The success or failure of IRLs Depends on Intentionality w/ Liz Leary @ Atlassian

A successful IRL doesn't happen by itself. It requires intentionality to the smallest detail. Like supporting spouses & kids left at home



3/6/202364 min read

Here's the recap...Today's class should turn into an online course as it's an absolute masterpiece. Liz Leary who has been planning and running IRLs for Trello & Atlassian for years drops so much knowledge it could barely be contained in 1 episode. We covered everything you need to know whether you're thinking about or currently planning on getting the team together. How often, where to get together, what to do when there, and the small details easily forgotten. Like what about those parents left behind by your employee with the kids? Paying for takeout and babysitting can make or break someone coming and having a great time

Liz on Linkedin

Liz's posts about being on Sabbatical

Don't forget the small details. Like family left behind 👶

You're deep in the midst of planning an amazing IRL experience. You found an amazing resort. Have super fun team-building events for the team. And your exec team has some great surprise announcements to share and get everyone fired up. So you're very much focused on the big picture and making sure it's all perfect. But it may be those smallest details you're overlooking that can make or break the experience. Last week we dove into one idea around food. Not only having a lot of delicious food but ensuring everyone has access to it (dietary restrictions & food allergies).

This week we'll cover another small detail that is easily forgotten but one that can have a big impact on the experience. I'm married with 4 kiddos. So if I go and travel that puts extra work and effort onto my wife's plate. While she's super supportive to attend the IRL like she was back in 2019 she'll need to pick up the slack. I dropped the kids to school daily. I helped around the house and now all that fell on her. Companies with great culture and leaders like Liz are thinking about this. And what can they do to support the family at home? A small token is giving the family $50/day to pay for takeout or babysitting. Yep, saving the effort of one meal or the extra set of hands has a huge impact. Not only for families but for the employee. Either in knowing there's less burden on their family. Or being a factor in actually attending. If there's a new baby at home it may simply be too difficult to just leave the family behind without any extra help and support.

Be intentional in people meeting. It won't happen by itself 🫱‍🫲

So you're getting the whole company together with the main intention of colleagues meeting others across all the other teams they may never speak with. You want interaction between your mobile developer and finance person. Perhaps a great chat between your Customer Experience and Product person helps launch a Voice of Customer program. We're all (or many of us are) social beings. But at the same time, we have the tendency to group ourselves. And this grouping in the greater world may come down to religion, culture, or country. In the workplace, it happens in teams. I saw this firsthand at InVision's IRL where at every meal each team sat siloed together. The APAC sales team at one table. The iOS team at another. Either as an extrovert or being the 1st hire at InVision so everyone at the IRL came after me, I bucked this tradition. At each meal, I purposely sat at a different table with different people. Not once did I sit with my own team. Had it not been for those meals I'd have never met and spoken to many people I did.

But few people are like me. So you need to intentionally create these interactions. Breaking up the groups so people can make new friends. This can be done by doing work project tasks. Or naturally with specific events like early morning hiking. Anyone not interested in the outdoors is likely not going to attend. So not only do you get a hike but you connect with others who share a mutual interest. Or something that Liz does is assigned seating at dinner.

Let's start off with why dinner. Because there are lots of events and hangout opportunities (likely with alcohol) not everyone is going to wake up early enough to come to breakfast. Even to just grab something and go. So breakfast isn't the optimal option. Lunch can definitely work but may be more of a pick-up-and-go in between events. Or after a morning hike. Depending on the schedule it could work well here. Dinner is perfect as it's after all the day's events. It's a better time to just sit and focus on meeting people and eating food.

Scott - [03:12 - 03:16]

Good morning, Liz. How's everything going in New Jersey?

Liz - [03:16 - 03:22]

It's great. It's rainy, it's ugly. I've got, I'm inside Indeed.

Scott - [03:22 - 03:50]

Yeah. It's, it's raining here for the first time in, I don't know, weeks. So it's, it's, it's a nice change. Yes, it's kind of cold and, and, and windy and like, not so nice to be outside, but at least it's nice, nice of a change. And I definitely don't miss the winters of New York, New Jersey. And I've always said if it's gonna be cold, like maybe it should be Colorado. There's snow on the ground all the time, and it's cold. Okay. There's snow that you get, but if it's cold and it's wet, especially wet and cold, like, oh, no, thank you. This is just Miserable.

Liz - [03:50 - 04:06]

Yeah, that's kind of exactly how it is. It's like a weird mix between hail and rain and you, you sleet and you kind of don't know what it is, and it's, it's miserable So, so rather stay inside today, nice and warm, locked up in the office until I have to go grab my kids.

Scott - [04:11 - 04:34]

So the way that we start, each episode is simply by telling us a little bit about yourself. And you, like me, are a fellow remote OG who've also been doing this a long time, obviously now through Atlassian, but you'll kind of give the story of how you came through to know that story. But yeah, give us a little bit about yourself, your, your journey through remote work, and especially your interaction with IRLs.

Liz - [04:34 - 06:11]

Yeah, absolutely. so my journey in tech started, in 2016, I think it was now. and I started with Trello. they at the time were just this little startup that could, 45 people just like trying to make a product. They were awesome. And, I came on as actually as the executive assistant, to their team, their leadership team, which at the time was eight people. but when I came in, it was very clear that we were all relatively the same age. they had never had an executive assistant before. I had never worked in tech. And so when we ha sat down to have a conversation, they were like, we really don't know how to use you. We don't, we know we need you, but we don't know what we need you for. So essentially, build your role. What do you, what do you want to do here? which was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened, because it just made me realize, it, that employee experience and building events and different experiences for teams was actually the perfect thing for me to do. so we, I, I was only with them about six months before, we were acquired by Atlassian. And, Atlassian really did kind of pick us up because we were one of the pioneers of remote work. and, you know, they, they had this huge company that was growing exponentially and they wanted to really embrace some of the values, that Trello had. so I know that had a little to do with it. and when we came on, you know, we kind of, I was very adamant about keeping the Trello culture because, you know, along with my leadership team, we had really built something special.

Liz - [06:11 - 07:34]

And it was important because, as you said, IRLs are really, really important, especially for remote work teams. And that was a huge component of our culture. so we did every year this thing called Trello together, and it was a global retreat, where we went to a nice secluded area and, did no work for three days So that was like, the key was no work. we connected, we bonded, we had drinks by pools. We, you know, played all kinds of games and things together, and we got to know each other. And when we went home, we were just that more energized to make this product and do it together as a team. and we were truly a team at that point. So, once I did my first, Trello together and I planned it from top to bottom, I was hooked. I was like, this is exactly what I need to be doing with my life, and just bringing people together and, and doing all the things. So, I kind of just built from there and I started doing offsites for the teams and, you know, just, employee programs, lifecycle gifting, just everything to make an employee feel seen, heard and appreciated. and, it's been seven years and I am not looking no regrets. Let's just say that. amazing. And your role now at Atlassian, I think you just took on a new role. If I'm, if I'm correct.

Liz - [07:41 - 07:53]

Yeah, it's very, very new. right now I'm the, senior project coordinator for the events and connections team, which is essentially, solving, connecting for the global team rather than my little Trello bubble.

Scott - [07:53 - 08:50]

So That, that's the way you're supposed to do it, right? You start, you solve a problem once and okay, now you, you replicated, in, in larger spaces, your, your intro had so many things to unpack, right? There's yeah. How many questions that we're, we're gonna, we're gonna start rolling, but probably the, I mean, the simplest place, and you even highlighted this truly like, what is an IRL? Right? In real life, okay, what does that mean? Because when we spoke offline, or we spoke previously, the old mentality of an I R L or a company retreat was right. We work in an office five days a week, and now we go somewhere, we go on a workation and we go to, I don't know, wherever it is. And then we do work, but in essence, things that you've mentioned like fun and games, and all of a sudden it's obviously one-on-one, kind of don't, don't align up. So start off again, definition of an IRL and also what you said, and I believe, and they're super duper important. Yes. Why are they super duper important?

Liz - [08:50 - 10:28]

It's a great question. I would say IRLs always need to be about social engagement, especially if you're a remote team. I have always wanted to kind of take the idea of offsites and flip it on its head. you know, when generally when you talk to somebody who, especially, companies who are not in tech and everything, you say the word offsite to them, it immediately triggers being in a conference room, being talked out for two hours, going over roadmaps, just mind numbing work. And it's just like we, we work remotely. We've been working remotely for two and a half years, we've been doing all the work. Why am I doing more work when I come and we've spent all this money to see person to person? and it just makes so much more sense to, you know, use those opportunities to connect and to get to know the person that's on the other side of the screen. I mean, I've heard horror stories about companies who have a camera off policy, like when they're, when they're talking in meetings, like they, you know, all you hear is their voice. They're using Zoom, but they're not using the video. It makes no sense. And you also have no idea who that person is. So why would I bring that team in person and then be like, we're gonna do more work now. You know, it just, it doesn't make any sense to me, you know? So IRLs are so important for that, that spark that you need that like, it's like hitting, it's, it's hitting the speed, you know, you're, you're going full. You're saying, I, it's all about the company. It's all about our employee.

Liz - [10:28 - 11:04]

We want you to know each other, you know? And I actually always say, you need to know your, your, the people you're working with, not know of them. And in a lot of circumstances, we do know of people and we've heard their name and we've probably been on Zoom calls with them. But if you were asked, do you know if they're, you know, they have a partner, do you know if they have kids? Do you know what kind of situations are happening behind the scenes that are impacting their work? You know, you might be making assumptions about somebody with no knowledge, you know, and that's why IRLs are important. You need that context to be able to work successfully.

Scott - [11:04 - 12:21]

I couldn't agree more. Again, there was so much in that to unpack. We could probably be here all day long, but at some point, like the kids are gonna be calling to get picked up from school. So I don't think that's gonna be helpful, but yes, no, the ideas of these Zoom calls with, with screens off, I was, I can understand why they do it. Why? Cuz they're sitting on back to back to back to back. It literally, zoom calls hard To hear that Yes. So they're obviously using tools in the wrong way. Yeah. But in of sense, it's like, hey, video is the best medium in remote environments because it's the closest you can get to in real life, right? I could see your face, I could see your mannerisms, I could see how you behave. And I've said in something that you've also noted that I can get to know you better through Zoom than I ever would in the, in the office. Because in the office it was like Liz, right? You were the, the IRL person. No, Scott, you were the customer success person. Like that's all I knew about you. But when I see you and I see your kids and I see your spouse and I see a cat and I see books, how many conversations I've had on this podcast or on various Zoom calls where somebody sees like a book in my background or I see a picture of them whitewater rafting over their shoulder, I'm like, oh, why water rafting when I was a kid? Like every summer I wonder whitewater rafting conversation. Exactly. And I mean, that's, that's where connections happen. It's like on those mutual interests of things that you have in common that you can kind of build that off.

Scott - [12:21 - 13:56]

so yes. You know, getting, focusing on relationship building and that's the idea. So kind of diving into that a little bit more, in essence, I believe that there's, call it kind of three types of IRLs. You have your company retreat, right? Where you get the whole company together. especially maybe smaller companies. Atlassian was probably quite a bit different because it's know significantly larger, but you get a whole team into one location. Wonderful. Number two is you get teams together, whether it's know your sales team or your support team, or your leadership team or what have you. Site type. Exactly. Yeah. And then number three, it's having a policy, having, being very open to saying, Hey, right, Liz, you're in New Jersey, Scott, you're in, I don't know Philadelphia know what, Liz, do you wanna come to Philadelphia? Hey, we're gonna pay for your gas. We're gonna pay for your train ticket. No, go eat. no some Philly steaks, no, we're gonna pay for that. Like, we're going to enable you to spend time on like a one-to-one or one to small kind of a group. So I'd love to kind of hear, do you think those are on, on, on par? Are there other types of IRLs? And I think into that, is there a difference in what you do? Because again, yes, the idea, I mean, especially a company retreat when you're schlepping around the world, right? As I had a newsletter post a couple weeks ago, if you're traveling around the world to do work in an IRL, it's like, you know, commuting 60 minutes to do a zoom call. Yeah. But that's, that's great for companies. But what happens if you're a team? So when just teams get together, is it still the same mix or maybe it's a little bit more work, or certainly when it's like one to one, right?

Scott - [13:56 - 14:12]

If you and I are gonna get together, there's probably the assumption that we're just not gonna hang out and know, have like a three hour lunch, then go for like two hour coffees and the company's gonna pay for that. We're gonna a cowork together for the day, right? So kinda know a difference in nuance between different types of IRLs and, and what happens at at all those.

Liz - [14:12 - 15:53]

Yeah, I, I think for the most part, I think you're right about the different ones. I think there, there are even more IRLs that you could be doing, like, especially for workplace experience teams, like we're doing right now, we're doing, you know, a podcast, we're talking to each other, we're getting inspiration, like go externally facing as well, you know, know, bring in those experts so you can get, you can be on top of the, the trends and everything, know what people are doing, and that those are the ways that you get inspiration for your own culture. So I think IRLs for like networking purposes, like a nice dinner or something like that, that that's really, really important for, for teams to do. Just open, open up their culture and, you know, pay it forward a little bit if you think you're doing it right, and like, find out how you're doing it wrong, because not everybody's perfect, you know? So I would say, yes, we like Trello together. You were saying the first type is like your global retreat. You're bringing everybody together to do, you know, three days of, of events and things like that and whatever, whatever that means for your company. And, then there's like the typical offsite that you're thinking of. Like, you know, I, when I was with my last few, my last year on Trello essentially, I did a program called, team Times. And basically we, none of our teams had gotten together in person for, because of the pandemic for the last couple of years. And they, you know, they were, people were craving connection. And it started off as like, okay, listen, I'm going to give you the option based on your comfort level and your team's comfort level.

Liz - [15:53 - 17:22]

You can either come to New York City and have an in-person, I, you know, an IRL, and I will plan it from top to bottom, and you can bring your whole team in and, or you can all do a virtual event, which I will also plan for you. It depends upon your, your comfort level. So I put that out there to all of our teams, and we're talking about like, sales is gonna do one and product management, and you know, all the little facets of our business and all those teams. and about half, I would say about 11, I wanna say 11 teams at first, were like, yeah, we wanna come to New York City, we wanna come have an IRL. Like, it's really important. We all feel comfortable doing it. and the other half, like the other few teams, there was about 25 and all were like, oh, we'll do a virtual, we have a few people who are, you know, not feeling the I R L thing. And I was like, okay, great. I'm gonna make both of these things very interactive, very connective. So you don't feel like you're missing out either way? Well, when we had the first couple of teams come for ils, we had such a huge success rate for them that little by little I had team managers pinging me being like, is it too late? Can I do an IRL? You know, like, we're hearing such great things, you know, I was like, yeah. So by the time the four months that I was running these was over, I had very close to a hundred percent IRL teams. I had brought over 25 teams to New York City for an IRL.

Liz - [17:22 - 18:10]

But it shows you just how important and how, like how much they took away from that experience and how much it energized them for the next few. So I think those types of, those types of IRLs are right on, right on point for what you're saying. and I think you could do those little, I call them water cooler moments, and they don't have to be like offsites that are completely planned or anything, but like, if you're a workplace experience person, and, I would highly encourage people to have a scheduled spontaneity. You know, have those moments where people can get up from their desk, they can stretch their legs, and they can be like, all right, who's around to talk to you today? You know, and get to know somebody and, you know, curate those moments. So, so that they happen Or seem To happen organically.

Scott - [18:10 - 19:19]

Yeah. I, I love that idea. I over during Covid had built a side project to do that virtually. And within Slack of, again, tools that are out there, I've been very much focused on scheduling ahead of time and only like once every, every other week. And for me, it's like, that's not how people meet each other. That's not how people used to go for coffee breaks No. In the office, right? You did it at least once a day, probably multiple times a day. So for me, I'd kind of redesign that concept of very much focus on you, the individual. When's a good time for you, kind of raise your hand. Someone else in the world, they put their hand up at the same time and are like, okay, let's, let's make that match and, and introduce you. But I think those micro interactions and giving the ability for people to spend time with each other, I've spoken with a number of companies who are very much thinking in this direction of, Hey, you know, we create a budget and we have a policy that anyone can spend up to X amount of money to go work with somebody else or a group of other people. Knowing that, especially, I think my follow up question will be kind of all started here of, is there a magic number of times to get together? Because one could think now is an extrovert, right? Hey let's do this all the time. This should be like every month. Yeah, exactly.

Liz - [19:19 - 19:19]

This is great.

Scott - [19:19 - 19:30]

I would have fun all the time. But that's obviously not the case even for extroverts, especially when you're traveling. Like, if I had to go no travel to America or even Europe, like once a month, it's like, nothing.

Liz - [19:30 - 19:38]

So is there a, I was just gonna ask you, what do you, what do you feel like the magic number is? What was the magic number? What did Envision have? Like a magic number?

Scott - [19:38 - 21:00]

So they, they didn't, they did, they hosted two company wide IRLs and they had a number of team retreats, which even that I think mostly happened to be within like engineering or sales. So some of the teams unfortunately kind of got left out, yeah. Of those opportunities. But I'd probably say two IRLs year. So I think one company retreat and one team meetup I think are the right mix, especially if you have globally distributed people that, again, if, I mean the IRL, the envision that I went to is in Arizona, so to get to Arizona from over here is quite, quite a trip. So that if I would think I have to go there multiple times a year, that's certainly not optimal. Yeah. but then I think again, when you mix in that third piece of, Hey, I'm a Tel Aviv, or maybe I'm in Europe, I think Europe's probably the best example because it's so easy to get around Europe of, Hey, no, you wanna go between cities, you wanna take a train, you wanna take a 30 euro flight and you know, get a cheap hotel. Like, yes. Yeah, no, we'll enable you, we'll, we'll create a policy, we'll create a procedure and with a, with a budget around it that in between those two times a year that the team or the company get together, Hey, if you want to go spend time with people, I'll of course, like definitely, Yeah, I think it's absolutely necessary to have a dedicated budget for it, you know, t and e like travel and expenses or, you know, just wrapped in with employee experience.

Liz - [21:00 - 22:48]

And, you know, I've always had this like dream idea of there being like that, that budget dedicated over, you know, the fiscal year essentially. And what I think the magic number looks like is the global retreat for Trello. We did them once a year. You know, we brought everybody together once a year. And because we did it so big, it was enough, you know, and it made people feel like, well, that's a really long trip for somebody from Australia, you know, like, we have to, we have to make this worth it. So I think that answered the question. And then you supplement, but you don't have to supplement with IRLs because nobody wants that many IRLs, nobody wants to travel that much. You know, we have, we all have different obligations in life. People have families, people have people that are taken care of, you know, like we just can't, you can't put that on your people. So I think the one global retreat than maybe two like mini offsites a year. So, and the stipulation with them is you have to have the offsite in the area that it has the largest contingent of people on your team. So not a lot of people are traveling to a far away destination. And, even better if you have a brick and mortar office these days, some remote teams, don't, they, they are fully remote. But for Atlassian, we tether the offsites to an office. It's like you're either going to ATX or you're going to New York and you use the office as a home base. You're not gonna be there the whole time. But it's somewhere that allows for you to come in, hang out with your team, but also get to know the people that are in that office and get to know that office's culture can, and really be immersed in that, which I think is really, really important.

Liz - [22:48 - 23:49]

So tethering to, to a place will save you in cost. And it'll also save you in like food and expenses in general, because you can have, if you have company lunches, you can have the team eat lunch, and then they have all of those moments of connection during lunch, you know, so you have one of those. so I think you should give two mini offsites a year, and they can put those at the beginning of the year around the global retreat, just so, so they're spaced out. They should never be too close together. And then, supplement with virtual, you sh at least once a quarter, everybody gets together to have a really kick ass virtual event, you know, and those cost no money at all. And there are so many amazing vendors who do them. Like, there's team class and confetti and like all of these, all of these amazing people who just curate these like kits and things and send them to you. And, you know, it's really, it's really a great experience and everybody loves to get mail, right?

Scott - [23:49 - 23:51]

Yeah, absolutely.

Liz - [23:51 - 24:53]

You know, keep 'em, keep 'em involved. But I think that that nice breath, just having something to look forward to. And I think it would be awesome if, companies started to think more thoughtfully about having that calendar o of events when they go into their new, their new FY when they're doing their annual planning. It's like, okay, we're gonna do our global retreat in the middle of the, in the middle of the year. We're gonna give them the opportunity to have two, here's the budget for two offsites for whatever time of year that that works for your team. And then here is the budget for your, for virtual events. And you can use those at whatever time you feel is necessary. But have that planned out. Be thoughtful about it and make sure that people, because if people have that at their fingertips and they're like, okay, well we have to do this. And it's almost like a mandate, they'll do it, you know, and they will connect and they'll be like, we have this money. Like, let's use it. Like why are we, why are we wasting it? You know? So, putting the onus on on the team is always really, really important.

Scott - [24:53 - 25:02]

Again, God, there's, there's too much to, to unpack here. Again, we're, I think we're gonna be spending the day here together. yeah. Yeah.

Liz - [25:02 - 25:03]

I'm glad I have a lot of coffee.

Scott - [25:03 - 26:11]

the, the first question, and it's, I, I'm interested here in perspective, cuz I'm gonna come from the side of not agreeing with one your points, but I always like to hear and be educated because I love to have the opportunity to kind of change in my mind Yeah. Of the, the point of anchoring them to specific offices, like a kind of mini retreat to an office. I'd come with the mentality of, it's kind of a, a, I guess a missed opportunity for the people that are in office too. Have a trip to have an experience. Like they're going somewhere. So in essence, like the whole I r L concept is like, you're going somewhere, yes, you're meeting people, but you're traveling somewhere. So absolutely, we're gonna get into like where to go and all the other stuff. But if you're kind of just home or maybe if you're in New York City, you get to stay at a hotel instead of, you know, commuting in from, from New Jersey, long Island. Like, yeah. So again, you kind of have that experience, but it's still like, Hey, I'm in New York all the time. Like, so for me, it's kind of just, yes, I guess I'm going into, I'm, I'm more commuting in these three days to kind of meet the people who are coming in, but maybe I'm losing out on some of the other experience. Yes. Maybe there's another one. So the other one I get to travel. Cause in theory the other one's not going to meet.

Liz - [26:11 - 28:00]

Yeah. That's essentially what you have to say. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I would say, you know, you have to, you have to be thoughtful about that because you're absolutely right. There are all those people. But for the most part, I found in my experience that people are excited, especially in New York, people are excited who live in New York City to show off their city, you know, and they're like, and also just the added experience of like, yeah, you get to spend a night in the hotel that all of your team is hanging out in like, absolutely. Like, you don't have to go home to your, your house in Jersey like you are on vacation essentially. It's a staycation for you. But it's also, there's something about knowing where you are and being able to give people that context and everything and kind of be proud of it and show it off. and I know we have a, you know, a slightly very different situation at Atlassian than we do for, you know, other offices who are fully remote and don't have offices to, to do this in. You know, our office culture is very, very important. You know, we, we work very hard to have a very robust, robust culture in there and different cultures in each of the offices, you know, so you do wanna come in and take part in that. And a lot of the people who are are everyday like, you know, regulars into the office are excited to show people around. and if you are a remote company that like, are listening and really want to do something like this and be like, oh, I would love to bring people to my city and show them my city, then, you know, you can solve it by not even getting like a WeWork but getting like a n a much nicer, like Airbnb kind of kind of spot, you know, that's thoughtful and like, that feels homey that they're returning to, that they kind of set up roots in for three days, you know, and really make it, make it feel, make it feel intentional.

Scott - [28:00 - 29:19]

Yeah, absolutely. That's, I was working with a company in Berlin during the pandemic, was going back and forth whether to keep the office or not keep the office in a good chunk of their people were in, in the Berlin region. And that was the, the solution I gave them. I'm like, you're spending X for this large office that obviously during the pandemic you can't really use or people aren't uncomfortable going, but hey, why don't you take some of that money? And you know what, maybe once every six weeks or eight weeks, whatever is good with the company and rent out a villa somewhere in around Berlin where it's easy enough to get to cater food barbecue. And so you have the opportunity to get people together Right. To build relationships, have fun. Exactly. You know, if you want to anchor it around like a quarterly kickoff or something like that. Oh, okay, no problem. Yeah. but you don't need to come to an office. Right. That fun. And, and team building and collaborating doesn't have to be linked to an office. Yeah. so completely agree there a couple other points. So again, obviously the whole idea of this podcast is really to hope open someone's eyes again and kind of also focus, I think especially in this topic of things that maybe people don't, wouldn't necessarily think about. And you said two things before. Now, number one, somebody's coming from Australia and number two, if no something's coming with a family. And I think those are very nuanced things to think about where I have four kids. So when I went to the Invision IRL right? My wife was here with, actually, I think it was, I think my daughter was born after that.

Scott - [29:19 - 30:45]

So it was three kids, but they have a couple kids at home. Oh wow. I'm thinking, hey, right, there's a spouse that's at home with kids and now just one set less hands. Yeah. And how do companies think about that? And those thoughtful companies are saying, Hey, okay, we're gonna give you a budget, right? We're gonna give you every money to bring in food delivery food or to pay for babysitting, right. To kind of cover where you would've obviously been there and helpful at home. So I think that's one side of just having like the little thoughtful pieces outside of this whole big, again, focusing on the event right. Space and what you're gonna do. That's gonna be a follow up question, but hey, the people who are coming, yeah. Like thinking about the impact of their travel and the people that are with and kind of a secondary, maybe the thing in Australia of some people that maybe can't come for whatever reason, there's something going on, there's a pandemic, what have you, and how do you still reward that person, you know, and give them an opportunity to get together or give them a budget of taking a trip. You know, maybe bringing someone from Australia to, to New York would cost 10, $15,000. So the company says, Hey, you know what? We're gonna give you $2,500 to take a trip to take a vacation because we still want you to experience having a trip. You know, especially maybe we'll give it to you to go to some city even know where we have an office or to, to meet up with colleagues. And I, I think last season, one of the seasons I had, a guy who, a CEO who just came back from a, an i l there's a company hosted in Europe, I think most of the team is in Europe.

Scott - [30:45 - 31:16]

And he had a group of people, employees that are in the Gulf region and because of where they were, like there was issues with visas or getting in or what have you. So they thought, hey, it's not fair. Or they're listing out. Yeah. So what they did is they created their own kind of gulf region i r l just to ensure that hey, they still had the opportunity, okay, it's not with the entire company, but they still had the opportunity to kind of get together. So we'd love again to hear your thoughts and things that you're thinking about. Right. Because I know we've had very deep conversations of all those things that probably no one else is thinking of. Hey, right.

Liz - [31:16 - 31:19]

Spouses, Things flying through my head right now.

Scott - [31:19 - 31:29]

like kids travel, like all these little nuanced things that are not the space, like not what you're doing, like thinking like outside the box. We're gonna love to hear some thoughts and things, Better going on.

Liz - [31:29 - 33:01]

You're ready? Yeah, no, I, you're, you're right. So much to unpack there. I'm like, what do I say first? I think the first thing would be, you know, commenting about, I think it brings it back to these, these offsites or ILS have to be about social engagement. They can't be about work. And this is another reason why they can't be about work. Because when you have people who can't attend for whatever reason, it is, they can't feel like they're missing something that's integral to their job. They have to feel like, okay, I'm missing out on connecting with, with people. Yes, it's a bummer. I have fomo, this sucks, but I'm not going to be completely lost on the roadmap or I'm not gonna know what's ha not happening in annual planning. Like, I'm not going to feel that disconnected from my team when it comes to the workflow of it. And I think that is so important. Take that pressure away from it. Let them know like, this is the intention for our I R L and if you can't attend this or you don't want to attend this, like, we have to think about like those introverts who are like, this is the most terrifying thought I've ever experienced. I don't wanna go to New York City and be in a huge city with loud sounds in a whole bunch of people. I don't know. Like, that's a nightmare. And you have to be thoughtful of those people. And so they, they can't feel like they're gonna miss out on something and Oh my God, I'm gonna get fired. People are gonna hate me then I'm not No, you're missing out on a hangout. That's basically, and that's not your thing anyway, so it's okay.

Liz - [33:01 - 34:24]

And for those people, to your point of like, what do we do to make those people still feel like they're being a part of the team? I would say if your team is getting swag during that offsite, send them a swag box. You know, make sure that they feel like they're still a part of it. We're still thinking of you, send that. It could be as small as like an Uber gift card for their kids, you know, like, you know, like, make dinner on us tonight, you know, don't worry about it. Order in like, you know, we're all having dinner out now. You can too. You know, just make them feel like they're part of the experience that they're part of the team. And then the next time, if it was the reason that they were like introverted and it just couldn't like, think of being in a room with a bunch of people, they might think twice the next time they've been, you know, included in the group so much. Like, wow, these people are really awesome. Maybe I really do wanna meet them in person. And then you've kind of brought somebody outta their shell in a really thoughtful way, you know? And then you have those other much more complicated situations like you at home with your, you know, you have your wife or your partner with your three kids, you know, and you're like, I, I can't leave them. You know, like, my wife doesn't cook. Or maybe somebody dis disabled or something. Those are the same situations where you can send a gift card to that family and be like, here, take care of your, take care of your kids for the, the next three days. What do you need in order to make this an easier trip for you?

Liz - [34:24 - 35:24]

and I think a really, a really good point you had was like the regional connection kind of part of it. You know, Atlassian is doing something right now with regional connections and it's just since we are team anywhere and we're a remote team right now, and we are mostly tethering our offsites and things to offices, we're like, well, what do you do with the people who are not near an office? You know, so where, you know, Atlassian is giving them budget and giving them the opportunity like, Hey, do you wanna go see a Broadway show and get a bunch of Atlassians together and go do that as a group? Here you go. You know, they're, they're really putting the intention back into intentional gathering and making sure that, you know, the people that are on the outskirts and can't get in for whatever reason are taken care of. And I think it just takes that little extra thought to it and, you know, to make sure that you are always thinking in a team mentality and not as an individual coming to these, ils.

Scott - [35:24 - 35:59]

Yeah, I, I couldn't agree more. So before, I think we go super deep on what you're actually doing and all those little bits pieces of actually about the I R l I wanted to bring, again, backup point that again, you opened up the question very nicely, so thank you for that. Of, hey, if you're gonna, team's gonna get together twice a year, three times a year, that's not the only engagement that you could do. And a core fundamental piece is also the virtual relationship building. So whether it's, you know, virtual ils, whether it's using tools like confetti, no. Lee from Confetti's, very good friend, I've had her on the podcast. I think it's season two.

Scott - [36:00 - 36:59]

She's, she's a very good friend as well. I'll, I'll say that. She got a special shout out. so maybe talk a little bit about the importance, cuz when we think about her, right? If we just get together in real life, we're supercharged, we're energized, we're excited, we build great relationships, we had great conversations, and now if we think, hey, the next time we're going to see this person, I'm going to see Liz in six months. Like, you want to kind of keep that momentum going and that energy going. Yeah. And that's where, and similar, similar, okay, now the next thing is six months away, we don't want kind of that the fizz out and we want you to get excited and we want you to build relationships with Liz and be more excited to meet Liz and spend time with it or in person. So maybe share a little bit on the ideas of what companies should be thinking about in the ways of virtual engagement. Is it virtual ils? Is it again, using confetti, doing just games, fun, you know, Ted Talks, book clubs, like some things again that can build that relationship inwe in between those times where people are actually getting together in person.

Liz - [36:59 - 38:44]

Oh, this is such a fun conversation because I have like so many thoughts on virtual events because, you know, people think well, because we had the, the horrible experience, the pandemic people are just like burnt on virtual. They're like, I don't wanna be on a computer to playing a game on a computer with a bunch of people. Just, it sounds awful at this point. Like, I wanna be in person. And as much as I understand that it's not possible all the time, especially if you're a remote company. So what do we do in order to bridge that gap? You have exceptional virtual events, not just like, I'm gonna throw some people into a zoom room and, you know, do some awkward icebreaker. First of all, I hate icebreakers. Can I tell you how much I hate icebreakers? Please do. Oh god, yeah. It's like the worst awkward gathering thing to do. It's like, people think it's like mandatory when you get in. It's like, okay, let's all talk about ourselves. It's like, oh, alright, well there's so many better ways to do it. But anyway, off on a tangent. virtual events, I think, like I was saying, team class confetti, these are, these are virtual event platforms that are like thoughtfully thinking of these, of these kinds of events and making sure that it doesn't feel like a virtual event. You know, you are engaged, you, that you're learning something that you wanna learn. You know? another way other than even just like those planned virtual events is I, I started a, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I wanted to test it out for Atlassian and, and see if, if it was something that I, I don't know that I could turn into an, an event that people could sign up a campaign, random people from the company.

Liz - [38:44 - 40:28]

So I put together a bunch of, New York office, just from each product on Atlassian and we all came together. And a friend of mine, has a best friend from childhood who is a dungeon master, like a virtual dungeon master, and he is exceptional. his name is Dustin Goddard and he's incredible. so he puts together the whole storyline, the whole campaign, you know, he helps you in the session. Zero. Everybody builds their characters together. And you get such insight into people when you see like what their alter ego is in their characters, you know, and it starts these like really like in depth relationships with people. You wouldn't even have like crossed in the hallway, you know, like I would've never had the opportunity to talk to this person being a firm Trello and that person on Confluence. Our our work doesn't really, you know, cross it's not cross-functional at all. But now I'm in there and I know intimate details of this person's life. and it was just, it was an eye-opener. So it's virtual events that are just thoughtful like that. And just like campaigns. And you can do book clubs, like you said, I have a chat in Slack of, survivor Talk every, like, people who are just fans of Survivor and just wanna get together. Like you can use Slack for that reason. I know people are kind of over Slack because, you know, notifications and just a lot of noise and you can get lost on it, like any social media platform. But, you know, there's really good use uses for it, but there's a ton of different things you can do, you know, for virtual and to keep virtual interesting. we did envision do like anything virtually, to kind of supplement their ils.

Scott - [40:28 - 41:05]

They didn't, which again, I guess is somewhat unfortunate. yeah, yeah. They, they didn't really do a bunch of company that I've worked with since, either as an employee, or as a advisor. It's something that I heavily, invest in. And even as a team, as a team leader, know that the previous role I had, I was running two teams and I ran my teams asynchronous by default, especially the work portion, right? For me to send, share some information to read off a presentation. Like, oh good, heaven forbid. Like, cause how many times I've sat in there like, God, please send me the freaking thing. Like let me read it. I'll ask you all the questions I have, I'll give you all the feedback, but don't mean me to sit here for 30, 60 minutes.

Liz - [41:05 - 41:08]

A pointless, pointless gathering right Now.

Scott - [41:08 - 41:33]

Exactly. So all that 30 stuff is done asynchronously, those time slots remained in the calendar where it's relationship building. So as a team, yeah, we are playing games, we're doing show and tells, we're doing whatever is a team awesome. Co-working half hour is co-working hours, like come together, come, come down, like drop in, drop out. It was talk about work, talk about whatever, just those intentional opportunities. Just get people together and spend time rituals together. Rituals, almost. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Liz - [41:33 - 42:03]

You have to have rituals on your team to keep you, to keep the energy and the momentum going. Yep. You know, it's like, do you all love yoga? Have we found out everybody loves yoga? Great. On Monday mornings we're gonna do breathing. Absolutely. You know, like those kinds of little touches are, you know, so under underrated. Yep. You know, people look at it and they're like, oh God, this's, like new age bullshit, right? like, you know, like all of these, all these like gen Zers wanna like get their yoga in, you know? And it's like, no, it's not. It's, it's actually fundamental.

Scott - [42:03 - 43:22]

Like Yeah. And I think, I mean, it's so important that point. It's again, if you're sitting in Zoom meetings and meetings and meetings, like, yes. Again, okay, now I gotta go jump on some other thing. It's like, it's tiring. But if you're able to, to be asynchronous by default or heavily on the asynchronous side where you don't have all those crap meetings that you shouldn't have, that should be an email presentation of video or what have you, then those opportunities are like, yes, people want to actually spend together time together. And it was funny, I had in the beginning when I implemented this policy, I had I think two people out on my team and I said, okay, now where we're gonna cancel the, the team fund for this week, right? Because I, I was thinking more of those two people, I didn't want them to miss out. Right? And every other week I had like a kind of a standup that went to everybody and just asked for feedback. Like, how am I doing? What can I be doing? Honest feedback. And one person had given me the feedback saying, you know, sometimes I feel like we're a bit too asynchronous. It's like, I really missed that opportunity that wa to hang out as a team that was canceled. And I was like, holy crap, you're so right. Number one, I should never cancel. Doesn't matter who can't come, but those things always be there can't, and number two, this shouldn't be the only thing that we're doing. We should be adding more things in there and think, right? If you were getting away from pointless times of getting people together and focusing more on useful time of getting people together, even virtually, then those things have to be, had to be crucial.

Scott - [43:22 - 44:12]

And I think one of my, my feedback that I, that I've given to Lee, I've given to a couple other people that I've spoken to, it's, I think the real essence here. And it's making sure the, those virtual events are interactive, right? Yes. Because if you're trying to replace, okay, and the cooking thing, right? You have, if you are in the office cooking, right, you can, you know, have like a food fight and throw making pasta, you throw like flour at each other or whatever, But if you're virtual yeah. But if you're virtual and one person, a chef is teaching you how to do that, you're alone and like your own apartment and things like that. We're doing a game of chess, chessmaster is teaching you chess, having just, instead of just learning chess, okay, but then playing against each other, like having that importance of creating the interaction because that's the core piece, right? That you're trying to replicate from the office, the interaction that you had doing whatever you're doing in the office and doing it virtually.

Liz - [44:12 - 45:55]

Yeah. I don't wanna like make it, I don't know why that triggered it for me, but I don't wanna make it seem as if I'm also like, let's have fun all the time. You know, like, we do have to have those meetings that are work focused. You're at work, there's a, you know, you need to do those. My point I think is mostly you need to have those other fun and interactive times to make those work meetings work better. You know, because people are, they're gonna be engaged no matter what you do. If they know that they have those other times that are coming, they're gonna be like, oh, well now I really wanna show up for my team because like, I would never want to try to sacrifice what we have or let anybody down. Or they, they have this vested interest after you invest in them, you know, they come back and they wanna work harder for you because they, they don't wanna sacrifice that, that feeling on the team than they don't wanna let anybody down. You know? So you can go into those like necessary annual planning meetings, necessary road mapping, brainstorming sessions, and those should also be very scheduled and structured and no, like, have they placed on the calendar that they know they're coming? Like, you know, and, you should be taking active notes, you should be recording those, you know, and so you can go back and see like, okay, like we kind of butted heads on this, like how do we, how do we like confront that in our, you know, interactive like social engagement portion. So like, my example for that would be there is this, this vendor that I've been talking to, and God, I hate that, I can't remember her name right now, but she does incredible work team building work with Legos.

Liz - [45:55 - 47:09]

And what she does is she curates a kit with just random pieces of Lego and she'll come in and work with your team and each of them gets a box. And if they have to think of a question that they want to universally ask, so if you're working on something, say you're, you're engineering or a developer and you're working on a new feature, and now we're gonna ask like, what does this feature look like to everybody? How does everybody thinking about this? What do they want to see? And then with those Legos, she gently guides you through what, what you want to create. And then she compares it and helps everybody kind of relate to everybody else's build. And it is like, so stealth work, you know, it's just like everybody's having fun, everybody's playing with Legos, they feel like they're playing with blocks, but you're actually doing really deep intense team building work. And then all of a sudden that problem that you identified in your roadmap mapping is now no longer a problem, but you've solved it with fun you know, like, and that, that's like the, the balance that you need to create on your teams is like, yes, we are at work, we're gonna work, but we're also going to have a kick ass time doing it.

Scott - [47:09 - 48:34]

A hundred percent. A hundred percent. So you, you've mentioned New York City quite often, so one of the questions I've, I've been asked, a number of times by, by companies is, right, location, location, location, mm-hmm. and would love to hear your thoughts not only building these events for, for Trello and Atlassian, but how can you think when advising potentially companies of what is there a right location? Right? On one side there's pros and cons, right? If you go to a city like New York, God, there's endless things to do in New York, right? Or whatever kind of main city. There's museums and there's a place to eat and there's culture and there's all the different things that you could do. So there's so much to do, but at the same time, you have, especially when getting a larger group together, you have the opportunity where people can kind of just drift off on their own little places and then you kind of lose that like cohesive cohesiveness and kind of interaction with the team because these, a bunch of people went here, these a bunch of people went there and so forth versus kind of the other end where you can go into, you know, into Tuscany or you can go, you know, somewhere, I don't know, in, in Sedona, Arizona, right? Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing around where now people are, I don't call isolated, but they're in one place. There isn't, you can't really go out. There's nothing outside of the place to do. So it, it creates more of that cohesiveness creates more of the opportunity for interaction. But again, maybe there's less things to do, maybe requiring more planning and things to do at the whatever remote place there is. Woud love to hear your thoughts.

Liz - [48:35 - 50:24]

Yeah. no, if it's a great question and, a good, a good thought on that because it's true, you do get people into a city and they scatter and that, that tends to happen if you don't have good planning. And that's where it comes in where you absolutely need someone who is skilled at planning to plan your schedule and your agenda and keep those people on track. Because if they have a breath of time where they're able to just go whatever the hell they want, they're gonna do crazy things, And you're gonna have to pay for those crazy things, you know? So like having a very thoughtful planned out schedule that people need to adhere to because they're on a work trip is absolutely paramount. And if you have that, it really won't matter where you are. for, but it does work better when you're doing a global retreat or, you know, having, I don't know, 300 plus people in the same place to do it in a place that's more like isolated and is a little just off the beaten path. And it does create, I take from, the Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. She has a whole chapter that's dedicated to like, how to create the space because every event that you have, creating that perfect space for it to happen in is a huge part of it. So, I mean, this definitely applies in this situation. If you keep everybody in the same place and you just have an amazing array and menu of things to do there, they're not gonna want to go anywhere else. I remember when we dated at Trello together, the first, the first couple of Trello togethers were in places like that.

Liz - [50:24 - 51:50]

We went to a ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona, like, you know, we didn't leave. And then one year we had a request, from a few people that were like, can we try like a city? Like, can we see how that feels? So I brought 150 people to New Orleans and it was great. I didn't see anyone like forever. It didn't matter what my schedule was like at night. Once the schedule was over, people were at Harris and people were gambling here and splitting up there, and they weren't utilizing that off time, that free time to be together. and they would, you know, to, to your point that we talked about a while ago is like they would naturally be, you know, going with the groups that they're working with all the time. They wouldn't be meeting new people and interacting with the people that they don't, and that's missed opportunity. And you know, unfortunately that has everything to do with location. So we, I learned my lesson very, very quickly. No more cities when it comes to large, large events. we have to go to places, like Lake Oconee, we went to the Ritz Carlton in Georgia and it was just a kind of reminded me of Kellerman's from Dirty Dancing And it was just like all of these really cool, fun events, in the same place we had a beautiful Lake Day. Like no. Everybody was like, yeah, this is, this is better than New Orleans It was like, yeah, Yeah, that, that seems to be my experience.

Scott - [51:50 - 53:11]

No, I recorded an episode earlier with, chase, Warrington from, from Doist talking about this topic as well. And like he's had the same experience of the feedback that he's gotten. It's, I think, unfortunately human beings, we've gotten to the point we're always, we're always hustling, we're always running, especially right. New Yorkers, no, Northeastern are always running, we're always doing something just opportunity just to be right. Yes. Just to, we don't want to be running, we don't have to be doing and things like that. And I like it if I heard it correctly from you, that potentially the team, when it's just a team getting together, that cities are the opportunity. Because again, they already know each other. They're working together on a daily basis. They have relationships, preexisting relationships. So yes, if this one, this small group of these people wanna go here, someone wanna stay in the place and that's Gravitate towards each Other. Yeah. Yeah. But when you get the whole company together and we are, again, you're really trying to mesh and get it people across the organization together, maybe that, again, is better to have the opportunity there. But I wouldn't want to dive into, again, something yourself just maybe clarify or just to kind of know, pick your brain on this. Cuz it seemed like another point that I'm like, maybe I think I don't, I don't think the same way. So again, I I love the opportunity. Yeah, no, I like it. so would love me convince you, Yeah, please. let call a company retreat and then we kind of spoke about it before, like what you do, but maybe like what the makeup of an actual day there is because yes, it's more fun and things like that.

Scott - [53:11 - 54:23]

But yes, there is some work. So is there a right formula? Again, I know it envisioned, especially the second one, we kind of used a 50-30-20 approach. I know Doist uses the similar one where it's like 50% unstructured free time. There's 30% structured free time and 20% of work. So we use that envision again from feedback from our first IRL I think was absolutely fantastic. The, probably the most memorable and biggest impactful things that I had, moments I had at that IRL were where we were in a, we were in Phoenix in February, so it was cold at night, right? There were little couch set couches all over the place with campfire things in the middle, sitting next to the campfire, like drinking a beer, talking to somebody. I didn't know. Like those little moments in that unstructured way can kind of know, hang out or what have you. So is there, you see a right formula of, again, work plus structured, plus unstructured and should there be requirements? Like should you have to come to this? Like, I guess if it's a work thing, then probably yes. But if it's like a structured fun type thing, is it, hey, come if you want to come, or maybe again, this is what we're doing and, and we're organizing this and if you want to come, great. If you don't want to come, that's great too.

Liz - [54:23 - 55:59]

Yeah, I well for, I hate the word mandatory. I, I just think like, especially in, in conjunction with a retreat, it's like, but in some necessity it, it is necessary in some situations, you know? So I think like the dinners and breaking bread is like the best way to connect with people. Like it's, you know, it, it, it just encompasses everything. Like you just have great conversations. You talk about the food, there's always, it's just easy. So I always think that those are meals are absolutely, you have to be there. You know, like you have to come, there is a, there is a, I wouldn't say a pressure cuz that's too hard a word, but like, you know, that this is a social contract that you're going into, you know, like there has to be some things you're there for. when I am very specific about structure and schedule and I don't know, maybe type a personality. But, I do think there, there is a really, I think I have a magic formula for it. and it has a lot to do with breaks and, you know, I've gone to different offsites that have zero breaks. You're going like, and they're thinking that they're thoughtfully planning these things, you know, but you're going through brainstorming and then you're going to another thing and another thing. And like all of a sudden I'm totally burnt out. And then it's like, okay, here we go. We're gonna go to lunch together and now we're gonna go do a team building. And there's like, can I go back to my hotel and just like, be a person for a second and not be, cuz like no matter what you do, you're on, you're on, you're in front of your work, your work people, you're a different person. Like, I want to go home and be the person I am when the door closes. You know? And like everybody has that all alter ego, you know, that they get, they need to turn off for a second. Yeah.

Scott - [56:08 - 56:51]

Even, even like a break. I mean, in the sense like, I dunno, one of the first days in, in Arizona, unfortunately I didn't get to go cause I had sprained my ankle maybe two weeks before that, but oh, there was like a hike, right? We're in the mountains, there's trailing hikes. So just imagine you're going on a hour long hike and now you've come back, right? You probably want to take a shower or maybe clean up. You want to maybe have, have some water around people. Yeah. And even if the next thing you're gonna do is still fun and it's not work where you're gonna have to maybe the, but it's still like, hey, or it's right before lunch, right? Do I want to come straight from like, sweating and like grueling and being dirty coming from like a hike and then go right to the meal or Yeah, okay, no, relax, have an hour, take a shower, do what you need to do, and then kinda shower.

Liz - [56:51 - 58:31]

I Like, you know, I'm technically, I'm not on vacation, still at a work event, but I'm also not a robot like, you know, I can't just go from one thing to another. I'm an extrovert, like we said before, like I could easily do that all day long and be okay at the end of the day. I am unusual at best, you Know, so I'm with you. There's No way more people are like me. There's a lot of people like me. But, no, I would say my, my formula is so taking, let's take Trello together, for example, we always went on a Monday through Thursday. So Monday would be arrival day. Everybody's coming in. I give a set window that you, I encourage you to arrive in just so that you have time before the welcome dinner happens that night at 7:00 PM So it's like you have all day, you can do whatever you want. You wanna get there early in the morning and experience the resort for a little while. There's nothing planned for you. Get in, get settled, have lunch, do whatever you wanna do. And then, we have the welcome dinner. Everything is, you know, it goes from like seven to 10. And then afterwards people are, you know, able to go have those times by a fireside and like, have beers and welcome each other into, you know, the, the retreat. The next day we have, I have a, you know, big, big breakfast. it's usually at like 9:00 AM give people an ability to kind of wake up and, you know, not be up at 7:00 AM you know. And we do it usually from like nine or nine 30 to like 11 o'clock. And then at 11 o'clock we go right into our town hall.

Liz - [58:31 - 59:59]

So when we were doing Trello together, we would get everybody together, we'd welcome them to the retreat, we'd tell them what they can expect from the next couple of days, tell them what the intention of everything is, just like people wanna know what they're in for, you know. And then we do a couple of like really fun little like, team building kind of exercises in there. Or somebody will present on something that's really exciting. and then we break and you get at least an hour before, you know, lunch is served at one o'clock, like that, that town hall only an hour. That's it. We don't need to be in there for more than that. We can cover everything in that time. So then they have an hour before they can go down for lunch. We all have lunch together and then they go to the, the activity that's scheduled for that day. So I always had a menu of activities. So beforehand I would send out a survey, when I was in the planning mode and people would select the activity they wanted to do, or they would be like, I don't want an activity. I wanna go lay by the pool. Like, I don't wanna do anything, you know, I wanna go read my book in my room. You know, so they could either participate in that thing or they didn't have to. So that usually went from like, I don't know, three o'clock to like six o'clock or five o'clock. And then you would get back, you'd have two hours before dinner, dinner was at seven. You'd be able to go get dressed, whatever you needed to do. And then you'd show up for dinner. And then after dinner, that's it.

Liz - [59:59 - 01:01:31]

You there, there it is. You know, you have your whole day, you can go back and sleep. If you're totally exhausted, you can go and hang out with everybody. We mostly ended up everywhere we were, we ended up by a pool table or dark by the end of the night like that. And those were when like, the best conversations happened, you know, late night it was just like, everybody doesn't wanna go to bed. Everybody's energized from the day we're all talking about what activities we did and all of this stuff. And then the next day is like, pretty, pretty similar without the town hall. So there's usually no work. The next full day we'll have an activity, a hike in the morning that is completely voluntary. You wanna get up at 7:00 AM and go do the hike. Go for it. You know? And most of the time people had been, you know, drinking or something the night before. We had like 40 people sign up for it. We maybe have 10 you know, it happens. but that's a sign of a really good retreat in my opinion. and then Thursday is travel day. So you go home, you know, whatever time that makes sense for you, whenever you need to get out of there, leave, you know. And, you know, I'd, I'd honor like extensions for the day if people wanted to sleep in and things like that, you know, and catch their later their flights later. I'd have lunch, I'd have breakfast usually, like, I would have little lunch, breakfast boxes packed for people who wanted to take early flights. You know, it's, it's the little, little things like that, but very relaxed, very easy. Okay. You know, you walk away from there feeling refreshed and not completely overwhelmed.

Scott - [01:01:31 - 01:03:03]

Okay. Yeah. So we're, we're, we're definitely on the same page here as I, as I thought. I just, I guess misheard something. So those little points. So I wanna bring up a little point where again, I think and connecting the little point with the meals, which we spoke about no lunches and dinners, which is I think something again, many companies miss out and don't think about. And I experienced this at the vision IRL in in Arizona, that it was very much of a sociological experiment, right? everyone is not like you and I right? The social butterflies, we're going, we're talking, we're meeting everyone every meal. Yeah. And every meal, each team set silo together, right? Your Apex sales team with your Apex sales team, your iOS team, with your iOS team, and everyone sat together, me either as an extrovert or me being the first hire at the company. And outside of two co-founders, literally everyone there came after me. And I didn't probably know anything about 90% of those people have ever there. I purposely sat at a different table every single meal. I refuse to sit with my team. They harassed me the whole time. Why aren't you sitting less? Why aren't you sitting less? I'm like, listen, I talk to you every day. I know you. Yeah. Like these people here, I would never have any interaction with. I wouldn't know if it wasn't for this meal. Exactly. Was, yeah. If it wasn't for this meal, we wouldn't have the interaction. So what should companies or how can companies, right? Because you're getting everyone from the rest of the whole world, the whole country. Everyone's flying in, everyone's getting connected. But human nature is human nature and people tend to kind of talk and go with clans or groups or teams and, and spend the time talking to the people they really know.

Scott - [01:03:03 - 01:03:21]

And that's not the whole point of beginning that entire organization together. It's to build those interactions or relationships with the people. So suggestions that you may have or you may have done to get those people from different teams to sitting with each other. So it's not like those meals where your iOS team is sitting with your iOS team and everyone sits in. Okay. You're kind of on your own little land there.

Liz - [01:03:21 - 01:04:50]

Yeah, I will. I think when it comes to, I mostly with dinners to be honest, because like when it comes to breakfast, when it comes to lunches, I'm like, breakfast people are just waking up. Some people are not morning people. You know, you don't wanna be forced into an interaction when you've just woken up, like, go find wherever you need to sit and eat. You know? And like lunch is kind of the same thing. We're all usually in a, a different, you know, we'll go with our groups, we'll gravitate toward those people that we're comfortable with. That's fine as well. Because for the most part, if you're planned the right way, I'm gonna be interacting with different people the whole rest of the day anyway. So that's not gonna matter. Dinners matter. Dinners matter because you have gone through this whole whole day interacting with different people and now you have an opportunity to interact even more with a bigger group of people. So I have two words assigned seating, You have to do assigned seating and break up those silos and do it intentionally. Because like, you know, who's at your retreat, you have a whole, you have a whole roster of people. Like you can easily just mess that up in an Excel spreadsheet and throw a bunch of random names onto a table and break up those teams. And then all of a sudden the onus is taken away from them. And they are so much happier at that. They're like, well, I don't have to, cuz they don't have to choose. Now they, they know what the right thing is to do. They know they should be going and sitting at that table and talking to new people. They know this is what this is about.

Liz - [01:04:50 - 01:05:19]

But the part of that, some people are just stopped by it. They're kind of frozen by the idea of like having to engage in small talk and how do I start this? And there's so much pressure there. Take the pressure away from 'em, be like, no, you're doing this now because this is what we're here for and this is a safe environment and everybody is here for the same reason. So go talk to somebody. You know? So I think that's, that's the most important thing you can do. And it's such an easy fix for people that, like, you don't think about. It's just like, I have this whole roster, let me use it.

Scott - [01:05:19 - 01:05:38]

I love that idea. Now. That's, I think a fantastic idea. And so it's, again, it's so simple, right? You don't have to hope that people interact and it is just, hey, right? People are eating in a meal, any, we're all eating in the cafe, whatever the dining area is. Hey. And maybe it makes it more fancy, right? Oh, you have like a little, a wedding table card with your name and a number on there cards.

Liz - [01:05:38 - 01:05:40]

It's like, no, you're here. Find your name.

Scott - [01:05:40 - 01:05:42]

Yeah. Make it more fun.

Liz - [01:05:42 - 01:06:02]

They Even have done it where I've had like, it's like a we, cause I've been a wedding planner, I've planning a couple of weddings now, and like you'll have a table that has like, they'll walk in and they'll immediately see it and they'll say, oh, I'm at a table. Oh, that's interesting. You know, and it's just like automatically they're kind of excited by the ed idea because they're like, Ooh, who am I gonna sit with? It's like the first day of school, you Know?

Scott - [01:06:02 - 01:06:49]

Yeah, yeah. I'm, I'm with you. I'm with you. So as, as remote OGs, we perfectly understand the impact that ILS can have, but would love, again, maybe from, from your experience to really hear, I mean, especially if there's any data that you can share or just no testimonials, like truly what is that feedback? What have you seen through your time with Trello building for Trello and building for Atlassian? Like, what has been that impact? Like what has been the feedback, what have, have, have you been able to see through data increases, engagement, increases in connecting to the mission, increases in in happiness and, and reduction in churn or, or in, I know reduction of losing an employees. Like I want people to understand, right? This what should probably kind of be connected to my next question. And I, this is going to cost a whole chunk of money. Yes.

Liz - [01:06:49 - 01:06:50]

What's the roi?

Scott - [01:06:50 - 01:06:57]

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You want to know that, hey, this is going to be worth its time. So I'd love to hear again from your experience, what you've seen.

Liz - [01:06:57 - 01:08:36]

I wish, so I'm, firstly, I am really big on surveys. I, you cannot know what you're doing wrong until you ask somebody, what am I doing wrong, You know, like, I'm not gonna do everything perfect. I don't assume to know that, like, I'm like the guru of all sites, you know what I mean? There, there are gonna be things I miss for people, and it might be minute, but like, I want to know that people are heard. And like most people who are very, very, who are introverted, and could never even think about giving constructive feedback to somebody about an event. You know, they're given a voice by an anonymous survey. You know, they're able to say, you know, I, I kind of didn't like the fact that I had to be forced into that situation. Like I would, I would rather it done be done this way. And like, you can hear that and you can, you know, there's some, there's some things that are just a little nitpicky and, you know, you can't integrate and you can't please everybody, you know, but there are things that, you know, will make you take pause and be like, Ooh, I could change that a little bit. And that affected somebody in a way, the one survey I wish I had done over a, after every child together was like a productivity, like what, what happened to productivity after these events happened? And, I never did that. And, but I, you can see it, you can feel it. Like there's a buzz about people, they're excited. Like I, I know it's not tangible and you can't like, see it on a spreadsheet, but like that feeling is it, you know, it's unmatched and it carries throughout the year if you do it correctly, you know, and you could see it in your, I mean, maybe there's some evidence to it in like your stock price.

Liz - [01:08:36 - 01:09:58]

If your public company, you know, like, we're just doing better work. We're happier people. And you, it's, it's hard to measure happiness sometimes, but it can be done. And I do wanna kind of find out the way to do that. But, I truly believe that the reason that Trello to this day, despite being acquired, despite losing, we lost four of our founders, at one time last year. You know, it was just, it was, it was that time we had to, you know, evolve into a new age of Trello. And, it could have been devastating. It could, you know, our culture could have been obliterated. I left the team as well. But because we made such an investment in this and we spent the money to tell our people how to carry on this legacy and how to do Trello, we're fine. We're the, the culture is amazing still. Everybody's carrying these rituals and these traditions on with them because they're so important. They know how important they are. So like, it's, it's really inspiring to me to look back and see like some of the things that I put in place like still are lals, you know? And, that, I mean, that's kind of how you can measure it. You know, you just, if your culture can survive huge change management, then you're doing something right.

Scott - [01:09:58 - 01:11:12]

I, I couldn't agree more So related to the cost, of, of these events, right? We're unfortunately at a time globally where in a recession, you know, many companies are downsizing and many companies are obviously looking where they spend money. I've been preaching this since the beginning of last year of if you're ever going to spend money on your employees and engagement and happiness, like now is the time more than any ever, yeah, like, like when things are down, when things are bad, like, hey, your team needs us more than anything else. But again, people are thinking about no numbers and things like that. Of course, advice that you can give for companies that want to do something, that want to get to people together, maybe without breaking the bank. And it could be something like location, right? New York City is, tends to be expensive anyway, but it's also those things of, if you're taking everyone to the Met Museum or to the no, Lincoln Square for, for whatever, right? Yeah. That's thousands of thousands of dollars just for tickets to get into these things versus Right. Again, maybe it's that opportunity of better to go out somewhere, right? Cause it doesn't cost anything to go for a hike. It doesn't cost anything to go to sit around a campfire. Maybe any kind of tips you have of for companies to think about of how to still get people together, but not necessarily, again, spend too much money that they don't have or they're not willing to spend.

Liz - [01:11:12 - 01:13:00]

I think a really great way to do that would be to do the, the smaller kind of regional connections, you know, but do it as like a really, structured kind of event for your team. So like every, so for instance, you can do something like, identifying the four cities that you have the most people in, organizing a dinner at a nice restaurant or an event at an like our team building event. Something that they can all come to, in and come together in those small groups. But it's, you know, connected to the other ones because everybody's doing kind the same thing just in different groups and it'll cost you much less money cuz you're not, you're not, you know, and there's no travel and expenses involved. You don't have to do hotels. It's a one day thing, but if you do it correctly and it'll start a buzz, people are start talking about it like, oh my God, wasn't that so cool? Like, I went out to dinner here, I went out to dinner here. It'll start conversations and it won't cost you ascent. It's just about thinking more thoughtfully about those things. And like, that's where virtual events also come into it as well. You know, like you don't have to do the I R L if you can't afford it. Like, but you can do a really, really awesome virtual event that'll make your team feel connected without breaking the bank. Again, there's also like little just like lifecycle gifts. Like on Trello we used to send, here, I'll show it to you. Tacos. So they're little 3D printed dogs, they're our mascot. And we have been sending these for year anniversaries since the start of Trello. So every time you have a year on Trello, you get a taco dog in the mail, they're 25 bucks.

Liz - [01:13:00 - 01:13:44]

And I, I, you know, we ship them all over now because we're, you know, 350 people, a little more expensive and I have to outsource, you know, the distribution of it and everything. So, but very small cost. I cannot tell you how important this tradition is to our, like if we were to get rid of every employee experience program that we had on Trello, we'd be keeping that. And it's just the littlest thing to make your team feel connected, to one product and to one thing. I feel valued, I get this little thing every year. I look forward to it. You know, these are the kinds of things when you don't have the money in the bank, there's still ways to bring your team together and make you feel cohesive.

Scott - [01:13:44 - 01:15:09]

I love, I love the taco thing and maybe just that connection to longevity and being proud that you've been there. I remember the I R L that I went to, like everyone on the name tags, they had the name, I think there was the team and, and exactly how long they were there with the team. And I think mine was like six, six years, 11 months, I think like a week after the I r L would've been seven years. And I, when I got there, I'm like, no, no, no, no. Like, you're changing that to seven years. Yeah. Like I, those six, six like years, like people should know that, hey, I've been here for seven years. Absolutely. And I took pride in that. I'm like, yes, I'm no, I'm the OG of OGs here. Like, and it made me feel like something in connecting. And I did like, one of the most purple things I did was grab the other OGs who've been there at that point for like five plus years. And there are maybe about, I think there were about like 15 of us and just did a picture of just us five plus year. And like that moment of sitting with these like, yes, I used to talk to these people every day. We worked hand in hand. And then obviously as the years kind of went by, like we interacted less and less. Cuz and again, especially in the early stage company, most early hires or developers, and I wasn't on the development team, but just having that feeling like, yes, no, we used to interact all the time. It gave me a little bit of that, that pride. it's so last question. I know cognizant of time, even though I wanna spend like the rest of the day, I think my, my kids and my family are knocking on the door, like wondering why, when are we gonna to dinner and all that good stuff, So the, the leaders who've been listening to this podcast, we're now totally sold.

Yes. Okay. We got, we gotta be doing ils, we gotta be getting Oh yeah. Like, yes, they're, they're totally all in maybe your three best pieces or three first pieces of advice on where to get started.

Liz - [01:15:20 - 01:17:08]

Yeah. Okay. So not taking, taking money out of the equation, which I know is very hard to do. but I would say one of my first things would be, make sure there's no work in your work retreat there. That that would be my absolute first thing. I would never plan a work retreat that had like, felt like a conference that it's just, it's pointless, it's purposeless. And if we're going to go by my art of gathering, which I've referenced several times, it's all about the purpose. There is a reason you're all getting together and let's, the reason most of the time is for connective purposes. So let's, you know, honor that. I would say the second thing would be have a dedicated event planner plan your events. Don't leave it to your executive assistant or your engineering managers. They, some of them, this is not in their wheelhouse and they're going to be completely overwhelmed. They're not gonna tell you they're overwhelmed, but it's going to be too much for their plate because this is a full-time job and it takes thought, it takes detail and it takes skill. And you, if you have a whole bunch of people in your company planning a whole bunch of different offsites, what you're gonna get is a discrepancy in caliber of experience. And that is going to be a culture killer for you because nobody is going to feel cohesive if one person is going, like you're saying to the Met on an amazing scavenger hunt and another person sat in a conference room because that's what they think of offsites. so yes, hire someone. the third piece I would say would be Hire me No kidding, but not really. I am working on kind of a, a side hustle that I hope to one day make my main hustle.

Liz - [01:17:08 - 01:17:42]

I'm calling it Gather with ll and I really want to make employee experience accessible and as a service essentially. So employee experience as a service. So if you need someone, you're listening to this and you need someone to rattle off ideas, even just talk to about how you wanna structure your offsites. or you want somebody to plan something for you from top to bottom. And that could be as simple as a networking dinner to as extravagant as a three day retreat. my email is gather with ll and I would love to hear from you.

Scott - [01:17:42 - 01:18:15]

Amazing. Yeah. That, that's the way we end up on, on every episode. It's, you know, if people wanna get in touch with you, people wanna learn more about what you do, or obviously in this case, like somebody's overwhelmed or you shouldn't even think about it being overwhelmed unless you have an event planner or someone that with event planning experience that works for the company. No, do not plan it. Do not give it into anyone's hands. I don't care who it is. I don't care how much time they have. Get semiprofessional again, as you said, to do it the right way. So people again, wanna get ahold of you, learn more about you. Have you planned their event? You mentioned the email address. Is there a website, social media website?

Liz - [01:18:15 - 01:19:07]

The Website is under construction right now. We're, we're making it work. my, good friend of mine is, is building it. She has an amazing studio called R two. let me just make sure that I am referencing her correctly. yes, Robin Rotman, is is an amazing designer, graphic designer, and she's, she's currently making the gather with LL website. I'm gonna be launching a blog on employee experience and all the things that I did right, all the things I did wrong. I really wanted to be, I'm a very self-deprecating person, so I want it to be real and like, here, don't do this you know, things like that. But also just, you know, give people inspiration because I think when we gather together as a community, it's the only way that we're all going to get this right, you know, remote work. it, it takes thought and it takes planning, and it takes a village like we always say.

Scott - [01:19:07 - 01:19:51]

So Yeah, I mean, hun, hundred percent. It's, it's all learning experience when we, we we were successful and when we fail and like those failures will go and help somebody else and we'll go help the next person prevent those no failures potentially at, at their own, with their own team. So Liz, absolutely amazing. Again, as I said, if I wasn't for the kids in the, another, the family knocking on the door, no, trying to figure out when I'm coming to dinner, could talk about this all day. We'll maybe have another follow-up episode. Know, trying to go even deeper. But thank you so much for joining today and sharing all the amazing ex experiences and stories of doing this again for many years with cello and then with an Atlassian and, and the way that you're thinking. And for everyone that's listening, until the next episode, have a great day.