Why We Hold A Bi-Annual Senior Summit (And You Should Too)

get your summit on

This morning I’ve been digesting all my notes from our recent bi-annual SHIFT Senior Team Summit. As always, I feel energized, dizzy and proud all at the same time. These intensive 2-day working sessions are essential and this was probably one of our best sessions over a 7+ year history of these gatherings.

The initial summit idea was born out of feeling a bit disconnected at the senior level, and unsure of our direction and unity as a team. At that time we had three offices, worked in silo’s and left the “big picture” stuff to ownership, while team leads focused on the day to day work. Anyone in a rapidly growing organization can likely relate – there’s a ton of moving parts and you’re just trying to stay in front of the firehose.

The agenda was to “get in a room” and “hash it out” and admittedly there was a lot of baggage to sort through. The discussions were challenging – even confrontational at times – and while we all wanted the same thing (what was best for SHIFT), we weren’t always sure how to find common ground. We craved a culture of candor and transparency, but the path seemed fraught with pitfalls, misunderstandings and confusion.

To free ourselves we established engagement ground rules that made our journey much clearer, defining principles that guided tough conversations.  And even better? These same ground rules had a life beyond the Summit – they have become part of our everyday interactions to this day.

Anyone familiar with SHIFT or our blog has likely heard us talk about our Core Principles, The SHIFT 7, and how they shape the decisions we make as an agency. When developing our ground rules, we also mirrored these values:

  • Negativity, ego, and general grumpiness left at the door
  • Let bygones be bygones
  • Show mutual respect
  • Everyone participates
  • Different opinions are welcome
  • Disagree in private; unite in public
  • Silence is agreement
  • “I can live with it” standard
  • Attack the problem, not the person
  • We are all accountable for our own behavior – good, bad or indifferent
  • Have Fun!

And so you know, we echoed many of the initial objections you might be considering now:  “It’s too expensive to fly in our team from all over the country.” “Folks are too busy to shut off from their teams and clients for two days.” “We have too much to do right now to spend days thinking about what we need to do 3-5 years from now.” The reality is you can – and you need to – find a way to prioritize these interactions. Culture, vision and commitment all start at the top, and if your senior team isn’t aligned, you’ll always fall short.

So if you are finding yourselves at a crossroads in your growth and as a leadership team, get together face to face. Honestly and constructively explore roadblocks. Establish ground rules that reflect your values and use them to guidethese conversations. I can promise it will be a transformative exercise that will foster the magic that can happen when you have a senior team aligned towards a common goal.

Amy Lyons


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