The Leader & Planning: Preparing Your Team

Many leaders do not prepare their teams for an upcoming planning session, except to let them know where and when.  The first sound uttered by a team member when they get the planning meeting email is a groan.  But wise leaders will save themselves a lot of emotional energy and will get the best out of their team planning times if they will prepare those involved before the meeting actually begins.

Three Reasons to Prepare Your Team for Planning

1. You will increase their ownership in the outcome.  If you are leading something of significance then you absolutely need your team’s best creativity and energy.  This flows from being vested in the process.  Creating ownership begins before the actual planning time begins.  Preparing your team by soliciting some of their thoughts ahead of time will increase their ownership.

2. You will increase their contribution to the process.  A good plan is hard to come by.  It takes time and hard work with every thoughtful mind contributing.  Thoughtful contribution will flow from a prepared mind.  This will definitely help the thinking processors in the group-who can often remain silent during brainstorming times.  Thinking processors, when they have had the chance to preheat, will benefit and contribute better and verbal processors will not dominate the time.

3. You will increase their commitment towards personal and corporate execution.  Apart from good execution any plan is worthless.  Execution requires that every team member executes at a personal level so that the team as a whole can execute well on a corporate level.  The better prepared a team is for this important activity the more they will understand what is required of them and be motivated to follow through.

Three Ways to Prepare Your Team for Planning

1. Engage Them in the Vision  As the team leader you must know the overall direction of the effort.  You must be engaged at a heart level to lead well.  But there is no guarantee that your team will naturally do the same.  Have them ponder and write down some thoughts to a few questions.  Ask them how they might contribute to the overall vision uniquely out of their gifts and abilities.  Ask them what they think the future might look like if the team vision is accomplished and lived out fully.  Ask them to transform the team vision into a war setting and a favorite vacation setting-and then describe it to the rest of the team.  Don’t waste time working on a well crafted vision statement that no one actually owns.  Simply let the team’s vision grow at a heart level as each member hears the other’s vision uniquely expressed through their eyes.  Start the process before your actual planning time by having your team do these exercises (or others) before they walk in the room.

2. Indulge Them in the Current Reality  Ask them for their perspective on the current reality of the organizational situation-and to prepare a one paragraph report before the planning time.  Ask them to come into the time with some thoughts written down about what is fixed and what is broken.  Ask them to come in with ideas about current hopes and frustrations.  Ask them to review the organizational metrics and to prepare a brief analysis of where the organization is today.  Ask them to be prepared to share what they believe to be the current impact of the organization on it’s intended audience-for good or bad.

3.  Involve Them in Practical Solutions  The team needs to come up with the plan–together.  But that does not mean that you cannot have them think ahead about potential solutions.  Ask each team member to consider what they think is either the biggest problem or greatest opportunity the organization faces–and to be ready to share three recommendations towards a solution.  If team members are already engaged in potential solutions it will almost certainly guarantee a robust conversation when it comes time to corporately solve the problem.  And that is where some of the best creativity and ownership will arise.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Why should a leader prepare the team ahead of time for planning?  What are some best practices you have observed in doing so?

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