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Will you make your third-quarter numbers?

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Do you have a quarterly strategic planning meeting booked before the end of June? If not, book it now.

Statistics show that summer is the least productive time of year. A Captivate Network study showed that "workplace productivity drops 20 per cent during the summer months…attendance decreases by 19 per cent, projects take 13 per cent more time to complete and workers are 45 per cent more distracted," according to a report in Business Insider.

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If you don't take a day out in the next month or so to get your entire leadership team on the same page for the next quarter, September will roll around and you'll be wondering why you aren't hitting your numbers.

Regular quarterly strategic planning delivers these benefits:

1. The leadership team is aligned around the same goals.

2. The most important issues are addressed. They do not fall off the agenda.

3. Each leader has their own clear priorities for the quarter.

4. The team is held accountable at the next quarterly meeting for results.

5. The work gets done.

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Strategic planning is best done in an off-site venue. It does not have to be fancy or costly (one of the teams I work with holds it in the common room of one team member's condo in downtown Vancouver, at no cost). The key is to get out of the office and eliminate distractions so the leadership team can really focus.

Ensure you have a very clear agenda that is not overly packed. Keep it simple. Check in on the progress from the last quarter, including action items and business results. Then move into a big picture discussion of the key issues facing the team this quarter. Then, as a group, pick the five items you will tackle. Finally, get very specific with what needs to be done and who will champion the work.

To pull off an effective full-day event, build in regular breaks to keep everyone's energy up. Include healthy food, plenty of water and go for a walk after lunch to wake the team up and get everyone ready for the second half of the day. This may sound obvious, but it works. If you want to kill the day, just push through without a break and wonder why nothing productive was said or done after about 2 p.m.

Consider using an outside facilitator. Yes, this may sound self serving, but it works. A facilitator's job is to keep to the agenda, interrupt any negative behaviours or tangential discussions, hone in on the key ideas and help build a stronger team by building trust and ensuring everyone is a part of the conversation. An outside facilitator also allows the team leader to fully participate in the discussion and not worry about things like time management, holding back or dominating the conversation.

If you are looking for a good resource, pick up Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish and look into the chapter about the One Page Strategic Plan. You'll want to pare it back and simply focus on your key annual initiatives for the year, the priorities (he calls them Big Rocks) for each quarter and the relevant financials. No matter how you do it or what template you use, success comes by simply having the discipline to create a strategic plan on a single page, which gets everyone aligned, committed and into action around the same goals.

If you don't have a quarterly half- or full day meeting booked before the end of June, do it now. Send out a meeting request and make it happen. In September, the numbers will speak for themselves.

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Katie Bennett (@dbdcoaching) is an executive leadership and team coach in Vancouver, and runs Double Black Diamond Coaching, an executive coaching firm.

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About the Author
Globe Careers coach

Katie is principal of Double Black Diamond Coaching in Vancouver, and an Associate Coach with the Ken Blanchard Companies, a global leader in leadership training. Katie is an executive coach and speaker and has been working with senior leaders and their teams across Canada and the U.S. since 1999. More

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