November 2, 2018
It’s just about here: the holiday season, New Years, time off with family, parties,
potential bonuses and, of course, some cold weather! For those in leadership, it also
means renewals, budgeting, year-end closes, pipeline analysis, and time with your
management team for annual planning. So, how do you most effectively plan for the
Stay on the Path Despite Rough Terrain
Success in business is deeply rooted in adaptability. Leaders are pretty good at setting
long- term goals and we usually can envision how to get there. It’s important we to paint
that picture for others. But, we also must acknowledge the fact that the path to get
there is never straight. Staying ahead of our competition requires a high degree of
agility and adaptability.
Encourage Fresh Ideas and Perspectives
It is natural for many leaders to try and drive directly to answers. We are impatient
people who seek absolutes and seek them quickly. However, when we do that, we
cheat ourselves out of analyzing our underlying assumptions; and we cheat the people
around us from having an opinion, and unintentionally create defensive posturing.
Probing with open-ended questions allows for everyone’s ideas, opinions, and
perspectives to be expressed.
Let Key Questions Lead to More Questions
Use a few key questions to start your planning sessions – and then ask more. A great
way to get things started is to institute a questions rule. Meaning that, as you go
through answers, others can only ask open-ended questions in response. Really peel
things back. For example, where and how should the business be adapting? What are
the three most important accomplishments for the next year that will drive you closest to
your long-term goals? What market influences are there today that were not there
yesterday; and, what might become a driving influence tomorrow? How are your culture
and employees poised to adapt?
Success Comes From the Team, not an Individual
Be inclusive in your search for answers during the entire planning process. Think about
your current leaders, your future leaders, and those critical thinkers you want to include
in strategizing. Do not let your chain of command dictate inclusion; use your intuition
and go with those who will provide the diversity in perspective you need to drive the
best results. Those you tap for important activities like this will receive your message
loud and clear – that they are important to you and you want to know what they have to
say. Let everyone, especially the introverts have time to think. Give key questions
ahead of time. Let people take time to be thoughtful and consider possibilities before
your discussion. Even consider getting answers beforehand, to ensure truth is not
drowned out in discussion.
Stay Focused and Re-evaluate Throughout the Year
Business planning is oftentimes an overly formalized event dictated by hierarchy and resulting
in spreadsheet-based plans with lofty revenue goals with little follow up. The effectiveness of
such meetings is low and they fail to answer critical questions around how you become most
competitive within your business environment today. Question how your organization will
adapt. Come up with specific goals and objectives. Track your progress and re-evaluate
throughout the year to insure your success.