Episode: 65 |
Susan Drumm:
Facilitating a High-Impact Offsite:



Susan Drumm

Facilitating a High-Impact Offsite

Show Notes

Our guest today is Umbrex member Susan Drumm, a CEO Advisor and Leadership Coach with over 20 years of experience coaching entrepreneurs and executives.

Susan got her start in consulting at BCG, and she is the only person I know who has graduated from both Harvard Law School and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Susan often facilitates off-site sessions for her clients, and in this episode she shares with me a set of best practices for making off-sites successful – including how to prepare, what a good agenda looks like, tips on facilitation, and how to ensure the benefits are captured.

Later in the episode she shares useful tips for staying focused and organized.

Susan believes that her professional career is a natural offshoot of her own interest in leadership and self-improvement, and says, “If you would read a book or attend a conference on the subject matter that is your profession, and you would do it without getting paid because you want to, because you’re so interested, you’re in the right field.”

You can find more about Susan’s practice on her firm’s website: meritageleadership.com

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Will Bachman: Hello Susan, it is great to have you on the show.
Susan Drumm: I’m very happy to be here. Thanks so much.
Will Bachman: We have a ton to talk about. I’m so psyched to have you on the show. You know, we got the new year coming up and you have written a blog post titled, The Anecdote to New Year’s Resolutions. Talk to us a little bit about your anecdote.
Susan Drumm: Yes, so I wrote this back in, I think it was 2014 or 2015, about how I plan for the next year, and thinking through how that’s different than I used to. So many of us start New Year’s Day listing all the ways we think we can be better, or thinner, or more productive, and the things we should stop doing. Usually by the time February rolls around we’ve given up on eating kale 30 times a week or hitting the weight room five times a week or whatever, and we’re right back where we started. Right? It’s a typical pattern.
Back in 2011, my friend and I decided to do something different and it’s something that I now do every year. Instead of a list of dos, do more yoga or clean out a closet each month, or a list of don’ts, we decided just to make more of like a blue-sky list of experiences we’d like to have over the next year.
I wrote that and I called it, Experiences for 2012. I wrote it with a little bit more fun and less attachment. Where would I like to travel? Who did I want to meet? What did I want to really experience in my life?
Ever since I’ve done that what has been pretty amazing is that at least two thirds of the experiences I put on there have come to fruition. Sometimes they don’t come to fruition. One, I had around a financial goal that I’ve had for myself that I started I think about three years ago. It looks like based on the contracts that I’m going to have for this year, and it was a stretch goal, let me tell you, but coming up next year I’m going to hit that mark.
So it’s a very subtle mindset shift around thinking through, what do you want to experience, instead of what you should be doing or not doing? That’s the gist of it. There’s more, I’ve got a whole worksheet that I’ve helped people with. Different categories that they can think about the experiences and language to use, that I’m happy to provide to any of the listeners, if they want to go to the Meritage website contact page and just fill that out and just say, “Hey, I want your worksheet.” I use it myself every year and it’s been powerful.
Will Bachman: Can you tell us about some examples of some of the experiences that you have put on that list and some of the ones that you’ve knocked off and maybe some of the ones that are still on the list?
Susan Drumm: Yes. Well I have to find where my list is, but the one I told you on the financial piece, I would say where it first blew me away, and this is what I blogged about is, I wanted to travel abroad to places and I put down specific words, like Italy, Croatia, Bali and China. Just those would be really … I was thinking maybe I’d go to one of those places because the prior five years I hadn’t traveled much internationally and I really missed it. I thought maybe, these are different places I would be interested in.
Long story, short, at the end of the day I actually that year went to all four of those places in very strange turn of events where I hadn’t planned on it. Even when the China one, I ended up going to Hong Kong and didn’t even put it together like, “Actually I did go to China then.” That’s after really not leaving the country for five years, so that’s how powerful … That’s just one example of how it could work well.
Will Bachman: Yeah, there’s a certain magic of writing things down. You mentioned your website, let’s just make sure we mention that. What’s the address for people who want to go and find that sheet?
Susan Drumm: Yes. It’s meritageleadership.com. So that’s, M-E-R-I-T-A-G-E leadership.com.
Will Bachman: What’s with the word, Meritage? What’s the background of that?
Susan Drumm: I came up with the name because it reflects my background and what I believe leadership development is, and strong leadership is about, which is about having the right balance and blend of your gifts and talents, and not overusing strengths, but using them to the best capabilities, and making sure you’re balancing them with the things that you need to work on.
It really is about … some people use the term, meritage or meritage, I say, “Meritage” is a blend of red wine, and I’m a big wine drinker. I love red wine. Love white wine, and so that’s where the name came from, but I blended my background, which is fairly unique in terms of law school, then BCG strategy work. Then into Six Sigma. Then into getting a Masters in Drama from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, being an actress for two years, and pulling it all together in the leadership development work I do now.
So never had I imagined all those things would come together in the way that they do, but they do, and so I found a way to use all of that and balance it in a way that could share my gifts to the world, and that’s what I believe ab leadership, and that’s where the name comes from.
Will Bachman: We talked that we would get into off-sites, and some of your work facilitating off-sites. Before we get into that, can you just give us an overview of your practices and then we can plan to do a deep dive on how to run a successful off-site?
Susan Drumm: Yeah, so I focus on creating effective leaders, and that essentially has three components to it, either I’m working with senior leaders in leadership development programs. Usually C-Suite, SVP or MD, and VP level, designing what are the cultural shifts? What are the mindset shifts? What is the skill development that needs to happen in order to allow organizations either to effectively scale and grow other leaders, or to make the key transitions in their business that align with their strategies and goals? So making sure that the people are set up in the right way to produce the business outcomes that they need. So that’s kind of one primary piece, which is around senior leaders.
The other piece is around working with teams and senior teams, so what I call, the team alignment work, and really teams are where the magic can really happen or the dysfunction can really happen, and so helping a team transition from some of its elements of dysfunction into a high-performing team is a second area of work that I spend some time doing.
The third area that I focus on is developing programs that can then be pushed down through the organization in a more virtual format, I call the Rising Stars Program, and that’s where I’ve now worked with senior leaders. They want to bring some of the materials to their direct reports, managing directors, first-time leaders and they need some skill building. So I deliver that content on a more webinar online format. Those are the three main areas that I focus on.
Will Bachman: Okay, so you’re not just an off-sites all the time kind of person, but it sounds like it’s one piece of your quiver. Tell me a little bit about the types of off-sites that you would run?
Susan Drumm: Yeah. Just to your comment, yeah, I’ll do a combination. I still do a little bit one-on-one coaching, but mostly I have a team of coaches that I use in developing the programs. A part of the work is in off-sites because that’s where the conversations happen, but a lot of it is around the developing also the content that I think what most of my clients say, is that I’m able to really make the esoteric actionable, and they have a clear direction of how do I make this shift? What is a system or process I can put in place that would make that happen?
So those are sort of the arenas, but designing and facilitating off-site is something that I’ve been doing since 2002, so a long time of being a facilitator, and I feel like I’ve had every single thing thrown at me that I could ever imagine, so I’ve built up a good knowledge of kind of what works and what doesn’t in that capacity.
Will Bachman: How would you classify the different types of off-sites? Are there some kind of high level kingdom or phyla that you can walk us through?
Susan Drumm: Yeah, so one that many may be familiar with is a strategy off-site. So this is where you bring, let’s say a senior leadership team together to define, what are our goals, let’s say for 2018 and 2020? How will we go about accomplishing them? What are our strategic priorities as result of that? Or perhaps we bring a senior team together to deal with a specific issue facing their business or a potential disruption and how the senior team really works through … I kind of call them, pure strategy off-sites. That’s one.
The second is around team alignment work, so similar to what I mentioned before. If the what we do is focused on the strategy, the how we operate as a team is a bit more specialized, and so how are we going to operate in order to achieve that strategy?
Then the third type of off-site that I’ll run is the kind of pure leadership development, again we’re focused a little bit on skill building and some of the challenges that people may encounter as they lead a team, and growing themselves as an individual leader. So it’s kind of a little bit more individual focused.
Will Bachman: I think we wanted to spend most of our time talking about strategy off-site, but before we get onto that one, I’m a little unclear of the difference between a team alignment off-site and a leadership development one. Can you paint a picture for me of what a leadership development off-site would look like? Is it leaders all from the same organization or different organizations? Just walk me through what one would look like.
Susan Drumm: Yeah.
Will Bachman: Yeah.
Susan Drumm: Yeah, so usually I work with cohorts of about eight to 10 leaders. They could be from different teams across the business, but usually of the same level. So let’s say a group of eight SVPs come together and we’ll be focusing on, based on some diagnostic work that I would do about what needs to shift and where the development could happen, let’s say, it may be around how to give effective feedback that actually moves the needle on performance, or how to better manage conflict, or everything to how to … all the performance management issues around, how do we manage performance in our organization?
So it’s a little bit more, they come into this thinking more individually, “This is the training and development, and discussions I’m going to have about how I do this, sharing this with other leaders about how I’m doing this to get some consistency across the board in different parts the organization” but also learning some of the best practices on those pieces on how to do that.
That’s more individual, whereas, with the team alignment, I’m working with a team that’s been working together for, let’s say anywhere from three to several years and we’re working through how they operate effectively or ineffectively as a team. Does that make sense?
Will Bachman: It does. The leadership development, you might have peers in the room, but it’s not so much about how they work together with each other, it’s more about how are they working with their direct reports and being a leader for their group?
Susan Drumm: Yes.
Will Bachman: As peers, they might be sharing advice, or so forth. You’ve told me once before that on this leadership development place, it’s not one that you just want to jump in as a generalist. It’s a little bit … I think you told me before, a bit like doing marriage counseling and just trying to go into that without a certificate or formal training, because you can really get into some touchy subjects. Could you elaborate on that?
Susan Drumm: Yeah, I mean I think, unless you have done this for a living or studied it for a while, I don’t recommend just diving into that piece, because you can really uncover that and to some degree, some of the team alignment. It’s a little bit like, sometimes I use this phrase, “I’m a marriage counselor for business.” Because often maybe if there’s team conflict I might be brought into mediate, which brings some of my legal background in, but without having that training it can get a little bit challenging to run, because you’ll find yourself quickly in over your head around how to handle blowups or conflict that’s happening right in the room.
Some of the best team alignment and leadership development work really gets people to open about their biggest challenges and struggles, and so you’ve got be able to create the right conditions, the safety in the room to have that conversation, and be able to handle let’s say, if there is a conflict among peers and team members, how you expertly facilitate that so it doesn’t become one of them storming out of the room and that kind of going south.
That’s why I say that, because otherwise you’re just talking about surface issues, which won’t leave the lasting meaning that really happens. What I like to think is, I’m creating a space for some of the more difficult conversations that need to happen in the room, creating that space and facilitating so that we get through productive resolution and new agreements for how people work together.
Will Bachman: Could you give some examples of those types of conflicts or tough discussions that happen in a team alignment session? What are the types of things that can come up?
Susan Drumm: Primarily people like to say, “Well I just don’t trust that person.” We’re addressing fundamental issues around trust and how to build trust. Usually it’s about breaking of agreements. “Your team said they’d deliver x, y, z to my team and repeatedly you’re behind schedule with no warning. Now we’re looking bad on the work we’re doing and we can’t deliver.”
Those are the types of things, but if I could elevated it to a high level it’s about the breakdown of trust, and not being crisp and clear on setting what does an agreement look like? How to modify agreements as business conditions change How to proactively engage in conversation to make sure that you’re maintaining trust and building trust.
Will Bachman: What are some of the things that you do to create that safe space or to address and mitigate that conflict when it does arise?
Susan Drumm: It depends on where I am on the lifecycle with the group. If there’s already some groundwork laid, usually I always start … and what I mean by that is, I like to start talking a bit about ground rules that need to happen in the room and getting alignment with the group about how we’re going to work together going forward, whether in any off-site frankly.
These are simple things from letting everyone share the airways to the Vegas Rule, “What we discuss stays in here.” Why we need to keep confidentiality, but they can be other things that the team say, that they want to feel free to express where they have challenges without being judged. It depends on what the group is.
I think how I address it is, before you even get into the topics, talking about what are the conditions that the team feels needs to be present in order to be able to go there? That’s usually a great discussion in of itself that lays the groundwork to have that happen.
There may be like skill building things on how to listen in a way that you don’t just cut the other person off. How to participate in a way that’s inclusive, those types of things. So I usually do, there’s a little bit of skill building prior to getting into those conversations. Setting the stage, let’s say.
Will Bachman: Okay. Let’s talk about strategy off-sites. A lot of listeners of the show probably have run one or two before, or a dozen, or may in the future. Talk me through the lifecycle of a strategy off-site? How do you prepare for one? Walk me through what one looks like. Then the follow-up, help educate me here on some best practices.
Susan Drumm: Yeah. It would be so interesting to hear, just as you said that, like occurred to me is, I wonder if we had callers calling in, “What worked in a strategy off-site for you and what didn’t work? I’d love to address that.
Obviously, and this is true for any off-site, but some of the big picture pieces and then specifically to strategy off-sites. Preparation is key and I like to think that at this point for every hour of facilitation, I’ve invested probably two hours of preparation in getting the meeting together.
What that starts with is first understanding what is the current state of affairs or current reality for the participants that are in the room? To understand the current reality I’m either doing interviews or survey-based tool to figure out what is the organization or the team most proud of and where are the biggest challenges that they’re facing?
At a high level, you need to do some research about where the current reality is. Secondly, you need to work on your, I call it, the design, or other people would call, the agenda. The agenda design, and understanding, getting really clear what the overarching objective and let’s say, sub-objectives are for each piece of that.
Then as part of the preparation, reviewing that with the leader to get buy-in, and discuss what their role will be and how you need them to show up in order to be successful. Those, I just kind of paused there, but that’s if you have questions around the prep part of what needs to occur.
Will Bachman: One question is almost the most basic, which is, how do you define strategy and what framework do you use? I use this framework that I just shamelessly lifted from Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley, of what is winning? Where do you play? How do you win? How do we get there? I’m curious what does the output of a strategy off-site look like? What do you define as strategy, Susan?
Susan Drumm: Usually that comes out of what are the biggest issues? What must the team address in a coming year in order to be successful? What does success look like? So I usually spend time on kind of the what is success? What is positive? Defining what that is and making sure … to me a strategy off-site is, let’s all get on the same page about what are we here to do? What is winning? Just like you said, what does that look like? Then what could potentially get in our way of doing that or what is getting in our way of doing that? How do we address that?
Sometimes it’s we’re not clear on the value proposition. We’re not clear on who we want to be and who we want to serve, and how we want to serve them. It could go any number of fingers or directions based on what you get from it, but ultimately for me, it’s setting the course and direction for the firm or company.
Will Bachman: Okay. What’s the agenda for the strategy off-site look like typically?
Susan Drumm: First I would say regarding facilitation, a couple of tips is, I always like to have any logistics handled by the client, including define for them the room set up that you want, but meals, location, getting the flip charts, whatever else needs to happen, just give them your requirements and let them sort that out.
I’m not an event planner, it might feel like it, but you’re best served with your brainpower, not on doing that type of work, but on designing it. In terms of an agenda or a design, usually I start with the leader, always asking the reader to kick it off, and the leader to say a few words about why we’re here today? What they hope happens as a result? Why they brought in an outside resource to help facilitate and a little bit of the background?
Also, it allows the leader to make requests, like what you can count on for me in this, the next day or next two days and what I request of you. How I want you to show up. So I usually have the leader open up with that type of topic anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes that they focus on. That’s step one.
Will Bachman: Great.
Susan Drumm: Then we get into clarity on the agenda. You’d be surprised how many people just want to … When I say by, “Agenda” what I’m really talking about is targets. I really focus and I write everything in the form of a target, meaning, “By the end of this meeting we will have accomplished what? Not an agenda, which is just a sequence of activities, which is, first we’re going to have this discussion, then this discussion and this discussion. That’s great, but what are we hoping to accomplish? What’s the outcome?
So getting clarity on the target or outcome, it takes as long as it needs to take, because without that clarity about what we’re here to do, there’s no point in diving in. In fact, I even often send that out in advance saying, “This is our target.” Making sure like, “Have any thoughts. If you want to be covering something else or you think the meeting should have a different objective I want to know now.” Obviously before I get in the room, and so I just realign on what.
What that does for you is allow you to, if the meeting starts to veer off course, you’ve just now gotten permission that this is our target. So that leads us into the next stage of what you do in facilitation, which is set up the ground rules, which I already mentioned, which is asking permission, if it goes off course, going to do that.
Will Bachman: Sorry, before we get to ground rules, just on ground those targets, a fascinating idea, can you give me some examples of what would some good, useful targets look like? What would some poorly written ones look like?
Susan Drumm: Yes. For instance, I would say, “By the end of this retreat we’ll create an aligned vision and improve our working relationships in service of building a unique firm.” That could be, that’s like a more strategy. Then the steppingstones would be focusing on, “By the end of this section we’ll align on a vision for the partnership. By the end of this section we’re going to make new commitments on how we work together.”
So they’re focusing on by, “In this section we’re going to clarify the structure required to bring the vision to reality, organizational structure.” So it’s really focused on what do you want people to walk away with?
I would say poorly defined targets are ones that describe the how? I’m not interested in the how right here, I’m interested in the, what do you walk away with? So it describes too much like, “We’re going to have a discussion on … a portray would be like, “Our target is to discuss the changes for 2018.” Okay? How do we know we’ve been there? To what outcome? It’s not specific enough. Just to discuss doesn’t tell me what we’re orienting ourselves towards the end result of the discussion.
This is true I would say, just linking it back to the first part of our conversation, it’s also frankly how I write when I do my experiences that I would have, as though I’ve already had them, it’s already accomplished. There’s something about visualizing the crossing of the finish line and what that looks like that we orient your brain towards achieving that outcome, and with more clarity that you can describe what that is, the more likely you can get there.
Will Bachman: Okay. Great. We talked through the leader kicks it off. We talked through targets for each section. What’s sort of the learning objectives, or what do we hope to actually achieve? Then we go with ground rules. Then what comes next?
Susan Drumm: Then I call this piece, it’s a phrase I’ve used, that I learned from someone else I think, it was called, Getting To A, which if you want to go from point A to point B, a lot of times we’ve just been very clear on what point B is, but actually we’re all not on the same A, we’re all not clear. We all have different perspectives on where we are today. So there’s an exploration of what is the current reality and aligning, so we have a shared picture of what that current reality is?
The way I go about that is, usually sharing some aspects of the interviews or survey that I’ve already collected. It’s basically, find a way for people to discuss things and aligning on where we are today, so that we can get clear and aligned on that before we decide how we’re going to get to B.
Will Bachman: So get clarity and alignment on what the current state is?
Susan Drumm: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Will Bachman: Okay. What’s next?
Susan Drumm: Exactly. As for strategy facilitation, it’s some form of exploration around what are … if you just use the old model of strengths, weaknesses. Then internally focused, on what our strengths? What are our weaknesses? Then looking externally, what are opportunities and threats facing us? Breaking up, usually … it depends on the size of the team, but often all have sub-teams break up and really explore what those are.
Come to an alignment and then present back to the group for larger discussion soo that people can get clear the target of doing that work is to say, “Are there certain strengths that we can leverage going forward in order to get to be our end state? What are the opportunities that we have in front of us to help us with that? ”
Then a little focus, I like to focus their first, obviously, but then some focus on what could potentially get in our way of that, both internally and externally of achieving it? Is there something we need to do to focus or readjust in order to make that happen? That’s a whole deep dive discussion around where we are today and what we have in front of us.
Will Bachman: What do you suggest bringing to an off-site in terms of the fact base of the current state? Do you ask the client to bring all the management reports, or to do some research ahead of time, so that you are all working off the same page?
Susan Drumm: Yeah. It’s great to think through what prep work could I give to the group prior to coming in? Are there certain articles you want them to read, or are there certain pieces of information that you think need to be present and relevant in the room based on your interviews and what shows up? Sometimes I’ve asked individuals to be like, “Yes you might want to bring the report that you did.”
They brought up in the interview, “I did this report on what our competitor is doing and no one paid attention to it, but there’s some really serious things we need to address.” “Great. Would you bring that report in and perhaps be prepared to discuss what are the two, three key takeaways to integrate that into our conversation?”
Will Bachman: You’ve talked about the current state. When you’re asking about the current state, can you do a deep dive on that? What are the questions that you’re asking? You don’t have to say, “Hey, where are we at today?” What would some of the specific questions that you’d ask to fill that out?
Susan Drumm: As I’m thinking through this question, I’ve done it a number of different ways. I’m thinking through, “What are different ways I can describe?” It’s not much of a rocket science. Honestly, believe it or not, you can dive into and have a really robust discussion just by going through and saying, “What are two to threes differentiating strengths that our firm brings to the marketplace?” There’s a group that’s literally discussing that. Right?
Then maybe they’re also saying, “What are two to three opportunities that we see are possibilities for us to pursue based on those strengths?” That would be a team that’s focused again on strengths and opportunities. You don’t want to give too many questions to the group, just those types of high-level questions, they’ll form out of that their aligned opinions around that.
More of that is then bringing it to the group to discuss, to determine what’s most important to focus on? That’s where you’re facilitating, to hone in on, I always try to just give numbers. “What are the two to three things that are most important for us to focus on?” as a result of those discussions. They’re similar type questions for kind of, “Where are our challenges internally and what are our threats externally?”
Will Bachman: Often, in my experience a client will have multiple growth opportunities, different adjacent spaces that they’ve considered. I would imagine part of the goal of a strategy off-site is to get some clarity around which ones they’re going to pursue, but you don’t just make these mass, big decisions based on kind of gut intuition.
In some cases would have a business case and have thought through the economics and have some rationale, so how do you get to that in a one or two day off-site? Do some of these things need to get kicked back a month-long business case, or has that work already been done?
Susan Drumm: It could be. It could be either in either way. Let’s say, the work hasn’t been done, whereas using this off-site to identify what our strategic opportunities are, that are going to require some more research and business case. Out of that, we would hone in on, let’s say, what are the top three that we’re going to explorer or four, whatever based on the scope of them?
Then identify task forces out of the group that are going to go away and do that research and get clear on what the outcome is that they’re going to come back with on a follow-up off-site. So I’ve done it that way when it requires a bit more.
Sometimes there’s already … it’s more about we need to come to decision on alignment. We’ve done the research. We’ve done it and we actually need to hone in and get the alignment in the group. It depends on where the group is at the time.
Usually if you go the task force route, I think it’s really important, I usually try to provide a worksheet that has some clarity on the key questions I want the group … it’s sort of overall chartering of like, this is what they have to … I spend some time in the off-site with the breakout teams focusing on, “Here is what we’re explicitly stating, what we’re going to be doing, how we’re going to be doing it. What’s the cadence of meetings to get us there? What is the resources we’re going to need to accomplish our objectives?”
It’s just a simple worksheet, but together as a group they use that, and then report back to the main group before the off-site ends so that we always want to be clear when we’re talking about wrap up, “What are the key takeaways? What are the next steps as a result of what we talked about?”
Will Bachman: Any tips around the non-content pieces of this off-site? It could be maybe seemingly trivial, but perhaps you found tips that work really well. Is there a dinner on the evening of the first day? Do you just let people chat, or do you give them some questions to bat around? Is there something that you do in the morning? Is there an icebreaker? I’m curious if there’s things that you’ve picked up that really work well surrounding the actual strategy discussion itself?
Susan Drumm: Yeah. Part of that is how well does the group know each other, if they know each other really well, or not very well? Let’s say, they know each other, and they’ve been working together, which usually in a strategy off-site that would be the case. I usually … having a dinner the night before is ideal because it allows a different shift, frame of mind, much more social. Allows for a little bit more bonding to get into the questions that we’re going to have the next day. So a dinner before … Sometimes I also say a dinner after is fantastic, if you can do it. If I have to pick one, I’d do the dinner before.
I usually have breakfast in the morning, that’s also again, casual, a chance for people to connect in the room and get their food and have separate tables and do that type of work. Then usually I will do some type of icebreaker. It could be learning something about people in the room that they don’t know.
One I just recently used was, the company has a very strong social mission, so I decided to use an icebreaker for them to share with a partner what is one charity that they support or find meaningful and share that with the group? The requirement was that the partner had to share on the behalf of the other person, so it tests they’re listening skills a little bit and gets them in that frame of mind of how they need to listen. Those are just some examples of what I do.
Will Bachman: Yeah. What would the output of this one or two day off-site look like?
Susan Drumm: The output would be what we aligned on as the target, so that’s what you’re working towards, and that could be a gazillion different things, based on whatever it is. Usually it’s at a high terms, it’s new agreements for how we’re going to work together. It could be new skills and takeaways, or in terms of a strategy off-site it’s clarity on two strategic options we’re going to pursue, or the three task forces we’ve set up to explore our three best options for how we move the organization forward. So it could be any one of those key takeaways.
Will Bachman: Then closing out the off-site discussion, what’s the follow-up look like? What’s your support to the client typically after everybody drives home?
Susan Drumm: I always have a debrief meeting with the leader to find out their thoughts about the meeting. What happened they were pleased with? Things that they feel like are the next step, so where the focus is? Usually I’m supporting the task forces with the process, facilitating, making sure that they’re following through on what they need to do. Then setting up, when is the next time that we get back together to now see those findings? Again, get to decision on what happens next?
Will Bachman: I want to ask you now about a different topic. As someone who is so thoughtful about leadership development. You write about that, and you think about that a lot, I’m interested in how you think about your own professional development? How do you personally get better over time? Love to hear about either courses or reading, or just specific skills that you identify for yourself. Just broadly how do you stake out some goals and or do you at all? How do you work on getting better?
Susan Drumm: I think I’m in this field because I personally have such an interest in it for myself as well. I’ve always been someone … The career I’ve chosen is so perfectly suited for me because I always said, “If you would read a book or attend a conference on the subject matter that is your profession, and you would do it without getting paid because you want to, because you’re so interested, you’re in the right field.”
I would say, that’s so true for me. I would say my vacations are tied up with always some sorts of professional personal development as well. I like to go to my own retreats and off-site, and now I’m a participant I get to see one, how other people facilitate. I get to explore content that might be out of the realm of what I would do in the corporate world, and some cases in the corporate world.
Some examples, I just went to two conferences … Sometimes they’re conferences, sometimes they’re trainings. One on the, enneagram, that’s a tool I use to help leaders understand their leadership style. I do my own work, around my own leadership style with that, which is called, the Enthusiastic Visionary. I’ll do a retreat based on the own work that I need to do, but also helps me in learning what others need to do, based on other types when they’re there. So it’s all mixes together, again that kind of blend concept.
I went to a Leadership Circle conference, which is another tool that I use, an assessment 360 tool. Then sometimes I’ll go to … I just attended one of these pretty amazing conferences called, The Summit, where it was everything from incredible speakers, to yoga, to healthy eating, to craft. I would say, I like combining my vacations and retreats, specifically, I would say that’s the primary place I do it.
I also listen to Audible and download books when I have free moments. I listened to books on recordings and I also work with my own coaches. I have a business coach. I have a more spiritually focused coach. I’m in this work for myself as well, I guess I would say, bottom line.
Will Bachman: So you’re a true believer in the value of having a leadership development coach, and you have your own?
Susan Drumm: Yeah.
Will Bachman: You get a tremendous amount done, and I’m always struggling for ideas on personally how to be more effective and productive. I’m always interested in how successful people like yourself manage your day, manage your week, manage your to-do list. Can you talk about that, about how you get things done?
Susan Drumm: Yeah. I really try to focus. I would say the number one thing is to hire the right people around you to get help. So I got to eat my own cooking there. Always trying to see, what can I delegate? What’s on my plate that only I can do? What else, can I bring others in? If I don’t have the resources I start searching for that resource.
How I manage my own time is usually a bit more focused on like, what are the key deliverables for the month? What needs to happen? I usually do sort of a little bit of month view and a week view, and a day view. It’s not that complicated but I also color-code my calendar based on if you look at coaching is yellow, when I’m actually in a coaching call. Internal project management is red. Business development is orange.
I can kind of get a sense as I just glance at my week, what my week looks like. It also helps me, I do believe that you need to group. Try your best to group certain activities on the same day. I’ll try to schedule a lot of my coaching calls on the same day, like the business development, where I can on the same day and the project admin on a different day, and the content development for a different day.
It doesn’t always work that way, but I do believe that if you can stay in the same frame of mind … It depends if it works for you. Some people need the variety and the constant switching, For me, I like the focus.
Will Bachman: Yeah, that batching brings productivity?
Susan Drumm: Yeah.
Will Bachman: Then you mentioned some mindfulness and diet, and so forth. I think about independent professionals as business athletes. What do you do to stay fit?
Susan Drumm: One is, exercise is a big component of my life. I would say sometimes bigger than I think most people realize, because I’m in my head so much, but I have a lot of energy and I feel like I have to do something for my body every day. I have to do it usually first thing in the morning or the rest of the day gets away from me.
I’ll get up early and I’ll go either do spin or Pilates, or even if let’s say, I have an off-site that day and I can’t do those classes, I’ll just take 10 minutes and stretch, so that’s for the body, but I also do a meditation practice. I do a Vedic meditation practice, without fail, 20 minutes in the morning, as soon as I get up, which is a mantra based medication.
I’m also supposed to do it in the afternoon for 20 minutes, and I have to say that’s where I kind of fall off the wagon a little bit, doesn’t always happen, but when I do, it’s usually my better meditation as well. I think those are the key things that keep me going.
Will Bachman: Well, you have such an amazing practice and a great website with a lot of content, just remind people to go to, we said, it’s meritageleadership.com, is that right?
Susan Drumm: That’s right.
Will Bachman: All right. Great. So check out Susan’s website. Susan, I see here our time is wrapping up. This was great insight on how to run off-sites. I’ve picked up some great tips, and I can’t thank you for being on the show.
Susan Drumm: Well thank you so much. I really appreciated talking through it, and hope it was valuable for some of your listeners out there, so thank you.

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