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Listening: An Important Skill for Successful Strategic Planning

By Denise Harrison, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Recently I spoke with a CEO and found that the most important thing that his team learned during strategic planning was the importance of listening.  This was an unusual answer to my question asking how his team had benefited from the strategic planning process, so I asked him to explain his answer.  He said that his company was full of “idea” people who spent so much time talking about their ideas that they failed to listen to others.  Without solving this problem, his company would have been stuck in the mud and perhaps gone out of business because nothing moved forward – each person was his or her own island.

Listening: An important skill for strategic planning

One of the benefits of including research on key topics during strategic planning is to ensure that all of the team members have a shared base of knowledge from which to make decisions.  By listening to all of the research and ideas, the team can have constructive discussion concerning what is the best course and direction.   The ability to listen allows each team member to thoughtfully consider what the company should say “yes” to and, more importantly, what it should say “no” to.  Important facets of listening include:

  1. Allowing all team members to develop a shared base of knowledge, broadening their understanding of the business and the possible choices the company can make.
  2. Allowing for better discussions and the development of a broader range of solutions, due to the shared base of knowledge.
  3. Allowing all on the team to better understand the impact of a variety of different forces on a particular idea, as each idea is looked at from different points of view (financial, customer, product development, production).
  4. Allowing the CEO to sit back and watch the team develop their strategic thinking skills instead of always being the one with the answer. Strategic thinking is like a muscle – the muscle develops with use, but atrophies if it is unused.
  5. Allowing the team to hear what customers have to say, rather than just presenting solutions. This listening skill can enable the company to develop a better understanding of their customers’ businesses, enabling better future solutions.
  6. Allowing the top management team to build trust as a cornerstone of a company-wide culture that most effective companies want to foster.

Considerations for your strategic planning process

As you go through your next strategic planning process, remember the importance of listening.  Remind team members that it is not only important to have good ideas, but also important to listen to others’ thoughts.  It is the team’s combined thinking that generates a great strategic plan.

Interested in how you can get your strategic planning team to listen better and to capitalize on other team-building benefits of strategic planning?  Please contact me at harrison@cssp.com or listen to our webinar:  Strategic Alignment click here.

Denise Harrison is a senior consultant for the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. She can be reached at  harrison@cssp.com.

© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.