strategic planning mistakes greg bustin planning trust leadership

Steer Clear of the Biggest Strategic Planning Mistakes

August 10th, 2017  | 

Published in Strategic Planning

With summer nearly a memory, companies are entering the home stretch of the year.

Many leaders will consider holding a strategic planning session and pass. “We don’t have time,” they’ll complain. Why is it that we always find time to fix mistakes but we don’t find the time to prevent them?

Other leaders will assume, “Everyone already knows what needs to be done.” Don’t be so sure. The dirty little secret is that at least half of your team (many who may report directly to you) cannot articulate the company’s top three priorities, much less explain why achieving them matters.

For those considering a session, there are four huge strategic planning mistakes to avoid.

The biggest one? Failure to address the meaty issues.

To achieve the objectives you and your team say you want, you must talk about all the obstacles to high performance. Alignment does not mean absence of conflict. Just the oppo­site. Authentic alignment is achieved only when conflict is encour­aged, options for resolving that conflict are weighed, and a solution is reached that all leaders support. Debate is healthy, though argument is not. And for healthy conflict to occur, leaders must trust one another. You can’t talk openly and candidly about prob­lems, fears, and controversy with people you don’t trust and care about. When trust is present, you and your team can focus on fixing problems, replicating successes, and carving up sacred cows. Absent trust, your planning process will be a waste of time.

There are two questions you need to consider when evaluating whether your team has the trust necessary to plan effectively.

  1. Do I trust my team?
  2. Does my team trust me enough to ask tough questions?

Do I trust my team?

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day details and postpone addressing difficult issues that affect your company fundamentally. If you do not trust your team, then it is time to take a deeper dive to find out why.

Do you have leaders that don’t fit your office culture? Are pirates undermining your leadership? If so, address this behavior now. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.

Are your hesitations closer to home? Perhaps you have a good team, but you don’t know if you can trust them yet because they haven’t been encouraged to take charge, lead or share their opinions. Are you creating an atmosphere that fosters trust?

Does my team trust me enough to ask tough questions?

When was the last time one of your team members questioned your assertions? Are they comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or point out potential flaws in your ideas? Your team may be holding back out of fear, anger, or simply because they are introverts. The fact remains that employees perform at a higher level when their contributions are clear and they see that their input counts. Make sure you create a safe environment for your team to plan.

Fill Two Needs with One Deed: Tackle Trust and Planning

Companies without trust issues or combative personalities are rare. Your best chance for strategic planning success is to bring in an experienced third-party facilitator. I have often said that leading your own strategic planning session is like trying to perform surgery on yourself. An experienced facilitator can make the room safe enough for your team to address the meaty issues.

Ready to start planning? Read about the other mistakes in my article in Forbes, “Why Company Plans Fail” or contact me with your questions about strategic planning facilitation.

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of organizations in a range of industries. Through his strategic planning facilitation, keynote speaking, workshops and leadership development work with peer advisory boards, Bustin helps CEOs and other key executives maximize their individual performance and, in the process, the performance of their organizations. Bustin is the author of four leadership books, including Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill).