If you're a business owner, chances are you've grappled with the idea of planning at some point. Are you a meticulous planner, or do you prefer to dive headfirst into action without a detailed roadmap?
While planning can be done on the fly or responsively, planning for success across a business requires leaders to line up key elements to ensure a successful and productive planning process.
Not only is it critical to plan for your business in the first place, but timing and creating the right environment for your team to bring their best ideas and insights to the table are paramount to how successful your planning sessions will be.
For many entrepreneurs and business owners, planning can seem mundane. In fact, that’s true of my own experiences with planning. I used to see planning as one of the most boring parts of my ‘job’ as a business owner and leader.
However, over 17 years of running a business, I’ve come to appreciate the critical role that planning plays in achieving success for my own business and my client’s various businesses.
Without planning for success, success can only happen by chance, and that’s not an ideal scenario to rely on. Ss the landscape for business is now everchanging, planning for success is as crucial as ever. When you plan for success, you’ll know why something worked and, more importantly, how to replicate or iterate on it.
Without a plan, you’re just taking a stab in the dark and hoping for the best — which doesn’t sound like a smart way to plan for your business success.
Creating space is one of the hardest things for leaders and business owners. When you’re in the midst of delivering, creating space outside of core business-as-usual tasks feels like a luxury that you just don’t have time for.
But it’s critical to create this space in an ongoing cadence that ensures that you are able to step back and get a bird's eye view of what’s happened, what’s happening, where you want to be going and what type of planning is needed.
The timing of planning will be dependent on you and your business. When does it make the most sense to create space? For example, for accountants, taking space at the end of the Financial Year would be the worst time because that’s the peak of their workload. But after they’ve cleared their peak and just before the Christmas break might be a great time to create space for planning. For other organisations that rely more on funding cycles, it makes sense to sync up their planning with the start and end of these periods.
Typically, though, across many industries, November is a sweet spot for planning. It’s just before that peak Christmas and holiday rush to the finish line sets in, ensuring a solid start to the new year.
Having said that, the urge to plan isn't limited to a specific date. For some, it's an instinct, a gut feeling that signals the need for foresight. This could be responding to immediate needs and concerns that need to be addressed or opportunities that have opened up unexpectedly. Recognising when you feel inspired to plan is also a key factor to consider.
This planning process isn't just about business goals; it's about creating a visual map of what's to come.
To elicit the best planning from yourself and your team, think about changing up the scenery to help encourage creativity and inspiration to be accessed more readily than in normal work surroundings that can keep us trapped and limited. Booking an offsite venue and allowing your team to break from their daily grind completely to engage with the planning process and vision outcomes is a great way to create space for planning.
To make the most use of your time together, consider any skills you might need to facilitate an effective planning session with your team. Consider any pre-planning work that could be helpful for your team to reflect on, think through and ideate on. Allowing your team to prepare can cater towards the different learning styles of your team members and create a more effective and efficient planning process when you come together.
So, you've laid the groundwork for your planning process — what's next?
Getting your team on board is a crucial step, yet one I see business owners and leaders skip altogether sometimes.
It's essential to strike a balance when sharing your plans with them. While your team needs to be informed, feel prepared and engaged, they don't necessarily need every nitty-gritty detail.
Some tips to get your team across your planning session:
Engage your team in the high-level vision. Share what's relevant to them and what excites them about the year ahead. This creates team engagement and enthusiasm, making them look forward to the coming year. This is crucial because January is a peak period for resignations. Many employees reflect on their work during the holiday break, which may lead them to consider a change if they're not excited about the future.
Share your plans with your team before the Christmas break. However, don't do it at the holiday party; hold a dedicated planning session in December. There should be a gap between your planning session and the team meeting to allow your ideas to mature. This helps you fine-tune your plans and present a clear and confident vision to your team.
Remember that not all team members need the same level of detail. What's important to them is how the plan will impact their work, their development, and their role within the company. Sharing the plans thoughtfully ensures that your team is fully on board and motivated for the year ahead.
Create space for your team to provide feedback to you on how they best plan. Asking your team for this feedback creates both a sense of value and ownership for your team members but also allows you insights into how each team member best plans. Understanding the different motivations of your team will have flow-on effects on how you approach your leadership, which is a beneficial outcome.
Achieving business success with and through your team is entirely possible but it comes down to effective planning, timely communication, creating the right conditions and visionary leadership.
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