Stronger Through Strengths - Annual Team Retreat

Emily Merson


We have had another exciting year at Global Experiences in 2014. I always say that change is constant and again we have seen some changes during the year: new locations, awards, record breaking enrollment, and lots and lots of conferences and campus visits.

I love the thrill of the next challenge, even if it sometimes means turning lemons into lemonade. Now, my lemonade making is at an expert level. I didn’t always feel like this, but the last 13 years has shown me that we always emerge stronger after each adjustment and that our people are what matter most. During times of change or challenge I rely on two of my favorite strengths, Futuristic and Maximizer; I am always hopefully looking to the future and building an amazing castle in the sky to strive towards - it keeps me motivated. The future has not happened yet and in my mind it is full of possible innovations and a more perfect version of what we have now.

The GE Retreat

Fall is always a great time at GE, as it means forward thinking and exciting happenings in the office. The highlight of this season is the Team Retreat, which we have held for the past 5+ years at Camp Letts, a beautiful summer camp on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay about 15 minutes from our office. Our goal for the retreat day is to keep our thinking at the 10,000 foot level and give everyone a chance to be big thinkers.

The retreat serves many purposes for our organization and the day’s agenda is reflective upon what matters most at that time. It has truly become our centering event of the year. In past years we have had high ropes courses, amazing races, and even a few upturned canoes. This year seemed like the right time to "focus on strengths.” It has been a great year for our Strengths-based Career Development programming, as it was honored with a GoAbroad.com Innovation Award for Innovative Programming and was further embedded into all stages of what we do.

Our Strengths-based approach is applied throughout the organization as well, and we use it in our internship programming and for in-house professional development, reviews, and team-building. The day started in small teams put together with complimentary and diverse strengths in mind and carried this focus throughout the day’s activities. Interestingly enough, Achiever is our team’s top strength and we have one person with four strategic strengths and one with four relationship strengths.

During the morning session we were huddled in a freezing but beautiful boat house that had unexpectedly lost power, hence the parkas and gloves in the photos. The session included presentations on the past year and visions for the future from each of the team heads as well as small group discussion topics, while also building stronger relationships and a more effective team dynamic. At each stage we reflected on the strengths used by each of the team members and how we can leverage them more broadly.

In the afternoon we built upon our strengths by focusing on physical and team aspects through competitive games with Carleen from Mantra Fit followed by some hilarious team challenges created by the great Camp Letts staff involving blindfolds, ropes, and found objects.

We closed the day with hot apple cider overlooking the freezing bay, reflecting on the past year and getting excited for the opportunities 2015 has in store for our team. As a people-focused organization, our team members are central to what makes us successful. Days like this allow us to reinforce what matters most and invest in what makes Global Experiences a great place to work.

Team Retreat Takeaways

Jessica - “The main themes that tied the day together seemed to be experiences, challenges and innovation. There were a lot of experiences that pushed us to innovate - new roles were also highlighted to focus on our strengths and skills to maximize them!”

Mike -"Moving into a new role, I'm truly privileged to - along with the rest of GE - play a large part in the development and launch of a new product that will allow us to take one of the things we do best (personally invest in the future of young professionals through career development) and expand upon it. In addition, the role I will be undertaking with our participants allows me to truly help shape their professional future, and is one I am honored to have."

Chrissie - "I was reminded that our company is very flexible and able to adapt and adjust roles in order to address the demands of a situation.”

Melissa - "Looking ahead the team will continue to capitalize on new relationships and build the ever-growing pipeline of partners. What a great team!”

Harrison - "Excellent retreat!  Hearing from everyone got me really excited about the future, both near and long-term, of our incredibly awesome little company.  I'm very thankful to be here."

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