Walsh King hosted its annual retreat in late September at Three Bars Ranch in beautiful Cranbrook, B.C. to mark the firm’s 40th anniversary. The team enjoyed three unforgettable days of adventure, connection (safe, outside) and delicious meals.
The history of our retreat begins about 20 years ago, when the partners at the time introduced it to promote team building and professional development. The first retreat resembled your typical professional seminar: a day of presentations and all-you-can-eat buffets at a local hotel—the Metropolitan—located a few doors south of our office. Subsequent retreats included two-nights in Whistler with both a social and professional program. The annual “Whistler Retreat” would also include all team members—professional and administration.
In recent years, we’ve mostly focused on employee experience and client service. We host lively roundtable discussions on topics such as Staff Likes and Dislikes and Enhancing the Client Experience. We also include a variety of presentations on soft and technical skills, which allows us to share knowledge and boost our presentation skills in a friendly environment.
Afternoons and evenings are all about team building, whether it’s a games night, an adventurous activity or a meal out together. In Whistler, the group has sometimes been known to end up at Garfinkel’s or Buffalo Bill’s, but that was never on the official agenda…
For the past 18 months, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, travel bans and restrictions on large gatherings have paused in-person events like these. Last year’s retreat was much smaller and resembled those from the early days (local hotel conference room), with the addition of masks and physical distancing.
During a regular year, Walsh King constantly encourages team members to connect with each other through organized events and organic exchanges. We knew that as soon as it was safe, we’d bring back in-person gatherings.
Our latest retreat took months of planning while we carefully monitored the pandemic. Once restrictions eased and we were confident that we could host a safe gathering for our team for the first time in over a year, we organized an event unlike anything we’ve done in the past, with a new format and location.
We made that change to celebrate the firm’s 40th anniversary but also to recognize our team’s hard work and dedication during these unprecedented and challenging times. One positive outcome of the pandemic was learning how deeply staff value our investment in the human aspects of work.
The new retreat format focused on connecting and reconnecting after a year of disruption. We replaced presentations and roundtables with exciting activities, flex time and a few firm-focused presentations. There were only four rules:
- Interact with colleagues outside of your department.
- Try to learn at least one new thing about a team member.
- Don’t fall off your horse.
- Have fun!
The retreat was a success on all fronts, and we achieved our underlying goal of safely forging bonds and making genuine connections amongst our team.
A few highlights and insights:
- No amount of time spent on a Peloton during lockdown will prevent you from falling off a mountain bike.
- Our relationship with Twinkies is complicated.
- There’s a strong divide between staff members who iron their bedsheets and those who don’t.
- Our shared hidden talent is line dancing (thank you, high-school Phys Ed!).
- We have some horse enthusiasts in our midst.
- There’s a little cowboy (or cowgirl) in each of us.
Special thanks to the Beckley family and staff (animals included) at Three Bars Ranch, who went above and beyond for our group. We knew this trip would be special, but the Three Bars team made it exceptional.
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