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Recapping Odyssey Advisors’ 2022 Offsite
At the beginning of May, we flew out to New Orleans for our first in-person offsite since the start of the pandemic. For two and half days we spent our time reflecting, learning, sharing, and eating our way through every beignet in NOLA.
We spent some time talking about Odyssey and where we’re going, sharing ideas on how we can improve, learning how to make jambalaya with the New Orleans School of Cooking, and having a healthy dose of fun!
Where we are and where we’re headed
CEO and President, Parker Elmore kicked things off with a presentation on where the company is at, where we’re headed, and what that all means. He’s always been transparent with us when it comes to sharing about the company and how we’re doing overall.
Parker does a great job of keeping us all in the loop. He believes that since we are a smaller company (with about 8 employees) being transparent with us is essential. I can attest that it gives me a sense of security knowing where the company is at and what our plans are for the future.
It’s no secret that transparency and trust in any organization can foster higher levels of performance, increase morale, and even open the channels to better ideas and innovation. When leaders are open and honest with their team, they make them feel valued and receptive to their feedback. This builds a sense of loyalty and trust which leads to greater employee advocacy.
We don’t usually set a theme for our offsites, but the concept of perception seemed to weave its way throughout our sessions this year.
A few months before the trip, Parker handed us all a book called “The Cure for Stupidity: Using Brain Science to Explain Irrational Behavior at Work” by Eric M. Bailey that was personally signed and addressed to each of us.
We each had to read it before the offsite. Here’s my cliff notes version: the entire book is about perception. In it, Eric M. Bailey really brings home the concept that what’s obvious to one person isn’t as obvious to another and that we should all seek clarity before we start assuming incorrect accusations. Perception is also NOT reality. Your personal perception is just that – personal. We all see the world differently from how other people do. Our perceptions are based on our upbringing, the people who have shaped us, and our personal beliefs which are all different from everyone else’s.
Recommended video: Eric M. Bailey, Leadership and Motivational Speaker
In an interview, Eric Bailey explained that his idea for this book came from his realization that we, as a society, are losing the ability to communicate with each other. Communication is the key to whether a relationship will be successful or not. The best way to beat communication barriers is to go into a conversation looking to understand the other person and their perception.
Throughout the book, there are brain teasers. Ones that really make you think and challenge what you’re seeing versus what is actually there. Here’s one:
Take a look at this photo. How many black dots are there?
There are a total of twelve dots, which you probably saw after scanning over the photo. But could you see all twelve dots at the same time? Go ahead and take another look. You can probably see two or even three dots at the same time, but not all twelve.
This is because our peripheral vision isn’t as detailed as we think. It’s like a camera lens. When you focus on one area, the rest of the area becomes blurred.
Eric Bailey uses this teaser to teach that our brain recreates expected patterns based on previous knowledge. He explains that we’ve lived our entire lives with blurry peripheral vision and so our brain has learned to reconstruct a world just outside of our area of focus. This reaffirms that our perception is not reality.
Next Parker shared a session from SXSW with Amy Webb. If you aren’t familiar with Amy Webb (I wasn’t at the time), she is a futurist who runs a company called, Future Today Institute. Like me, you’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a futurist? Like a crystal ball reader?”
If you said that, you’re not entirely wrong.
In lieu of a crystal ball, a futurist studies the future and creates forecasts of probate outcomes by linking a variety of seemingly unrelated pieces of data and trends. In a way, Actuaries could be considered futurists too. Well, Amy Webb is one of those people.
Amy shares insights from her company’s Tech Trends Report which includes things we would only imagine in sci-fi movies like a heartbeat recognition software. Oh yeah, apparently we all have unique heartbeats, and one day in the future we could be identified based on it, kind of like facial recognition. She takes this information and then showcases different scenarios of the future that will change your perception of the future.
She also shares a brain teaser similar to Eric Bailey’s up above. Take a look at this and tell me what data you see hidden in the photograph below:
Most of us had no clue what we were seeing so I’m going to give it away, it’s a cow. If you’re like me, you’re probably still sitting there turning your head every which way to see the cow. You might also be thinking there’s no way. That’s not what I see.
Give me a second to share the insights and then I’ll show you the cow.
Amy Webb says that she gets similar feedback a lot when she shows senior executives something that doesn’t register with their existing mental models or with the patterns that they’re used to recognizing. That whatever information it is, is irrelevant because it’s outside of what they’re trying to make a decision on today.
But once you make that connection, you will never be able to unsee it. Same thing with the cow.
It’s all about perception.
Recommended video: Amy Web Launches 2022 Emerging Tech Trend Report at SXSW
SMART Goal Setting
Kurtis Thompson held a session all about SMART goals. If you don’t know, SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. As Kurtis puts it, “The difference between a goal and a dream is a plan.”
Goals don’t just pertain to business, but to every aspect of your life. By setting goals, you’re putting a plan in place to achieve your dreams and giving yourself something to aim for. Breaking your goals down into SMART goals will help you focus your efforts and increase your chances of achieving them.
SMART in a nutshell…
Specific: Define the goal, if you can’t articulate it, it’s not real.
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who’s help will I need?
- What resources will I need? Which resources are limited?
Measurable: What you can measure, you can improve
- How will you measure progress?
- How will you know when you’re done?
- What steps do you need to establish to accomplish larger goals?
Achievable: Goals need to be not too big, but not too small
- Process-based goals:
- How am I going to accomplish my goal?
- Is the goal realistic based on financial, time, energy, etc. resources?
Relevant: Ensure the goal matters and will have a meaningful impact
- Does this goal seem worthwhile?
- Does this match up with my values?
- Is it appropriate in the current/future environment? Rather than the past.
- Why does this goal matter?
Time-Bound: If you don’t have an end date, goals will tend to stretch out into infinity.
- What are key milestone times along the way?
- What am I going to accomplish in 1 month, 6 months, etc.?
- What am I going to do today?
- Who is holding you accountable for deadlines?
One example Kurtis gave was about writing content (Thanks Kurtis!). Most of our team consists of actuaries and they’d much rather deal with numbers, spreadsheets, and calculus, than sit down to write a blog post. Which is completely understandable! I loved this comment from the team, “I went to school for math so I didn’t have to write another paper.”
And the funny thing is? I also went to school for communications and marketing so I didn’t have to do any more math.
But as a small company, we really value the knowledge our team has and we want to share that with our community. Plus, we want them to become thought leaders in their own regard to help them boost their personal brand.
The example was about writing content. Instead of putting it off, set a schedule. Maybe that looks like every Friday for 1-2 hours, you sit down and write a few answers to questions a client asked you throughout the week. That sounds a lot more manageable than having to sit down and write a full 2,500-word blog post every other week, right?
Recommended reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear
Offsites aren’t just all about work. Yes, it’s a large part of it, but it also gives us the time to just hang out and connect with the team outside of the office.
Every year Parker puts together a fun activity we all get to do together. Since this was my first offsite with the team, I can’t really speak to the previous activities, but I did hear that axe throwing was the one to beat.
This year, everyone was all in on taking a cooking class. Most of the fun of going to New Orleans is trying all the food so why not learn how to make it ourselves? Thankfully, we got to pick our menu so that there was something for everyone (well almost everyone – Parker is highly selective on what he eats and crab meat ravigote salad wasn’t exactly on his list). Don’t worry though, he still had a great time!
I have to give a shoutout to Chef Eric and the New Orleans School of Cooking because everyone was still raving about that class for days. From a few offsite veterans, they said it was the best activity Odyssey has ever done. (Also, I just found out that they do cooking classes over Zoom 🤯 I’m definitely signing up for one!)
We also ate a lot of food, did over 8 miles of walking each day according to Kirby’s apple watch, and took in all the New Orleans sites the town has to offer. Everyone managed to make their flights home so I’d call that a success.
Overall, I’d say the Odyssey 2022 Offsite was pretty dang great. Getting to meet up with our teammates, help make Odyssey better, and have a lot of fun while doing it is definitely something that has brought us even closer as a team. It was great to refresh and reset. Here’s to next year!