How often does your leadership team or nonprofit board take time to look beyond the usual agenda items and focus on the big picture? Holding a longer strategic planning meeting can create stronger focus and allow for in-depth processing of ideas to keep your team engaged and focused on your true mission. Group planning and alignment helps you avoid the pitfalls of short-sited, knee-jerk reactions. As Stephen Covey so famously taught, you won’t succeed at cutting down a record number of trees if you never stop to “sharpen your saw.”
Good planning meetings are held in a more relaxed climate so members can enhance their relationships and address issues in a more systematic way. They allow you to step back, see the big picture, and address problems in a climate of innovation and trust that is soften overlooked in the routine, rushed agenda of the routine staff or board meeting.
As I talk with executives and board leaders, they are often hesitant to commit time to meetings. Many are focused on keeping meetings short out of respect for the busy schedules of leaders or board members. We have all been victims of long, tedious meetings where information is presented in excruciating detail or side topics and egos dominate the agenda, so that little else happens. I agree, these meetings are a waste of time.
Really great meetings, on the other hand, especially longer meetings for serious consideration of planning and problem solving, are different. First, let me explain that I use the word “problem” interchangeably with “opportunity.” Bringing a group of committed individuals together in a focused format is the best way to achieve outstanding outcomes. An effective meeting generates new ideas and approaches, ensures that the attendees have a stake in the process going forward, and builds the commitment necessary to make things happen.
The ideal planning agenda helps your group gain a common understanding of the issues and provides a process for solving some meaningful challenges the organization or their constituents face. A good meeting facilitator can help with the design, serve up the topics, record the input, and help the group reach consensus. A skilled facilitator will also use the process to offer “teachable moments” that provide the group with skills for making future regular meetings more effective.
Some groups meet to identify the issues and then proceed to collect the data needed to solve them. To make the time even more valuable, pre-reading or data collection before the event will provide background and level-set the understanding of the challenge you will address, setting the stage for full participation. The agenda should offer plenty of chances for attendees to engage and visually document their progress along the way
When leaders come together with the right climate and agenda, they can solve problems as a team. The shared ownership of those solutions makes it easier to implement the resulting plans and has a positive impact on organization and the effectiveness of the leadership team going forward.