Submitted by Laurie Taylor, president, FlashPoint!

Alignment. Engagement. Implementation.

Without these a company will flounder. But as many companies get ready to conduct their Strategic Planning Retreats in preparation for the next year, those plans will stall or encounter too many obstacles because of the lack of buy-in or alignment from their team.

I recently presented to 26 CEOs, one was Stage 2, all the others were Stage 4 and above. I began the presentation talking about how this is the time of the year when every business owner starts thinking about their next year. About the new opportunities. About new products. New services. Maybe expanding to new space. Adding more equipment.

I talked about how my business partner and I use to meet for an early run, then sit at our favorite coffee shop in Boulder, CO and talk about our plan for the next year. When we were in Stage 1, we simply brought the plan back and told the team what we were going to do.

As we moved into Stage 3, (2- 34 employees) we started having our employees join in a one-day retreat where we talked about ‘new opportunities’. Reality was, my business partner and I had already discussed our plans and we took care to make sure the results from our ‘retreat’ mapped what we wanted the outcomes to be. As we got even bigger, we hired a ‘business consultant’ to run the strategic planning session for us.

My point is this. All of our efforts were for naught because we didn’t take the time to ‘tap into the intelligence’ of our staff. We didn’t account for their own issues, concerns, priorities. We didn’t take into account how they viewed the growth of our business. We simply talked the talk and it sounded something like this:

We’re pursuing new opportunities and since we are all in this together, according to our strategic plan, this will be a win-win for everyone! So, we just need you to get on board because we’re taking the company to the next level!

Sound familiar?

During the opening of my presentation, I broke this down to make the point that our employees live in a different world than we do and we need to do more to engage them as we work to grow the company.

It looked like this:

CEO: We’re pursuing new opportunities….
Staff: Here we go again!

CEO: We’re all in this together …
Staff: They have no clue what I do!

CEO: According to our strategic plan …
Staff: I have no clue what they do!

CEO: This will be a win-win for everyone …
Staff: I’m tired of not being paid what I’m worth!

CEO: Just need you to get on board …..
Staff: Can’t they see I’m working all the time?!

CEO: We’re taking the company to the next level …
Staff: How big do we have to get?

I got a few laughs and many heads agreeing and several sheepish looks because if you’ve run a company, you know exactly what I’m talking about! We get excited about our new potential, our new opportunities. Our staff not so much.

I’m not against strategic planning. I just firmly believe that to get alignment, engagement and implementation, you have to start with getting key employees involved in fixing the real problems first so you can get people excited about something new.

In many cases, the process I have used for years, starts with the Stages of Growth X-Ray process. This online diagnostic tool, provides critical focus on issues everyone sees, while providing tactical approaches, driven by consensus of priorities, and in a very short time-period, one to two days, provides solutions that everyone agrees to.

Only by going deep into the critical issues the employees feel are creating the pain, will a CEO be able to create alignment. Once you have alignment, because the issues that show up are the issues the team feels are real, you get engagement. And with engagement, and a solid plan of who owns each initiative, you have created a solid plan for implementation.