Strategic Planning and Coaching Effectiveness

Coaching is all about helping people to take the right action for themselves. The Strategic Planning process is all about helping people develop a plan for their business that will allow them to achieve improved results. On the surface, you would think that these processes are very congruent and would not be difficult to integrate. The challenge comes in achieving outcomes in a way that a transformation in the owner’s attitude about his/her business occurs. Without this transformation, the best strategic plan lacks follow-through and intention.

Creation of a strategic plan for a business involves asking many questions relating to vision, values, markets, competition, strengths, limitations, threats and opportunities. The questions are all very logical and important to thoroughly consider to assure that the resulting plan takes into account the best information available at the time. The process is necessary to set the goals, actions, measures and budgets for the implementation of the plan.

But, I contend that the thoroughness of the process is insufficient to assure success. What is even more important than all of the above-mentioned factors is engaging the emotions of the leaders of the business in the plan. The owners of the business must feel passionate about what they have created in order to engage the power of the mind to set the plan in motion, to overcome the fears and doubts and to create the desire to be successful. As Napoleon Hill writes in his seminal work Think and Grow Rich, “there is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is DEFINITENESS OF PURPOSE, the knowledge of what one wants and a burning DESIRE to possess it.”

Through the coaching process, which occurs after the strategic plan has been created, I have found that clients either develop the desire that gives heart to their plan or they determine that the plan isn’t really what they want after all. In a book entitled Jesus Life Coach, Laurie Beth Jones writes: “Good coaches don’t want to waste their time, or that of their clients, in moving forward if the heart and mind aren’t ready.”

For every strategic planning client I build in a monthly implementation review after the plan is completed using a month in review form. The creation of the plan establishes a strong connection with the client and starts to build clarity of purpose, the first two core competencies of coaching. Note that I say starts to build clarity. The planning process, by its very essence can become a bit mechanical as one bores through the myriad of details and creation of specific actions, measurements, budgets, etc. Oftentimes, until one gets into action true clarity of purpose does not come into focus and commitment is impossible without sufficient clarity.

One of my clients, Jim, owns a business that is about 9 years old. My client was happy with his business, but knew that it was capable of achieving more. He desired to double his sales in 3 years when he engaged me to help him create a strategic plan. Jim was disciplined in creating the plan, but even more importantly I could see a strong desire to achieve his goals no matter what. Through our monthly coaching sessions after the plan was prepared, he could see the roadblocks more clearly and take the right action to achieve his goals. His plan changed many times in the year we worked together, but his purpose and desire never wavered. Recently, Jim summarized the value of our work together by saying: “everything that Dave has brought to this exercise has been extremely valuable but the most valuable characteristic that he has brought is his unique ability to ask the important questions in the best possible way to help facilitate my own personal growth and the growth of my company”.

By integrating the coaching techniques learned in the RAC coaching academy in follow up sessions after the creation of the strategic plan, a tremendous amount of value is created for the client when it comes to implementing the plan. Finally, there is no replacement for the desire to be successful on the part of the owners of the business, or for that matter, for any coaching client. Desire provides the fertile ground upon which planning and coaching can have the most impact.