Barb’s Annual Season Survival Guide

It’s that time of year again – time to start thinking about your annual planning session! This time is critical for leadership teams to come together and set the vision and direction of the business for the next 12 months.

An annual planning session is so much more than just picking rocks and setting goals. It’s an opportunity to strengthen your team, clarify your vision, and get into the mindset of working ON your business, not just IN it. You rarely get the opportunity to have the entire leadership team together for this much time all focused ON the business, so make sure to use the time to work on big issues.

Here are my top EOS tips for leadership teams to make the most of their upcoming annual planning sessions.

Take a Clarity Break

Don’t show up cold to your annual planning! Block off several hours the day before your retreat for each member of your team to do a clarity break on your Vision/Traction Organizer. Make sure you’re stepping back to focus on the bigger issues or more distant goals. During your clarity break, consider:

  • What’s holding you back?
  • What issue just won’t go away?
  • What’s keeping you up at night?
  • What does the next level look like for your business?

Review your vision, core values, and core focus. Reflect on your metrics and KPIs. Visualize where you want your business to be one year from now. This clarity will pave the way for a more productive annual planning session.

Take Time Away Together

During annual planning, we not only focus on Team Health, Setting a Vision for the future, and creating a plan to make it happen, we also solve the big issues that are holding us back from achieving our vision.

The best annual planning sessions happen off-site. Schedule 2 full days where your leadership team can get away, unplug from the day-to-day grind of the business, and give your full attention to planning.

Many teams choose to make it an overnight retreat – spend the evening together with a fun team dinner or activity to strengthen your relationships outside of the office. No spouses or significant others on this retreat – this time is about your leadership team.

Stay in “Annual Planning Mode”

When you’re on your retreat, it’s critical to stay focused on annual planning activities, not pulled back into the day-to-day. Turn off your email, avoid taking business calls, and ask others to only contact you in case of a true emergency.

Guard your leadership team’s time and headspace to stay in annual planning mode. The more present you can be, the better your plans for the next 12 months will be.

Strengthen Your Team

An annual planning session is a prime opportunity to focus on your team’s health and alignment. Schedule fun team-building activities, have open and honest conversations about team dynamics, and build trust. Some examples include:

  • Breakroom therapy
  • Bowling
  • Axe Throwing
  • Escape Rooms
  • Rock Climbing

Bonus: Read Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and discuss the key takeaways together, such as ways you can proactively improve your teamwork and communication for the year ahead.

Set the Tone For an Amazing Year

After your annual planning sessions are wrapped up, it’s time to start aligning your whole team and working towards the same goals. The best way to begin is by holding a State of the Company meeting with your entire team, whether in-person or virtual. Use this as an opportunity to review the past year’s accomplishments and challenges, share your future goals and vision coming out of the annual sessions, and align everyone on the key takeaways and priorities for the next 12 months.

Don’t forget to provide an updated Vision/Traction Organizer (VTO) to showcase your company’s core values, core focus, 10-year target, 3 uniques, and proven process. Getting your whole team informed, excited, and on the same page will help tremendously in putting your new annual plan into action. With your annual sessions complete and your team aligned, you’re ready to hit the ground running!

Have questions about your annual sessions? Feel free to contact me!

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