7 Tips for CEOs for Drama-Free Planning & Strategy Sessions

By Tiffany Chepul


dateFri, Sep 27, 2019 @ 11:37 AM

Strategy & Annual Planning Sessions tend Annual Planning to drum up lots of emotions. For some, planning is exciting and fun, while others approach it with a sense of dread and worry. What’s even more challenging is throwing all those people and all those emotions into a room for two days together to have tough discussions.

7 tips for having for a drama-free session:


Meet Basic Needs

People need breaks, food and a comfortable room. Be clear about the timing for the day and adhere to it. If you promise a break at 10am, do your best to give a break at 10am. Plan in advance for lunch to be delivered and check for any dietary restrictions. Decide if lunch will be a break or a working lunch and tell everyone that morning what to expect. Pay attention to the temperature and AV setup in the room. If someone is cold, or unable to hear or see well, they will not be a happy participant.

Download Free Annual Planning Best Practices Guide

Set Clear Objectives

At the beginning of the day, work as a team to set your Objectives for the session. We recommend using an Objective Statement to define a shared objective at the start of any session. You may want to write this in advance of the session with your facilitator and share it with the team to open the day; you can ask for feedback or additions and ensure everyone understands and supports the objectives.

Educate on the Process

Slow down to share the process you will use with the team. If you are using the Rhythm System, a simple overview of the methodology to refresh everyone is helpful. If you are working on something specific like brainstorming Winning Moves or strategies to grow revenue, share the steps you will do as a team.

Be Vulnerable

CEOs who show vulnerability by sharing their own trepidations or worries get more participation and engagement from their team. For example, if you’re coming off a very challenging year, acknowledge the elephant in the room. “I know we missed our numbers this year. I know, I’m not feeling very good about our performance either. But, I know we can work together over the next few days to come up with a great plan for 2020.”

Define Support

Inevitably, not everyone is going to get their way in the planning session. The team will discuss and debate myriad ideas and approaches. The team will make some difficult decisions about which ideas get a “yes” and which ones get a “no.” Ultimately, they will agree on a plan. However, how a person acts when they leave a session has the potential to cause drama. The facilitator should make it clear what it means to support a plan - even if you don’t get your way. To exhibit support, team members must:

  • Not say “they decided” when talking about the plan
  • Do everything they can to make the plan successful
  • Speak positively about the plan

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Set Ground Rules

At the beginning of the session, work with the team to create a Full Value Contract, or a set of ground rules, for your session. Develop a set of rules with the group so that everyone can get the full value out of the meeting. Many of our most successful clients have standards set up in regards to smartphone usage, valuing everyone’s opinion, speaking time limits and much more. With a set of ground rules, you can mitigate lots of issues that get under people’s skin and cause drama.

Decisions Will Be Made

If you know there is a difficult decision to be made during your session, be clear with the team upfront about the process you will use to make that decision. Here are the Levels of Decision-Making:

Level 1: Directive - This is a decision that the leader completely owns. The leader may or may not seek input or ideas from the team; ultimately, this decision rests solely with the leader.

Level 2: Consultative - This is also a decision that the leader owns, but one in which the leader actively seeks insights, advice, and ideas from one or multiple team members or experts. This decision also ultimately rests with the leader.

Level 3: Consensus - This is a decision that the leadership team owns together. The entire team gives input and agrees to do whatever the team agrees is the best decision.

Level 4: Delegated - This is a decision in which the leader gives ownership to someone else. That person is entirely accountable for making the decision and implementing it. The leader does not need to be involved.

If you are reading this and thinking, "wow - this sounds like a lot of work," we agree. That's why we recommend for CEOs to bring in a professional facilitator. Take the drama out the easy way by bringing in someone whose full-time job is to worry about the dynamic in the room so you can worry about creating the best strategic plan for your company.

Download Free Annual Planning Best Practices Guide


Check out our additional resources on annual and strategic planning:

How to Conduct an Annual Planning Meeting

Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team with a Great Plan

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

Best Practices for Annual Planning

Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center

Photo credits: iStock by Getty Images


Tiffany Chepul


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images