Welcome to the second and final part of our series on common mistakes made during the strategic planning process. In this instalment, we will delve into 4 more mistakes that leaders often make during the planning process: not staying the course, stubbornness, blind spots and running out of energy. By avoiding these mistakes and following best practices, leaders can create a strong and effective strategic plan for their organization.
Not Staying the Course
Another pit that swallows many a good leader (and their team along with them) is Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (BSO). At the beginning of the year, everyone’s clear on where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, but somewhere along the way someone (often the leader) decides to change tracks. Bright Shiny Object Syndrome has a twin brother, Quick Fix Addiction and whenever a leader gets into the part of leading change where it gets hard, where belief wavers, where you question your direction and/or your methods — the twins appear.
Here’s how it goes…
You’re ticking along nicely with your plan at the beginning and are very focused. Within the first quarter, however, the excitement of your shiny new goals has begun to wear off and you start to realize that it is going to be much harder to achieve these goals than you thought. Enter the new Bright Shiny Object. You hear about or see the latest greatest “thing” on the news on in an article somewhere. Then you see someone else has it. Then you start to worry your competitor will get it. Then Quick Fix Addiction kicks in and tells you that surely the BSO will make it so much faster and easier for you to reach your goals. You buy the BSO, (Which may not be an actual object – it could be a seminar, a new piece of software, the addition of a new social media stream such as twitter or Pinterest, or some new philosophy for managing your team) and then proceed to spend the next few months neglecting your original plans completely to figure out how to integrate this new promise of ease and profit into the equation. It ends up not being as easy as you thought. … And then along comes another BSO, and the cycle repeats.
While we absolutely encourage leaders to stay open to learning and maintain their ability to change as the market demands, success often depends on staying power. Something can’t work for you if you aren’t “working” it. When you go to the gym the weights don’t lift themselves (and they also don’t work on the first try). Human beings – especially passionate leaders – are notoriously bad time estimators. It almost always takes longer than anticipated to achieve your goals. This leads to self-doubt and the temptation to switch tracks just when the results are about to start rolling in. Professional support in the strategic planning process (and ongoing coaching) can help to provide confidence in the path that you have set out for yourself, a clear understanding of the time and effort involved to move your plan forward, and the insight and support to help you stay on track long enough to see the results you set out to achieve.
“Over-Persistence” (aka Stubbornness).
There are many stories of leaders who attribute their success to being stubborn enough persist on their path despite what others said to the contrary. While this kind of tenacity can be required to succeed, it is also important to understand that there is a time to stop banging your head against the wall and look for a door to walk through elsewhere. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is not the same as being persistent. Persistence involves fine-tuning and adjusting your approach as you learn what works –and what doesn’t. Sticking to the same approach despite it not working is usually the result of not having enough tools in your toolbox. As the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
Over-persistence shows up as growth plateaus, exhaustion, lack of fulfilment, and lack of returns on investment. Look at the areas where you aren’t getting the results you want. (For example, products, programs, systems, ideas, or even people that just aren’t panning out despite your best efforts.) Step back and look for flaws in your approach, knowledge, and skills. What might you be missing? Who could give you a fresh or even contrary perspective? Sometimes you need to let go of ideas and projects that have stalled – at least temporarily – to make room to focus on opportunities that are moving forward with greater ease.
Yet another reason leaders don’t follow through on their action plans is that they aren’t sure if they are doing the right thing to begin with. The big challenge with this one is that you don’t know what you don’t know. It is difficult to address something when you don’t even know it’s an issue. Asking for ideas, opinions, and feedback from others both inside and outside of your business can uncover potential blind spots but be selective of who you ask for feedback. They might be either unwilling or unqualified to identify these blind spots for you. The best experts and colleagues to get support from are those who are aware of both the extent and the limits of their expertise. Beware of anyone who states their opinions as fact or who can’t back their opinions up with research, experience, or a logical rationale. If you’re questioning if your strategy is on point, possibly you were missing something when you identified this path. Take a moment to think about who you could get honest and professional insight from regarding your blind spots and go talk to them. Or just hop online and start googling for answers and ideas. These days, it’s highly likely that the problem you’re having has been faced by others, and that they’ve posted their solutions on the internet to help people just like you.
Running Out of Energy.
All successful leaders have one thing in common – a genuine passion for their business. This passion is the energy that fuels them to keep going for as long as it takes to realize their vision, no matter how hard it gets. It’s the same passion that gets people excited to work with them and buy their products and services. If you’re not authentically passionate about your work, your team and your business beyond earning a paycheck or making a profit, you’ll run out of steam long before you reach the finish line.
If you have been feeling like this leadership “gig” is a slog, but you “can’t afford” to quit, or have no idea what else you would do even if you did, it’s time to step back and do some “job crafting”. The first step is to look at your role to identify the work that energizes you and the work that drains you. Investigate the work that drains you to determine why its draining. Are you missing key skills, knowledge, systems, or tools that would make it less draining? Could you train other people to do these things and then delegate them? Do you need to hire additional support? Redesigning your role to allow you more time to do what you love can help bring back your energy, but if your attempts to restore your passion don’t work, it might be time to seek some external help to deal with burnout – or time to start looking for the next step on your career path.
We’d love to hear your comments on the above and welcome any additional tips you have for leaders looking to make the most out of their strategic planning in 2023!