In organizations like the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), everyone in a group attends an annual retreat together. Recently one of my clients (whose Visionary is a member of YPO) decided they wanted to emulate this practice. So, as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization, naturally, they chose to do their two-day annual meeting as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
They planned the itinerary so that we could hold the first day of the annual meeting on a Monday. Just like regular annual sessions, they built in downtime… only instead of one evening, they took two full days to tour the city. (That’s where the bus comes in.) The final day of the annual session was on Thursday.
During those two days on the bus, I witnessed magic happen with this team. It was like a supercharged exercise of The Trust Builders™. I could revise history to say this was all intentional, aka bashert (or “preordained” in Yiddish), but you’re too savvy to believe that.
Why the Bus Mattered
You can tell with most business leaders that doing a full-day session followed by dinner makes them tired. They can’t do their best work without time to process (and sleep). So the extra time this team built between sessions made a difference.
We kept moving during the “downtime” days since it was meant to be an immersion trip – which also meant there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in the agenda. We’d have an early breakfast and hop straight on the bus. No one had time to get distracted by work.
Plus, since Israel is six hours ahead of New York City, attendees couldn’t check in at the office, especially in the morning. And since the itinerary had us going places and doing things nonstop, they couldn’t sit and work on the bus. The leadership team unintentionally became a captive audience for each other without any disruptions and worked on the business on the bus!
Impromptu conversations just started happening. The leaders had obviously been mulling things over and would offer suggestions to one another about issues raised on Day 1.
Basically, they (subconsciously) worked on the business… while on this Clarity Break™ of sorts.
To be clear, I didn’t facilitate or teach at all. I was merely an observer. They fired off whatever was on their minds.
The synergy from those two days spilled into the session on Thursday. Team health was off the charts. They were engaged, energized, and on the same page.
They had such a great time with it that they started calling it Bus Talk. They joked about getting a bus to ride around in and talk when they got back to the office.
The beauty of this experience, of course, is you don’t have to visit an exotic location to improve your company’s team health or improve leadership team synergy. All you really need to do is create a relaxed, distraction-free zone and give leaders a chance to let issues marinate a bit.
Soon after they returned home, they started discussing the next year, deciding whether to return to Jerusalem, explore Marrakech, or visit some other foreign port.
The key is they don’t want to try to re-create what happened this year. That’ll take the magic out of The Bus. They need a sense of novelty and wonder to keep those creative Bus Talk juices flowing.
The magic came because, while on the bus, the leadership team was “in flow.” They were challenged to use their skills, and they weren’t bored. Plus, with the whole team there, everyone who could execute actions from the Bus Talks was already on the bus.
If your team feels stuck, might I suggest you take a ride on a (metaphorical) bus?