Done right, your leadership team should leave the annual planning session on a major high. Goals have been set, plans are in place, and everyone is excited about the year ahead. Once you share the plan with your entire organization, everyone from the C-suite to the front lines should be filled with motivation and optimism the very next day.
In the following days and weeks, it is critical that you maintain forward momentum. To accomplish this, make these three items your immediate top priorities after a planning session.
1. Define “Who? What? When?”
At the first leadership meeting after your planning session, carefully review all of the specific and measurable commitments made by the team. Since defining and articulating a clear “Vision” is among your 5 Key Jobs as a CEO, you must also be certain to communicate this right away to the organization at large.
Your planning session confirmed the high-level outcomes that you want to hit in the next 3 to 5 years, which I call your Huge Outrageous Targets (“HOTs”). Your facilitator will have helped you convert this HOT into a meaningful 1-year goal, and the 1-year goal into quarterly milestones. This 1-year goal and those quarterly milestones are, in turn, achieved via a set of clearly defined initiatives. Each initiative and their related activities must have a clear owner on your leadership team.
Therefore, no planning session is complete before your facilitator summarizes “Who” will do “What” by “When,” and these must be memorialized in writing.
- Who? This is simple. Someone on your leadership team must have clear ownership of both the tasks and outcomes of each initiative. Shared accountability means none. If the initiative is cross-departmental, ask someone to be the initiative’s “Captain,” “Shepherd,” “Quarterback,” or whatever analogy you prefer. Make it clear that he or she is responsible for progress.
- What? Define the initiative in both specific and measurable terms, so the owner can report weekly on progress toward the initiative’s milestones. “Stronger Customer Satisfaction” is neither specific nor measurable. “Institute X, Y, and Z improvements by end of June, to achieve customer NPS higher than Apple by end of year” is better.
- When? Identify when specific benchmarks will be attained, so that the initiative owner can report on progress toward these milestones in real time. No one should ever hear, “I think we’re about halfway done with the project.” Instead, the project owner should be able to state, “we have completed two of the four milestones for this initiative on time, and have begun the third.” If it is not possible within the meeting to define the detailed milestone deadlines, the initiative owner should be assigned the task to set those dates within a week or so of the conclusion of the planning session. In effect, defining those deadlines becomes the owner’s first “Who/What/When” item for that initiative, deliverable in an appropriately tight timeframe.
Finalizing the Who, What, and When for each initiative will create a mini “project plan” that allows each owner to organize their time and resources effectively. Use this project plan to frame the agenda of your weekly leadership meetings, and your one-on-one meetings with direct reports. Share and celebrate successes publicly among your leadership team and at company all-hands meetings.
2. Use Visible Scoreboards
Be transparent about the company’s progress, regardless the status of each initiative. Create scoreboards that show clear, visible measurement of the progress on each initiative.
How you design your scoreboards is a matter of preference, and will also depend on the nature of the initiatives themselves. Personally, I love a BIG wall-sized scoreboard where everyone in the office can see our numbers building every week. Other CEOs prefer shared spreadsheets or email updates. Some clients have even hung TV displays around the office, with screens that shift from one initiative to the next. Either way, it is important to demonstrate that you’re measuring activities and results, and that you have a way for everyone to know when key benchmarks have been achieved.
You should also create your own CEO-level scorecard to keep track of your own top-level duties. Take a look at what one of our clients, Kerry Siggins, uses to break down her BIG goals into smaller, actionable “micro achievements.” Kerry also uses a scorecard to track the Top 1-2 ways that she can hold herself more accountable each quarter to her 5 Jobs as a CEO. A CEO who holds herself to a high level of accountability is going to inspire the rest of her team to do the same.
If one of your annual goals is to identify an M&A target and close a deal, you might also create a scorecard that helps you keep track of identifying a minimum number of potential targets, contacting and holding conversations with them, and signing the minimum number of LOI’s that you believe will lead to the transaction you desire. Or, if you prefer to use an M&A broker, your scorecard might begin with defining your M&A profile, then contacting, interviewing and selecting your preferred broker by a specific date.
3. Refocus your Leadership Team Meetings
A common error that can stall momentum is the ineffective use of your weekly leadership team meetings. When you’re sitting down with your company’s top people, don’t allow yourselves to get distracted. Ambitious new ideas or brewing crises don’t belong in this forum. Make this clear at your first leadership team meeting.
In fact, productive weekly leadership meetings should have just four items on the agenda:
- Ten-minute review of initiative scorecards (week over week progress toward specific and measurable milestones).
- 2-3-minute reports from each participant on the status of each department’s commitments to move the needle.
- List of commitments between now and the next meeting.
- Identification of other issues that must be discussed or resolved to maintain forward progress. (Not all of these discussions must take place within the meeting. Your VP of Sales and CFO can commit to a “side-bar meeting” during the week to address outstanding questions).
Essentially, this weekly leadership team meeting is what’s going to keep your flywheel flying after your annual planning session. Let any other topic – even an important one – grind on your gears and your HOTs are going to drift further and further down your timeline.
Remember – the difference between a “very good” and a “great” planning session is that the former truly inspires the team to achieve significant outcomes, while the latter actually leads the team to achieve those goals. Going from “very good” to “great” will depend on several factors, including the strength of the people in your organization upon whom you are relying for success. However, among the most critical factors is a planning session that is structured to be converted into action, and a clear post-session plan to maintain the momentum of this plan. My advice above will help you achieve a “great” planning session every time.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 200 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, become better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 350 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 25 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 66.4% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.