You want your business to thrive, and to ensure it’s reaching new heights each quarter you must implement regular strategic planning into your routine.
Strategic planning is “… an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results, and assess and adjust the organization’s direction in response to a changing environment. “ according to the Balanced Scorecard Institute.
For more resources on strategic planning, you can view my previous blog posts
While strategic planning can be completed solely by those within the company, some businesses are finding that bringing in a strategic planning facilitator helps them to yield better results from the overall process.
This blog post will outline the duties of a strategic planning facilitator and why it might be a good idea to add one to your company’s process.
A strategic planning facilitator is a consultant hired by a company to guide a business through their strategic planning meeting.
If you don’t hire an outside facilitator, you or whoever is leading the meeting takes on the role of facilitator.
There are many benefits associated with hiring an outside strategic planning facilitator which will be highlighted below.
The responsibilities associated with being a strategic planning facilitator might include
Preparing for a strategic planning meeting can be extremely time-consuming. Hiring a facilitator can take most of the logistical preparation duties off your plate. This is always a welcome benefit for those typically tasked with that duty.
When those within a company are having conversations about the business, they are very close to the situation. Sometimes it’s difficult to fully see a case for what it is when you are in it. That’s why bringing in a strategic planning facilitator allows you to hear an outside perspective on the strategy and issues at hand.
While an outside perspective isn’t exactly necessary, it can be beneficial to hear what a neutral party thinks about a decision.
It’s simple to get off track when having a meeting, especially if that’s the culture of your company. Having a strategic planning facilitator allows you to stay on track throughout the process, so you are only addressing relevant topics that will help you achieve the goal of the planning session.
Facilitators are used to dealing with many people with various personality types so he or she can help to keep the meeting moving in a positive direction despite any disagreements or tough conversations that might take place.
When one person from the company is facilitating the meeting, they’re unable to also fully participate. Hiring a strategic planning facilitator ensures that every person who is a part of the planning committee can be present and participate as much as possible.
It’s common for more outgoing personalities to dominate the conversation. Having experienced strategic planning facilitator helps to keep those present engaged, so everyone has a voice.
Strategic planning facilitators bring their skill set to the stage throughout the process. Instead of trying to figure it out as you go, using a proven method allows you to ensure you are following a framework for strategic planning success.
Having a proven process also reduces the risk that those in attendance will waste time. Clearing the schedule to hold a strategic planning meeting means that every minute counts and the time spent planning should be used effectively.
Now, despite knowing what a strategic planning facilitator does and the benefits associated with bringing one to the table, you might be questioning whether your business is ready for that commitment. Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time to hire a facilitator for your strategic planning meetings.
When you know in advance that tough topics or concerns must be addressed during the meeting, it might be best to bring in a facilitator. This is especially true if there is a history of communication breakdowns when discussing tough issues as a company.
If your meetings lead to conversations about everything under the sun beyond the purpose of the meeting, you will surely benefit from having a strategic planning facilitator. Consider the opportunity cost associated with having this meeting. There’s no time to waste.
If your team has difficulty communicating with each other well, especially regarding tough issues, save yourself the headache of facilitating the conversation by hiring an outside specialist. They’re from outside the company, so they can bring out the best conversation amongst those involved to help reach the ultimate goal.
Deciding to hire a strategic planning facilitator is an important one. You must ensure you hire the right person with the best experience and personality to work with your company.
The benefit of bringing in a facilitator will undoubtedly improve the process and developing a top-notch strategic plan will hopefully lead to increased business success and employee satisfaction. Happy employees are engaged employees and engagement leads to success, so it’s always important to keep that correlation in mind.
To learn more about increasing employee engagement, download my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
Holding a leadership position and being an effective communicator go hand in hand. It’s impossible for you to lead a team, company, or department, without being able to communicate well with those within your organization and those with a stake in the success of your organization.
There are many skills required to be a successful leader in business, and communication is indeed one of the most important. While most leaders have gotten to their place in a company because they have a strong set of communication skills, it’s always an area that can be improved upon over time. This blog post will detail the 4 communication pillars that guide you in learning how to communicate as a business leader.
The definition of communication is the ability to send and receive information between two or more people. When communication is discussed, verbal communication is often the first that comes to mind, but this method of communication is just one. There are multiple forms of communication as a business leader that must be mastered so you can lead effectively.
Listening is often considered one of the most important types of communication. The mistake many people make is to focus on listening only to respond, not to understand. This is especially true when under pressure, in a rush, or in a conversation where emotions are running high which happens very frequently in the business world. Without the foundational ability to listen, it’s impossible to maintain appropriate communication.
Here are a few ways you can improve your listening skills.
Face the speaker: It’s difficult to show you’re listening when your body is facing the opposite direction, or worse, looking at your phone or computer.
Maintain eye contact: This nonverbal form of communication shows that you are giving the speaker your full attention.
Keep an open mind: If you go into a conversation with preconceived notions and your mind set on how things will go, you’ll be unable to take in what is being said during the conversation entirely.
Minimize distractions: This includes internal and external disturbances. While it’s easier to reduce external distractions, your inner thoughts, feelings, and that running to-do list might be more difficult to forget. This takes practice.
Engage: When you engage in listening by asking questions, paraphrasing what was said, and providing feedback or advice when asked, you are an active part of the conversation, without only listening to respond.
Verbal communication includes your volume, enunciation, the words you use, and your tone. It is the most frequent form of communication in business and mastering it is vital if you want to be a strong leader.
Here are a few ways you can improve your verbal communication skills.
Be concise: Communication doesn’t always require many words. You want to learn to get your message across without adding information that isn’t relevant and without confusing your audience.
Think Before You Speak: Don’t be in a rush to answer when speaking. Take the time to consider what your response will be before you begin talking. This gives you time to check your emotional awareness, gather your thoughts, and formulate an idea of what you will say. Doing this also minimizes the likelihood that you will say something that you later regret.
Vary Your Tone: Speaking in a monotone voice will quickly bore the person or people you’re speaking to. While you don’t have to be an animated performer, you don’t want to sound bored during your conversation either. By varying your tone and the pace of your sentences, you will keep the conversation, or at least your part, more interesting.
Nonverbal communication is comprised of your facial expressions and body language. This form of communication can change the entire tone of the conversation, that’s why it’s vital that you always keep it in mind.
Here are a few ways you can improve your nonverbal communication skills.
Maintain eye contact: Eye contact is essential. Too much eye contact can be intimidating and inappropriate, but too little eye contact can seem as though you’re hiding something or not interested in the conversation. There is no hard and fast rule for how long you should look at someone before looking away. Do what feels natural and comfortable for you.
Check your posture: Think about what your body is saying to your audience. There’s a big difference between a person who is standing slouched over with their head down and a person standing straight with their head up. Who would you want to have a conversation with? Be sure that your posture is portraying your intended message.
Read your audience: It’s not only important to consider your nonverbal communication skills, but that of your audience as well. Are they looking at you or looking around seemingly bored? Are they engaged in the conversation or do they keep looking at the clock waiting for it to end? Do they seem guarded with their arms crossed, or open to the communication you’re having? Keep the nonverbal communication of your audience in mind as you interact with them.
Written communication is frequent, especially in this technological age. It’s often required that we communicate via text message, email, notes, etc. It is best to communicate using appropriate writing skills related to proper grammatical conventions, but using the proper tone and being clear and concise is also crucial.
Here are a few ways you can improve your written communication skills.
Be brief: Written communication should be clear and to the point. When it becomes more lengthy, it’s easier for your message to be misconstrued. It’s best to provide brief written communication and follow up with a verbal conversation on the matter when appropriate.
Reread: The tricky part about written communication is there are no nonverbal cues to indicate the true meaning of what’s being said. I can send an email stating, “I need to see you in my office now.” That might automatically put you on high alert that something is wrong. However, if I walk to your office smiling and say “I need to see you in my office now.” with a chipper and light-hearted tone, you might be curious as to the reason, but the same alarms won’t go off in your head.
Communicating as a business leader is a necessity. As you improve your communication skills, you will see your relationship with those within your company and stakeholders improve.
As you learn how to communicate better, you will see the engagement of those within your company grow as well. Working to enhance the participation of those you lead is crucial, and if you’re looking for additional ways to boost the engagement rate of those on your team, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.
Designing the corporate culture of a business is a crucial component of long-term success. It’s not enough to just let it develop over time without care, thought, or purpose. You must think about how the culture should look and feel within your company. This should not be one more thing to add to your to-do list, but instead an integral component of your company, just like your products, services, and employee choices.
Before you decide to cultivate the corporate culture of your company, you must have a firm understanding of what corporate culture is. According to Investopedia.com, corporate culture is the “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
You can read more about the specific benefits of creating a corporate culture and how it impacts various businesses here.
Creating the corporate culture of your company should involve an open conversation between everyone in the organization from the top down, but it shouldn’t start that way.
Begin the process by having a meeting with the leaders of your business to develop a baseline understanding of what the foundational values and beliefs are related to
While there’s no guarantee that the ideas you develop during the beginning of this process will make it to the final stage of your corporate culture plan, this is a great place to start before you involve your full team.
After developing a foundational overview of the values and beliefs of your organization, it’s time to bring in your employees.
Depending on the size of your organization and the current culture, this can be done anonymously via a digital format, or in person by having a traditional roundtable conversation.
If your company is smaller and used to open communication, an in-person roundtable meeting might be best.
If your company is larger, or you believe some employees might not feel comfortable giving their honest opinions in the open, it might be best to send out an anonymous digital survey.
Whether this stage is completed in person or virtually, you must set the purpose for the conversation. Explain why you are gathering this information. Ensure they understand the end goal and why their input is essential. Explain to them your next steps in the process.
This helps them become fully engaged in the development of the corporate culture and allows them to respond to the questions with the background knowledge and foresight necessary to give their best responses.
Once you have a conversation with your employees and flesh out the final corporate culture of your company, it’s time to gain buy-in.
Everyone might not be excited about the new culture you’ve set in place. Maybe it’s because they feel the current culture is good enough. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to see change.
Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to gain buy-in, if only from a few employees to start. This is because when you start a new mission or process, those who believe in it will start the domino effect of support. These supporters will act as role models and express to their co-workers in a peer to peer conversation the benefits of this new initiative.
You might need a bit more of a boost in increasing employee engagement in the corporate culture process. If you are seeking additional support, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement where I share best practices for getting your employees engaged in your company’s success.
Now that you have a corporate culture in place that you’ve designed, it’s time to implement it. Setting a plan in place is the simple part. Incorporating it in your day to day business practices will test whether you can maintain this culture.
Make sure you stay focused on your ultimate corporate culture goals, and if necessary, you might need to teach and reteach your employees how to operate within this new culture.
Here’s a bonus tip as you’re designing your corporate culture and expecting your employees to buy-in to the process and follow along. You must with no doubt lead by example.
Remember that you are being watched at all times by your employees. Everything in business comes from the top down, so your employees will follow your lead.
If you start out strong in modeling the new culture then get lax around month 2, they will believe the initiative is not very important, and they will get lax as well. However, if you’re serious about it and model the culture on a daily basis, they will see you and hopefully become more serious about it as well.
Make the culture a part of who you are as a leader. Be the biggest cheerleader and supporter of the new corporate culture and hold yourself to a higher standard than your employees. That means if you want your employees to shoot for the stars, you need to be on Neptune. It wouldn’t be the expectation that the majority of your employees land on Neptune with you, but some will rise to the occasion, others will fall short, but at least they won’t still be on planet Earth.
Above all else, remember, your energy is contagious. It’s your role to guide your employees in the design and implementation of your company’s corporate culture.
According to Investopedia.com, the corporate culture definition is “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
The corporate culture of a business is reflected in many ways including how it structures
A company’s corporate culture is generally implied and develops organically over time based on the traits of its’ employees.
Since corporate culture makes up much of an organization’s viewpoint, developing a defined optimal culture can be crucial for long-term success and scalability.
All businesses have a corporate culture, whether it has been identified or not. Some companies stand out as having a positive, supportive, and inspiring culture that makes it an exceptional workplace.
Here are 3 well-known companies, that have developed a well respected and positive corporate culture according to Entrepreneur.com.
Zappos is an online shoe store that emphasizes building a strong positive culture. Half of the weight of the hiring process is based on the results of a cultural fit interview. It is given to determine whether a new employee would fit in with the current company culture.
They go a step further by offering any employee $2,000 if they choose to quit within the first week if they determine the job is not a good fit.
Instead of promotions and raises going to those in the top social circle, they are awarded to employees who pass skills tests and showcase improved job skills.
The corporate culture of Zappos demonstrates that maintaining a positive and fair work environment is a necessity.
Twitter, one of the top social media platforms, has defined its corporate culture as one that is team oriented and laid back.
By offering rooftop meetings, free employee meals at the headquarters, and even yoga classes, Twitter wants to ensure their employees are happy because satisfied employees are willing to go above and beyond while on the job.
Squarespace has risen in popularity as one of the best website creation platforms and is regularly voted as a top workplace in New York City.
With 100% health insurance premium coverage, flexible vacation offerings, catered meals, a fully stocked kitchen, monthly celebrations, and even a relaxation space in the office, there is no wonder professionals love working at Squarespace.
As the previous examples demonstrate, the corporate culture of a business can shape how it operates.
With Twitter’s laid-back team-oriented environment, discussing necessary changes and new initiatives is likely more comfortable to do.
Along the same lines, interdepartmental collaboration is probably a painless process.
If the culture was one of no teamwork and being afraid to communicate, crucial conversations wouldn’t take place or would be met with so much static they would lose value.
Developing a corporate culture has three main benefits.
Defining the corporate culture helps a business to identify its values and identity. Without an idea of the culture, it’s difficult to develop a set of consistent values.
A company with a strong culture attracts better employees, and once hired those employees stay longer.
This leads to a reduced turnover rate, fewer new hires, and improved chemistry amongst employees because their team remains consistent.
High turnover rates are a clear sign of an issue within a business’ corporate culture.
The corporate culture defines the image of a company. Depending on the type of business, customers and clients can see how employees are treated which can boost sales and customer loyalty.
Social media platforms showcasing parts of the company culture can bring potential customers or clients to the business because they are attracted to the culture they see.
The image is also a part of attracting high-quality employees.
The concept of defining corporate culture is a very personal one.
Not just to the management team or the CEO, but to the entire business as a whole.
No one can define your culture for you.
It should be developed after receiving input from every member of the organization from the custodial staff to the President.
Here are 15 questions you can ask to start defining the corporate culture of your company.
Just as a reminder, these questions should not only be asked to the upper management team. Allow all employees to provide input. The more information that’s collected, the better understanding you will have of the current corporate culture, potential areas of growth, and areas that are thriving.
A critical component of corporate culture is high employee engagement. If your employees are asking, what is company culture, it’s important to get them engaged in the process. If increasing employee commitment is a part of the corporate culture that you need to improve, click here to download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. When you develop a positive corporate culture with fair practices and policies that engage your employees, your business has a higher chance of success over time.
All businesses are unique, but one thing many successful business owners have in common is the practice of strategic planning. This plan is used to ensure they have an understanding of their vision, their goals, and the steps needed to make these ideas a reality.
A strategic plan is “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them” according to BusinessDictionary.com.
All business owners should develop and frequently revisit their strategic plan. The definition includes the reasons why it’s vital to business success, but I will break them down further below.
Have you ever gotten in a car destined to have the best vacation ever without your GPS turned on or a destination in mind? I doubt it. Moreover, if you did, it’s unlikely that your trip was successful.
Whenever you take action, you have an idea of what you want your result to be.
When you get a haircut, you envision a specific style.
When you paint your bedroom, you know the emotion you want the color to evoke.
When you get married, you envision living happily ever after with your spouse.
Strategic planning allows you to do the same thing.
Envisioning a future for your business takes you out of the present and catapults you into the future, so your actions are working towards reaching your target.
Having a vision for your future allows you to set goals or objectives that will enable you to work towards that vision.
Setting proper goals is crucial for any business because it takes your vision and makes it more concrete.
Your long-range travel goal is to visit every continent by your 60th birthday.
How will you turn that dream into a reality? It starts by setting broad goals. You don’t need to define every detail from the beginning, just developing a general understanding is a great start.
These broad goals alone will not turn your overarching vision into a reality, however, identifying them start to make your concept more concrete.
Now that you have an overall vision along with broadly defined goals or objectives, strategic planning calls for you to break down each goal into actionable steps that make it achievable.
Having a vision is excellent and setting goals is even better, but without the actionable steps that follow, your goal will likely never be achieved. The steps turn it into a plan which is what every business owner needs.
Your vision, goals, and plan are the trifecta that make up strategic planning.
To continue with the example that was provided in the previous section, let’s take the first goal and break it down into actionable steps.
I will travel to Europe by my 35th birthday.
What steps will make that possible?
Now you have a plan that will help you reach your goal!
If you find yourself still asking, “What is Strategic Planning” or want a more in-depth explanation of what a strategic business plan is and the benefits of strategic planning you can read another blog post I wrote on this topic entitled The 5 Benefits of Strategic Planning For Your Business.
I included a strategic planning example related to travel because we can all relate to the concept. As simplistic as it seems, that’s ultimately how simple your business strategic plan can be.
Just remove the travel elements and replace the vision, goals, and plan you have for your business.
If you think you can travel to every continent before you’re 60 years old without goals or a plan, then by all means, maybe you don’t need to implement strategic planning in your business.
However, if you’re like the rest of the world and realize that goals and a plan help you to reach your vision faster, it’s time to implement one now.
If you already have a strategic plan that sits in a folder on your laptop that you never refer to, it’s time to pull it up.
A strategic plan is a living document, as your business grows and changes so should your vision, your goals, and your plan.
Develop your strategic plan, regularly revisit it and update it. That’s the key to successful strategic planning.
If your company has employees, full time or part time, it’s essential that they be up to date on your strategic plan and follow it with fidelity. Gaining employee buy-in and engagement is crucial to business success.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you improve your employee engagement, you need to download a free copy of my book, “5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.” You can download your copy here. Its features best practices for getting your employees engaged in your company’s success. Strategic planning is most beneficial when everyone is on board and committed.