Anchor: something that serves to hold firmly, a reliable or principle support.
Maintaining motivation levels on challenging projects or through long periods of intensive work is both challenging individually and on the group level. Keeping the end in mind, the reason why you are doing things, is easier said than done when you are half way towards a very time consuming objective. This is where having anchor events matter. Anchor events, as the name suggests, are organizated activities that join together the reasons why you are doing a project. They provide an anchor to remind all involved why they are working so hard on a project and give everyone a point to aim for which is closer than the end goal. Long term goals may have multiple anchor events binding them together.
Anchor events join together the actions you are doing and the WHY you are doing them.
Anchor events can be work orientated check points or they can be pure social events designed to connect the team, although ideally in my view they should be a mix of both of these. What matters is they break the rhythm of normal day to day work and are set ahead of time and the purpose of them is clearly understood from the beginning. They should be known stop points on the journey towards the objectives the team has. Ideally they always have an element of pleasure as normally to work the best they need to be welcomed rather than feared. Well functioning anchor events do three things:
- Break up long term projects and…
- Bring the team together and…
- Connect the group back to “whys” of the project i.e. why the hard work is needed and matters.
Anchor events should be planned out STOP points on the way towards a longer term objective.
Any long term project and/or very intensive work period should have anchor event every 2-3 months. Ideally they take place outside of the established work environment and break lots of standard work requirements, i.e. dress code, alcohol rules etc… as they idea is they feel to staff different to normal work, even though they perform a work purpose. Also they should ideally take place in part during work time as this makes it easier to justify them being “obligatory”. Of course rather than stressing attendance is required, one stresses the benefit of the event and fun side of it, over the requirement to attend. Also ideally the planning of anchor events, even if just the social side of them, are organized by the staff themselves as this way they feel like team events and not company ones, however be careful to not delegate all parts as anchor event must also bind the work reasons and pure social events often don’t do that.
Staff should usually have assigned roles in anchor events, ideally different ones each time.
Another side of anchor events is using them personally to break up intense period of work when energy levels inevitably drop. These can be vacations set in the middle of long projects, even partly funded by the company itself, or just encouraging your team to forward think and put things to look forward to in the midst of hard work periods, as the benefits of looking forward to something nice when you are incredibly busy can never be underestimated. Also stop check one to one feedback meetings on performance and/or objectives being mixed with nice social event like dinner can also on micro level serve as anchor event too.
Anchor events are also help on the personally level to break up intensive work periods and have something to look forward to.
So from now on when you have a long term project you know will push your team hard, make sure to plan in some binding anchor events as they benefit on them on team and personal level is huge.