Leadership Planning for 2017: Step 1

This is part one of a three-part series dedicated to helping you plan your team’s direction for 2017.

looking-back-going-away-1548018-640x480Part 1: Look Back to See Forward

Here are six essential questions for you and your leadership team to resolve to gain a clear line-of-sight into what occurred this year and where you need to tack your organization for next year:

Where were we a year ago?

A whole year has passed. Lots has changed in the world, in the country, in your industry and with your company. It’s important to assess where you were last year at this time. Review the team you had then and the one you have now. What changed? Was there an impact to the culture? Are some of the same factions that resisted your direction still with you? What is your client roster and how has that changed? Why?

Reminding yourself of where you started the year will help you determine how you got where you are now. So…

Where are we now?

You set goals last year, right? You must now look honestly at how you did. Goals are nothing if they aren’t measured. What success metrics did you determine were mission-critical last year? Did they turn out to be good indicators of your company’s health?  If not, what must you measure this year so that you can get a more accurate picture?

Another critical element here is to find out what others think. Creating a system for gathering feedback from you team is part of that. Where do THEY think the company/department is now compared to a year ago? And your customers need to be heard to. How is your brand regarded? Is it better than it was last year? If not, what happened?

You can’t plan where you want to go without knowing where you are now. It’s like planning a route without a starting point.

Where do we want to go?

Goals. Many companies/teams set them. Far fewer actually reach them. Why? Because they don’t align the goals with where the company as a whole is heading 3-5-10 years from now. Yes, it’s cliched to ask “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” But, it’s also critical. Once you can put that long-range goal out there, you can back up and determine what has to happen THIS year in order to get there.

And then you must ask, “How aligned are my lieutenants with these goals?”  If the answer is “not very,” you’ve got some work to do as the leader. In Part 3 of this series, we will tackle what to do about under-performing team members but for now, determining who is on board…and who is drifting…will establish your team’s baseline from which you can start making changes.

Where was the market a year ago?

Much changes with markets. Last year, what resonated your customer base? What were they buying from you? From others? What wasn’t selling at all? What were the trends this year and how did that impact your bottom line? If your teams have been diligent in their work, they should always be up to speed on this information so, tap them as a resource for this part of your look back.

Where is the market now?

How did the market react this year? Is it where you thought it would be at this time? If not, what happened to send it on another course? You can’t predict all market fluctuations but, having a firm grasp of the historic performance (this year and from previous years), will allow you to determine patterns that can help you anticipate where the market may be going.

Where is the market going?

You are going to set 2017 goals so, you need to put some serious thought into where the market is headed. This will give you perspective as you define what will be mission-critical to you as you set out to achieve those goals. Some things to consider are:

  • Where is customer loyalty now?
  • Is it easier or more difficult to attain this follower-ship?
  • Who are your ideal buyers?
  • Has that changed since last year?
  • How sophisticated have your buyers become?
  • To what degree is procurement involved in the decision making process?
  • How fleet of foot are your business developers to capture this market?

Looking back allows you to see more clearly forward. Answer these questions with as much detail as you can, pulling input from a variety of sources not just your own perspective. Now you’re ready for the next step!

Next: Defining, or Re-defining, Your Mission Statement and Culture