We are on a delightful vacation in Hawaii and there is a corporate retreat also taking place at the hotel.
It has all the trappings of the typical boondoggle, with employees and their spouses being plied with ample food and drink. I’ve seen dozens of these, even been on a few. They are largely a waste of time and money, with just enough “business” being transacted to qualify for someone’s expense report.
This one is not much different, except that it’s for Hilton Grand Vacations, a sister company for the hotel we’re staying in. This mostly means the entertainment and such are a little more over the top than usual. And the decorations are … well … special.
Scattered around are these massive (six feet across) lighted orbs with the logo for the event. Of course, someone at corporate thought this event needed a logo. Something to print on the polo shirts, the napkins, the banners, and of course, the lighted orbs.
And yes, this event needed a theme. This event’s theme is: Building Inspired Strategies.
Let’s take a moment to think about that theme. Hilton Grand Vacations is a timeshare vacation sales company. The attendees at “Leadership 18” are most likely the top executives and the sales leaders. If we’re being realistic, the only strategies they build are how to coax you out of your vacation dollar, and that doesn’t take a lot of inspiration.
No, I’m quite sure Building Inspired Strategies was just the result of spinning the magic buzzword wheel. Some event planner, maybe a hired consultant, or even someone in HR just made it up because it sounded good, or smart, or inoffensive. And the executive in charge of the retreat said, “sure, whatever, sounds great” without even a second thought.
Playing this kind of Buzzword Mad Libs is easy. You can do it too. This kind of nonsense is just three easy steps away:
- Action verb, the stronger the better. Defining, creating, building, crafting, realizing, forging, …
- Adjective, the more over-the-top the better: Unique, creative, inspired, proactive, world-class, …
- Noun, the more nebulous the better: Partnerships, results, solutions, strategies, foundations, …
And there you have it: your next meeting’s theme is Forging Proactive Solutions or Crafting Unique Partnerships. Regardless of what your company does, the person in charge will nod and say “Sure, sounds good, let’s go for it. Now, what’s the menu?”
The tragedy is that visions, themes, and messages matter. I’m a firm believer in establishing a vision for a project, a company, and yes, even a corporate retreat. A good vision that truly defines what the objective is, that makes sense, that rings true, and that is consistently messaged can make a big difference.
The result of any effort with a good vision, mission, goals, and messaging is almost always better. Everyone, inside and out, benefits from knowing what they are doing and how they are getting there.
The problem with a half-baked vision is that it sends exactly the wrong signal. It doesn’t motivate people, it actually de-motivates them. They see this drivel and know the people in charge “phoned it in”. Rather than be insulted, or challenge it, or rise to the occasion of making this lame vision real, they simply accept it. It’s just more of the same — one more way in which the company is insincere. They add it to the reasons they already have to update their CV.
So, what would be a good vision for this retreat? I’m just spitballing here, but how about something that reflects the organization’s objectives. Maybe Record 2019 Sales, or Industry-leading Customer Satisfaction? Something tangible, measurable, attainable, yet still a stretch goal.
Visions and themes are crucial. You’ll find a lot about them here on Leading Smart. We’ll talk about how to build them, how to evaluate them, and how to make the most of them. In the meantime, I hope you’ll do better with your Buzzword Bingo than: Building Inspired Strategies.