Team Time: Yeah, we got woo woo AF.

Earlier this week the Stoked crew wrapped up a three-day team retreat. We decided to convene in Nashville this year to save some money and keep travel more manageable.
We rented a little Airbnb close to our studio, but also far enough away to keep us from slipping back into work mode. We hired a local chef to create and deliver beautiful meals and snacks to us every morning keeping us satiated and energized. Granola and yogurt, cured salmon on toast with creme fraiche, crispy rice with six and a half minute eggs, etc. We drank lots of water and had a grinder and v60 on hand for making fresh cups of coffee throughout the day.
We brought speakers for ambient background music. We read poetry, essays on the mindfulness of eating, Jacob brought his guitar and played some music. We burned incense and started each day with a ten-minute silent meditation.

It was pretty fucking woo-woo.

We spent day one shooting some video content in the morning and then headed over to our little rental house for the afternoon where we went deep and checked in with each other in a real and personal way. Getting personal allows us to let each other know what’s happening in our own lives so that if we’re acting strangely no one is forced to make up stories about each other. In the absence of information, we tend to generate stories and more often than not, they are worst case scenarios. They are almost never positive.

For day two the intention was reflection. We called this our “rearview” day. We took a good look at the work we did in 2018, the experiments we ran, the clients we worked with, and how we did as a team. This day was particularly emotional in my opinion because 2018 was a hard year for Stoked. For starters, the year began slow, so cash flow was a big issue that we stressed over quite a bit. Then we had three people leave the team which hugely changed the dynamic! As the year picked up with client work, we had to buckle down to get more done with fewer people and try and make up some lost ground. It was the hardest year Stoked has endured since we started in 2011.

In addition to the business issues we faced, several of our team members had heavy personal issues going on throughout the year, deaths in the family, moves, financial woes, etc. So it wasn’t always easy to show up as our best selves every day. This day required a review of data, but also an inventory of emotions, both past and present.

Day three was our “windshield”. We started the morning off with breakfast at 9:00, per usual, some coffee, and then a ten-minute sit. We reviewed the previous day making sure there was no stone left unturned and that everyone got to say everything they needed to say.
We then transitioned into thinking about and discussing the future. We spent some time thinking about and sharing how we would ideally spend our days, weeks and months throughout the year. What our best working rhythms might be. We talked about our future aspirations for Stoked and ourselves personally. We ended our time at our little rental by giving each other some personal feedback on how we might achieve some of our goals. This was feedback for people to help them accomplish their personal goals. Not what we thought would make them a better team member or employee. It was friends giving friends helpful, objective suggestions.
The day ended back at our studio in Germantown with everyone visiting the podcast booth to speak about our time together. To discuss reflection of a tough year and dreaming about the next one.

Last year, we spent three days in Miami with the team, and it was terrific. Mainly because Miami is beautiful and warm and the food is delicious. But that was a different time and a different team. This year our little bungalow in the Buena Vista neighborhood of Nashville was the perfect setting for intimacy and vulnerability and vibey connection with my teammates.

We’re getting so good at working through tensions. And placing principles before personalities. It’s about an awareness of our shortcomings and supporting each other in ways friends don’t always get a chance to do.
None of us are here for the money. That was made super clear in a year where money was tight at Stoked. We’re here to do good, thoughtful, and impactful work. We’re here because this team is a powerhouse when we’re well connected. We’re also here because none of us could stand being told what to do by a boss.

My take away though, is that this team, like all the relationships in my life, requires work and intention. I don’t believe you can just put a bunch of smart and talented people in a room and they will automatically communicate well and do great work. It takes time and intentional connection. It takes the integrity of not letting client work always take precedence. And yes, it takes trying on new elements that may feel super woo-woo. If the team is tuned and humming, all the work will be so much more fun and meaningful. And if it’s fun and meaningful, everyone wins. Our clients, our friends, and families, everyone. And we think that’s a sustainable model worth working hard towards.