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Sometimes the best way to reconnect with your teammates is to disconnect from work.
This is the second year I’ve had the chance to join my team of hard workers at the annual 9 Clouds team retreat. From what I can tell, retreats have become a vital part of our business.
Last year, we hopped into three vehicles and ventured to Omaha. Since the trip ended up being so successful (read about it here!), we decided to do something big this year. We knew our team would grow, as would our clientele. So to reward ourselves for all our hard work, we decided to do something big this year. Yuuuuge.
We put our heads together, made a list of destinations, and voted on . . . RAPID CITY. Because hey, what better way to celebrate our South Dakota-based business than to stay here and embrace our home state?
The Road to the Ranch
After driving hours across the state, stopping for burritos, jamming to tunes, and sharing stories (including some embarrassing ones), we finally made it to “The Ranch,” our home for the next few days.
Nestled in the landscape of Custer State Park, we found ourselves at a beautiful cabin along a horse ranch with a giant backyard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clearer sky — and the weather was perfect!
We explored the ins and outs of our temporary home as we waited for our teammates to settle in and ready ourselves for the first item on the trip itinerary: a hike in the park.
A Hike Along Sylvan Lake
We began our hike along the peaceful waters of Sylvan Lake and gradually worked our way through the trails. A few of us hadn’t seen each other in months (since some of us work remotely), so we had plenty to catch up on.
Some shared previous hiking stories, others accidentally ripped their pants, and I brainstormed trip hashtag ideas. #CusterOfClouds
Again, the weather that day could not have been more perfect. And nobody tripped or got injured (other than one poor pair of pants) — so I'd say the hike was a great success. Just look at how happy we are in that photo above!
Dinner at Sage Creek Grill
After the hike, we went back to The Ranch and enjoyed each other’s company until our dinner reservation at the wonderful Sage Creek Grill.
Oh my, was this an outstanding meal. We wined and dined like one big, happy family. Sitting shoulder to shoulder and simply being still after a long day of movement brought about kind, insightful, passionate, and just plain silly conversations.
I had forgotten how much I truly enjoy the company of my team members. We’re all very motivated to do good work, and we’re proud of 9 Clouds. Due to our unique set of backgrounds and personalities, plus day-to-day work stress, we naturally disagree and sometimes butt heads in the office.
But sitting there next to my fellow clouds, I was reminded of why I come to work every day — to be a part of this awesome team and to do good work.
Stop, Facilitate, and Listen
After breakfast the next day, we sat around the living room with Post-its and pens at hand, ready to engage and participate the facilitating session.
Our brilliant facilitator created the workshop framed around Dr. Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability. Brené is a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, as well as a #1 New York Times bestselling author. She has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.
Vulnerability holds the key to emotional intimacy — the purest form of communication. We went around the room and discussed examples of vulnerability and what we think about it.
Surprisingly, we found out that most of us see vulnerability as a weakness, rather than a strength. We each acknowledged this and expressed ourselves in one of the most intimate and thought-provoking conversations I have had in my lifetime.
After this groundbreaking discussion, we took a close look at the work we do at 9 Clouds. We did a group SWOT analysis, which helped us narrow our company's efforts into three main goals we want to achieve before our next retreat.
When we wrapped up the facilitating, I remember leaving the room feeling cleansed and closer to my coworkers than ever before.
#CusterOfClouds Back at the Office
Most of us want to work in a friendly environment free of ridicule and judgement.
It's okay to demonstrate vulnerability or show emotions in the workplace. Doing so makes it easier to share new ideas in meetings and challenge old ways of thinking.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” –Dr. Brené Brown
About a month has gone by since the retreat, and I can feel a difference within the office and during meetings with our remote workers. Openness and communication are two of our strongest qualities at 9 Clouds.
Through the good and the bad, I know we will have each other’s backs, and I’m excited to see what we will achieve next year!
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