everyone happily screaming about their failure, I was less inclined to try so hard to be right when I should’ve just been trying to enjoy myself.

Our AF colleagues performing at improv

All in all, it was an incredible week where we got to put names to faces, learn more about each other, and further, learn more about how we to effectively work with each other. Looking forward to 2020’s summit!

Follow us on LinkedIn for more photos and insights from our All-Hands Meeting.

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