Making Your Strategic Plan a Reality

As we enter 2022, Beth Berman, Partner/Peer Group Leader at Clark Leadership and Certified EOS® Implementer highlights often-missed elements in strategic planning. Her words come from both experience and expertise!  

By Beth Berman

Strategic planning is about creating a clear roadmap towards your goals, one the entire organization buys into.

What might you have missed? How might you want to think differently about your Strategic Plan?

Your People

Though this article is on planning and not culture, per se, I’m focusing first on Core Values.  Why? As Peter Drucker so aptly expressed, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast.”

Core Values determine your culture. The term, Core Values, has been misrepresented and trivialized over time.  Core Values are not a bunch of words to throw on the website. They’re not idealized descriptions of who you as a team would like to be.

You and your leadership team must get real about who you are. Core Values should reflect behaviors and characteristics you value—and demonstrate on a day-to-day basis. Think of it as your unique company code. Your Core. They define your culture.

Your Core Values inform the kind of people you want to attract and retain. The kind of people that will help you execute on your plan.  The very same people on your “bus” who will be key to determining your success—or to destroying your dreams.

You’ve heard the expression, “you’re only as good as your people.”  Once you and your leadership team are clear on who you are and what you value, you can use your Core Values to attract and retain people who are a natural fit for your company. And… repel people who aren’t a great fit.

I encourage my Clark Leadership Peer Group members to ensure everyone on their teams is a Core Values fit, and… make the tough decisions when needed. As we’ve discussed in my group, I’ve never heard anyone say they should have waited longer to make a “people” change.

Your Customers

Marketing Strategy is a critical element in strategic planning as well. You need to get clear on your *customers* as well as your team members.  (* I’m using the term to encompass clients, partners, vendors, etc.—people who engage with your business).

Key to the people aspect of your marketing strategy is knowing just about everything about your ideal client. Here’s a somewhat novel thought.  You don’t need to attract everyone. Think about your last “bad” client and how much disruption it caused your company!

Once you describe your ideal targeted people, focus all marketing, biz dev and sales efforts on attracting only those people. That’s where the ROI lives. Why spend money, time and resources to attract anyone else?

At Clark Leadership, we want clients who are both learners and givers. A prospective group member recently visited my Gold group and demonstrated these exact core values. She asked questions, she sought to understand others’ business issues. She shared both experiences and insights that helped others resolve their issues.

The group members could feel the fit, and the prospect was welcomed into the group. Our screening process almost always eliminates potential misfits from visiting, but when they slip through, the cultural contrast is glaringly apparent. We know it, our clients know it, and the visitor ultimately “gets it” as well.

What is our Sweet Spot? –  The “Why” and the “What”

Another area that’s often overlooked in Strategic Planning is the Sweet Spot. Like many inspired entrepreneurs, you started your business because you had both a passion for what you wanted to achieve and a natural ability to do the work. And, like many others, you may have strayed from your wheelhouse, your zone, your highest and best use as a company.

It’s like the sweet spot in baseball; the spot on the bat where you can hit the ball the fastest, straightest, and farthest—right out of the park. You’re most effective when you are in that spot.

In business, your sweet spot is at the intersection of what you love to do and are best at.  It’s a combination of your “Why” and your “What”. Your passion defines the “Why” behind what you do. Your “What” is what you’re great at – what you do better than anyone else. Think about it, have you been lured by shiny objects, opportunities outside your wheelhouse? How’s that working for you?

The trick is to define your sweet spot and then stay laser focused on it. We’ve seen through the pandemic countless examples of the value of staying firmly in your wheelhouse., e.g., having a mastery over sourcing hard-to-obtain artisan shutters to sourcing PPE. Companies who pivoted along their sweet spots thrived. Companies that tried to be, and to do, things outside of their sweet spot failed.

At Clark Leadership our “Why” is:  To help business leaders build and grow high-performing organizations.  What we do is:  Peer Groups, Individual Coaching and Deep Learning for increased self-awareness and strong leadership. Though we’ve been asked to do many things outside of this, e.g., training, we remain in our zone and derive great satisfaction from doing great work we care about.

When you remain in your zone, that’s where the wonders happen!

Long- and Short-Term Goals

As savvy business owners and leaders, you’ve probably got a pretty good handle on some basics of planning. Create a clear vision, and then build a plan—to get from where you are now to your individual and collective desired future. At Clark Leadership, we help our clients focus on what they can do now to make their vision a reality.

Build toward your envisioned future:

Start by setting a clear, concise long-term target. It serves as your North star, a statement of “where” you are taking the organization.  his long-term target should serve as your rallying cry. It should be something everyone in the organization–from your newest intern to the most seasoned people–can get excited about and build toward.

Next, create a vivid vision.  Here you want to create a crystal-clear view of what the company will look like just three years out. Target some key metrics and focus on creating a ‘picture’ all can see and build toward.

When you and your organization can see the future clearly, and see their place in it, the chances you’ll achieve that future increase exponentially. It also sets the stage for annual and quarterly planning.

Less is More – Focus Focus Focus

Yes, you’re human. You want to tackle everything! But, trust me, “less is more”.’ Rather than focusing on 37 things, narrow your annual priorities down to the 3 to 7 things you must achieve this year. Things that will help you build toward your 3-year picture and your ultimate goals.

Now, it’s time to execute on your vision, first by prioritizing! This is often the hardest part—for our group members and coaching clients and for most business leaders.

At Clark Leadership, we help our clients prioritize. Once they prioritize and focus on the most important things; predict well what can actually be accomplished; and set reasonable expectations of their people, they blow past results out of the water.  Letting go is tough, but nailing results is gratifying to all!

How many tasks is your company trying to tackle now that could better be dealt with in the next quarter?

We tend to take on too many tasks, assuming we’ll be able to do everything – – without actually getting anything done. Clark Leadership firmly believes that less is more.

Break your annual goals down by quarter. Prioritize what must and can get done this quarter. Then be sure everyone is on the same page about what “done” looks like.

Finally, define who is accountable for driving results around each of your quarterly goals. At the end of a quarter, we can reward high-performing people for their achievements.

Once you’ve identified your priorities for the quarter, don’t get distracted by everything else that might be important, but is not important now. Capture all other challenges, opportunities, issues, projects, etc. and store them in a “parking lot”. As you set the following quarter’s priorities, those items set aside this quarter may rise to the top and become next quarter’s goals.

Let’s encourage conversation around leadership

Beth believes in the saying “you’re only as good as those you surround yourself with.” She delights in creating a space for her peer groups, allowing them to learn from each other, helping them accelerate towards leadership excellence and business growth.

At Clark Leadership, we offer deep learning through:

Peer Groups – specially curated groups of leaders across different industries who share their knowledge and experience with other leaders to make collaborative efforts towards growth.

Coaching: And contrary to unpopular opinion, leaders do need coaches to assist them through the many hurdles of leadership. We offer one-on-one coaching to help leaders become their best.

A System:  Having a system in place to help you get what you want from your business is vital.  We endorse Beth for her highly skilled group facilitation and coaching.

We have every confidence that Beth can help you implement EOS® – The Entrepreneurial Operating System should you choose that direction. Many of the concepts included in this article reflect the EOS approach to Strategic Planning.

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