A Pirate Raid can reboot your team!

Building teams and maintaining high productivity is crazy hard and crazy rewarding.   My all time favorite team reboot was having a pirate raid and so I thought I would share a few highlights of why a pirate raid and what it did for my team.

First, lets discuss why Pirates are such fantastic and effective teams!

  1. Ruthlessly driven and dedicated to achieving their goals – get the treasure.
  2. Highly enthusiastic, visionary leaders that get everyone in the crew fired up to participate in the plan
  3. Self governed by a strong a code of ethics where loyalty and trust are critical
  4. The enemy is very clearly on the outside – the other ship, on land, “them”
  5. Fun is always involved at the end of the journey – Party!

Second, when do you need to have a pirate raid?

  • Your team has forgotten their purpose
  • Your team is fighting internally – “them” is “us”
  • You as the leader have lost your enthusiasm and ability to keep the team interested in the mission/vision
  • You and your team are not having fun anymore…

Third, keys to a successful Raid:

A. Block the teams calendar for a whole day, but don’t tell them where they are going. Just to be ready to leave the office on time or else!

B. Find a great open space off site where y’all won’t be “rescued” or interrupted during the day.  (Great food throughout the day is also highly encouraged!)

C. Party Favors – you will need swords, bandanas, gold coins (both chocolate and plastic to take back to the office as a daily reminder)

Eldorado image
D. Get a copy of The Road to El Dorado – the movie by DreamWorks.   Or just show this link from YouTube.The two pirate con men along with Elton John’s great music set the perfect tone for a team finding their way forward.   However there are multiple scenes throughout that are a fun analogy to relying on one another when building a plan as well as executing it!

E.  The days agenda:

Determine what is holding your team back.   Do you need to reboot your brand vision?  annual plans? Innovation funnel?  Competitive war gaming session?  Pick a big, hairy, scary issue and then commit to spending the day solving it with three simple exercises:

Stop! – What are each of you going to stop doing that is blocking you and the team from a break through.   Post as many things as possible big and small.   Simplification of your professional lives often leads to so much greater productivity.  Then BURN everything you have written and posted on the walls.  Throwing these papers into a fire and watching them burn can be highly effectively to letting go of BS that is holding you back.

Keep! – What do you want to keep doing that is helpful and critical to getting to the treasure!  Acknowledge all the great things you have been doing and how they are helping you.   Here I have often paired folks up on the team and have them tell their partner what they are doing that is critical in helping.  So often we don’t even realize all the great things we do that help our team members.   This also builds pride and appreciation for our team mates.   Share everything discovered and build a manifesto wall of all the great things you will continue doing.  Take this back to office and post it somewhere prominently.  Daley reminders after an offsite can help you make it actionable afterwards instead of a one day oasis.

Start! – Wishing “if only we could…” doesn’t become actionable until you commit to doing it.   So wish away all the things you and your team want to expedite your ability to get the treasure and then figure out how to convert them from wishes to new weapons in your arsenol to claim your prize.  Assign each wish to a crew member in charge of making it a reality for the team in the shortest time frame you can challenge yourselves to.  Meet regularly after the offsite and add the new capabilities to your manifesto wall as each new ability comes to fruition.

After my most successful pirate raid, my team worked much more efficiently cross functionally because we appreciated everyone’s contribution better and also had gotten rid of a bunch of BS from the “stop” exercise.   We also had a clearly articulated common mission and easy way to remind each other when we forgot the enemy was “outside”.  You just picked up your sword and asked what crew you team mate thought they were on!
Sounds simple and yet we make is so much harder than is necessary.   Grab your swords and take no prisoners as you build your brands, companies and categories.  Goodness gracious – if you don’t have an interest in fighting fearlessly to get more folks to join your community, walk the plank and jump off the ship!


What pirate raid team building expedition have you found most helpful?  Please share in the comments below!

Published by rfretty

Cheers to happiness, growth and ladybugs!

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