Leaders: Do You Need Strategic Planning or Do You Have Clear Vision?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 15, 2017

In my line of work facilitating retreats and strategic planning, I often meet with an executive who will outline what he or she has in mind for the event.  Sometimes, the “vision” for the day is so crystal clear that I have to wonder what they want the team to do during the event.

Let me share with a real-life example:

My client wanted to do strategic planning and he had a clear vision of where the organization needed to go.  He even called it “Cheyenne.  We’re all going to Cheyenne.”  Even bought bandanas for the team and made reservations at the local cowboy saloon/restaurant.

After listening to him sharing all the details, I said, “So said you wanted your team to help craft your vision…but it sounds to me that you have a fairly good idea of where this organization needs to go?”

“Yep,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.  I want to get everyone onboard.”

Ahhhh…now that is a different kettle of fish….or chow if you want to keep the cowboy metaphor rolling.

Sure, helping an executive craft the vision is an excellent way to get buy-in and commitment to the actual execution of that vision.  Bt if you already HAVE the vision, then you’ll just piss people off.  They will feel manipulated and used when the answer is a foregone conclusion.

So I asked, “So if the team decides to go to Wichita rather than Cheyenne, are you okay with that?”

He quickly responded, “No.”  I just as quickly followed up, “Even if they have an intelligent, well-articulated business case for why Wichita is a better destination?”

He paused for a second and reaffirmed his stance: “Nope.  I just know Cheyenne is where we need to go.”

“Well then!” I exclaimed!  You don’t want people to help you craft your vision – you already got it!  It’s crystal clear to YOU!  So we need to start with you sharing your vision and the business case.  Do a little Q&A so they completely understand why this is the right direction.  And then….ask for their help in creating the roadmap to get there as you know there will be trials and tribulations along the way!”

And that, my dear executive, is how you get people onboard when you have already made up your mind.  Ask for their help on the questions you don’t have the definitive answers to.

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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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