“Better Every Day.” It’s on a neon sign just inside the door of Lemonly HQ. It’s on our latest round of team t-shirts. And it was the theme of our 2021 Lemonly Retreat.
We look forward to retreat every year, but this trip was extra special. First, it was just a few weeks after we celebrated our 10th anniversary as a company. It was also our first retreat since joining forces with Click Rain. These two milestones gave us plenty of inspiration to look back at our first decade and think ahead to the future of Lemonly.
On top of all that, it was our first in-person retreat since the onset of the pandemic! High fives all around! (But sanitize your hands before and after, please.)
Fortunately, our whole company chose to get vaccinated and disclose their vaccination status to help our leadership team make decisions about policies and plans. Everyone took a COVID test before hitting the road for retreat. We also planned for outdoor activities—hiking, yoga on the lawn, patio seating at the restaurant for team dinner—to keep our “bubble” as limited as possible through the trip.
In the theme of “Better Every Day,” different parts of the retreat focused on making Lemonly better, making ourselves better, and making our shared organization better.
We spent some time talking about finding opportunity in the relative chaos of the pandemic and acquisition—chaos that some of us are more comfortable with than others, as we learned in one of our sessions. We also explored the concepts of antifragility and leverage, then applied them to making goals and predictions about the next 10 years of Lemonly.
Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb
CEO John T. Meyer kicked off our retreat with a presentation on antifragility, including insights from Taleb, quoted above, as well as Winston Churchill’s famous saying, “Never waste a good crisis.”
JTM talked about how the pandemic and acquisition have given us new opportunities to rethink the status quo and grow as a team, setting the perfect tone to kick off a couple days of inspiration, improvement, and imagining the future of Lemonly.
Recommended reading: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
We welcomed Dr. Rachel Headley from the Rose Group International to guide us through a workshop focused on understanding how each of us navigate change.
We’re big fans of personality assessments, and this session has stuck with us in the weeks since retreat. The Helix Culture Type Assessment places folks on a 2×2 matrix based on their tolerance for change (order-tolerant vs. chaos-tolerant) and how they operate in a team environment (team-driven vs. self-driven).
In a nutshell…
- Fixers need a mission and want to feel like they’re a part of the solution with others.
- Independents need freedom and want to own part of the project.
- Stabilizers need unity of people and want to feel that everyone around them is on board.
- Organizers need a reason and want to understand how it’s going to work.
Dr. Headley guided us through our results and helped us get to know how each type responds to change and challenges. We grouped up based on our types, then shared with the room the ways we work best and the affirmations that are most meaningful to us. For example, a few Fixers said they like to be rewarded with another similar project after a job well done, and Organizers like to be recognized verbally for their bright ideas or unique thinking.
The assessment and discussion gave us a shared language to talk about how we navigate change (like, say, an acquisition or global pandemic) and ways we can work better together by understanding what makes each other tick. Warm fuzzies and buzzing brains all around.
Recommended reading: Learn more about the Helix assessment
Remote & hybrid work
While Lemonly has always been a remote-friendly company, we still had some adjustments to make when the whole team went fully remote back in March 2020. We’re continually improving how we work together in a hybrid environment—evolving from merely remote-friendly to fully remote-first.
With that in mind, Design Director Ashton had us all fill out a survey prior to retreat, answering questions like:
- What’s your favorite thing about working remotely?
- What do you find difficult or challenging about remote work?
- Has hybrid work (some people in the office, some remote) caused any challenges?
- Have you ever felt disconnected from the rest of the team when working remotely?
- How can we use our digital tools to improve our remote/hybrid work situation?
At retreat, Ashton went over some high-level feedback from the team’s answers:
- Flexibility is king. No commute, no getting ready, no pressure to be “on” if you’re not feeling well or having a tough mental health day. No surprise, the parents on the team definitely appreciate the ease and flexibility of WFH when it comes to childcare.
- Productivity is fluid. Some team members focus better at home, others like the shared accountability of working alongside others in the office—and those preferences aren’t static. How and where folks want to work changes day to day based on what they’re working on and what conditions they need to do their best work.
- We miss those accidental office interactions. The micro-interactions and impromptu conversations that happen when we’re together can spark great ideas and meaningful connections. People like being around their teammates, and most Lemonheads say they’re more likely to come into the office when they know others will be there, too.
Ashton also used our responses and feedback to put together a plan to improve our remote/hybrid collaboration, from adding a screen to our second conference room to hosting more virtual lunchtime chats to leveraging our tech tools more efficiently. Speaking of leverage…
Eric Jorgenson talked with us about the concept of leverage—what he calls “the art of accomplishing more.” Levers (the simple machine, like your neighborhood seesaw) are force multipliers. They transform a small amount of applied effort into a much-magnified impact.
Building leverage means thinking beyond productivity. Whereas productivity emphasizes small, hard-won gains with limited upside, leverage unlocks big, sustainable gains with unlimited upside.
While there are certainly business impacts from building leverage at work, Eric is also focused on helping people realize the impact of leverage in their lives outside work—family, side hustles, hobbies.
Eric walked us through four types of leverage. Most people have a natural strength in one or two areas, but have a block or blind spot in another.
- Tools: technology, software, or machines that offload or automate your work
- Products: products or outputs of your mind (documents, podcasts, etc.) that store knowledge for sharing or repeated use
- People: vendors, freelancers, coworkers, or friends whose talents, skills, or networks you can tap into
- Capital: cash, equity, assets, or investments to finance your life, work, or goals
Part of using leverage is recognizing that, sure, there are a lot of things you can do, but just a few things that only you can do. How can you maximize your effort in your area(s) of greatest impact?
Eric was a guest on CEO John’s show, the Leadmore Podcast, earlier this year. Listen to his episode here, where he talks more with John about leverage.
Recommended reading and resources from Eric:
- Books about Leverage (Even if they don’t know it)
- How Personal Leverage Helps you Accomplish the Superhuman
- Time Leverage: How to get more than 24 hours per day
The next 10 years of Lemonly
Lemonly turned 10 this year! Over our first decade as a company, we’ve created thousands of infographics for hundreds of clients and built an awesome team of creative pros. So, what’s next?
Amy and Chris guided us through an afternoon of brainstorming about what Lemonly could look like 10 years from now. It was a chance to dream big and as we head into our second decade, especially with a new sister company in the mix.
Our task was to imagine a typical day at Lemonly in 2031—what you do, who you work with, and why you love it. We focused on the three most important aspects of the company:
- The work: What do we create in 10 years? Who are our clients?
- The team: What are the size, structure, and skills of our team?
- The culture: What’s it like to work here? What do our office and benefits look like?
We broke into teams to brainstorm and present our vision. What we found is that quite a few of the ideas people brought up are actually things we can do within one or two years—not things that are a whole decade away. To paraphrase Bill Gates: Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten. So dream big. And then dream bigger.
Retreat isn’t all about work, of course. We also had time to bond as a team, whether we were collectively devouring an elaborate cheese tray or holding an iPhone to our foreheads for some games of Heads Up. (One of these years, we’re going to cave in and buy the full set of categories.)
No trip to the Black Hills would be complete without some hiking! We trekked up beautiful Bear Butte, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air on a beautiful fall day. We also did some reflective morning yoga and took our Canadian comrade, Dafne, into downtown Deadwood to see all the…er…sights the town has to offer.
All in all, retreat 2021 was pretty dang great. We’re thankful for the chance to get together with our teammates, make Lemonly better, and have a lot of fun while doing it.