Streetwise: Get Your Growth Plans Out of Your Head

April 24, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

It can be lonely at the top. Most CEOs talk to themselves more than anyone else. Thinking through new ideas, planning growth, and envisioning the future. You, as the CEO, may have a perfect vision of where you’re taking the company. Which is a great thing. The problem, however, is that you haven’t told anyone else.

You would probably be shocked at the answers if you stopped to ask your employees where the company is going and why you’ve chosen to grow in that specific way. It seems like common sense to you, but you’ve been mulling it over for years. No one else has the advantage of being inside your head.

Your ideas for growth also might seem obvious to you because you eat, breathe, and sleep what goes on in your industry. Your employees might not have as deep a level of knowledge about what’s going on in the market and in your industry. Give them the background information needed to understand why you made the decisions that you did. Help your employees learn to understand the trends and patterns that you’re seeing. It will make them better employees and better decision makers if they can see the full picture.

Sharing this information brings a level of transparency that many companies shy away from.

Transparency is a word that most business owners fear. They don’t want to share everything with their employees. But it is a competitive advantage. Transparency builds trust. And trust is one of the most important elements needed to build a strong team.

That transparency also makes a big difference in the enthusiasm shown for your growth plan. If the rest of your company doesn’t know what the path to growth looks like, and why that growth is important, they won’t be willing to give their best effort to see those plans come to fruition. They may be reluctant to come along. Or worse, they may actively resist the growth.

Growth brings change and change brings discomfort. Unless you take the time to explain your intent behind growing and the why of that growth, employees will drag their feet. Make sure that you share a clear vision. Take the time to explain your plans to your company and they’ll be ready to jump on board and help push the company to new heights.

Better still is to get your employees involved in your growth planning.

Instead of just telling your employees how you think the company should grow, ask their opinion. What opportunities do they see in the market? What areas of improvement do they see within the company? You have an incredible resource of front line experts that know exactly what happens at every level of your organization. Tap into that expertise by asking them to be part of the growth planning process.

Asking your employees to participate in long-term planning will help you diversify and improve your thought process. You’ll bring in previously unheard opinions and unseen viewpoints. These new ideas will help make sure you are growing your company in the best, most effective way.

It will also help your employees be more engaged in the execution of those growth plans once they’ve been finalized. They will feel a greater sense of responsibility for meeting those new goals and expectations because they helped create them. And because they helped create the plans they will already believe that these goals are achievable. This means that they will be more bought into those plans from the start.

Create a top-down led, bottom-up informed planning process.

That may sound confusing, so let me clarify. Top-down led means that you and your leadership team set certain priorities or overarching goals for the company. Bottom-up inspired means that you tap into the expertise of your employees to determine the best ways to reach those company-wide goals.

Take time as a leadership team to clarify what you want the company to achieve in the next year or quarter or month, whatever cadence works for your company. Clearly define those objectives and then slowly move each of those objectives down a level in the company, asking each level of employees how they can help reach the goals of the layer above them.

For instance, let’s say you are the owner of a manufacturing company that makes bike helmets. You and your leadership team decide that you want to sell 20% more helmets this year. That’s the company-wide objective. Now you need to ask each department head how their department can help reach that goal. How can sales help? What can marketing do to help? How can production help? What should their departmental goals be in order to reach that 20% increase?

Then you need to ask the different teams within those departments what they can do to help reach their departmental goals. Looking at the sales department: What can the account management team do to help? How can the outbound sales team help? What can the inbound team do to help? How can their team help reach that 20% increase?

Then it goes down to the individual level. How can each member on each of those teams help their team reach their goal? What can the individual do to help the whole company reach its goal of 20% growth?

That’s how you create a top-down led, bottom-up informed growth plan.

Once you’ve solidified your growth plans, you have to share them with everyone.

Even if they were part of the planning process, your employees still need to hear the finalized plan. And, as I’ve said many times before, they need to hear it over and over again.

On average, a person has to hear something seven times before it really starts to sink in. You’ll get tired of hearing yourself say the same things again and again, but you have to build in the repetition. Enlist your managers to help spread the message as well and it will help it take hold even quicker. Just make sure that everyone is spreading the same message. An inconsistent message, especially when said seven times in seven different ways, will only cause more confusion.

An aligned company is unstoppable.

Give your organization the chance to become a rock star company by making sure to get everyone aligned around your growth strategy. If you can successfully get all of your employees bought in, excited about, and aligned around the same plan, there will be no stopping you. Companies with that level of alignment are truly remarkable. When everyone is rowing in the same direction, magic starts to happen. Your company’s growth will become effortless and everyone will get to be part of an extraordinary journey.