A critical aspect in team planning is the leader’s own self-preparation. In previous posts, I have talked about the need to prepare your team and the overall purposes of planning. These topics should fuel some reflection for the leader on what he or she needs to do at a personal level to prepare for the team this important time.
Early in my history as a team leader I failed to take the time to adequately prepare myself for this task. I was more concerned about the end product than I was the overall effectiveness of the process. But it is the process that creates team ownership. And it is the leader’s self-awareness that will ensure a great process. Here are three considerations for preparing yourself in leading a quality planning time with your team.
1. Do you truly understand the vision, mission, and direction of the organization? This probably sounds rather insulting. But I often run across two problem issues in this regard. Sometimes leaders do not fully understand what leaders above them are aiming for. Yet, leading within a larger context requires that the leader knows the aim, goals, and expectations of the broader organization in which they serve. The other issue I see is that a leader often does not know well their own current context. They assume by intuition what is true and what needs to happen. But they can’t actually back those assumptions up with good metrics, surveyed data, or current trends. They are relying too much on prior experience. This can lead to a rather canned approach to planning that is void of any real innovation or creativity. It can also lead to solving yesterday’s problems based on old information. Leaders have to be continual learners. They must be in line with leaders above them and they must be current abut the setting of their own sphere of influence. Knowing these things will help enflame vision, mission, and direction for the leader. Knowing these things will help ensure that the leader is able to lead in line with the organization’s vision, mission and direction, and can articulate that well to a team.
2. Have you thoughtfully defined what you hope to accomplish during the planning time? Many leaders aim for document production as their only planning goal. But what kind of plan are you hoping to produce? What will be the timeline of this plan? Who will the plan impact? Are the right people involved in the planning process? How will you prepare the team for what you hope to accomplish? Do you need outside resources or expertise to aid the planning time? Who will facilitate the planning time? These kinds of questions must be thought through and answered ahead of time. To do so will guide you in how you approach and execute the planning time towards greater effectiveness.
3. Have you considered the value of consulting others before you facilitate a team planning time? Sometimes leaders rely too much on their own experience and talent. As I mentioned earlier, leaders need to be continual learners. Have you asked other respected leaders how they approach team planning? Sometimes the value of just having a sounding board can really help pave the way for a solid planning time with your team. Have you sought outside resources like books, podcasts, and videos to help inform your planning time? Have you considered asking a 3rd party to come in and facilitate your time? This can be valuable, especially if this is an emergency plan or a season loaded with personal emotions. To have someone else facilitate can keep the planning time more objective and profitable. Is there a co-leader in your setting and have you worked with them to ensure a coordinated effort towards planning?
I usually suggest that a leader start to think through the above issues at least a month before the actual team planning time. To really prepare at a personal level takes some slow cooking. You can’t get there in a few hours at Starbucks. And if you are a Christian leader leading in any capacity, then begin your personal preparation with some extended time in prayer. Being led by the One who controls it all is always a necessity. Lead well!