It’s that time again: Quarterly Planning Sessions have arrived.
And whether that fills you with dread or uncontrollable excitement, may come down to how effectively you planned ahead for your marathon session of, well… planning ahead.
Today’s guest, Nicole Mennicke, Integrator & Vice President at Rocket Clicks, falls in the latter category — and it’s because 4 proactive rules ensure everyone leaves the quarterly planning happy about the meeting.
In this episode, we discuss:
The 4 H’s powering a successful quarterly planning session
How to have clear expectations and accountability while remaining kind
The 4 H’s
4-H is a great way to teach and equip kids with skills for agriculture. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re discussing the 4 H’s of planning. How can you foster a successful quarterly meeting?
1. Homework If you don’t want to spend your meeting scratching your head, trying to think of what you want to accomplish, then you need to do your homework.
In most meetings, you’ll spend some time reviewing lists, for example. This process goes more smoothly when everyone has prepared and can provide input during the meeting.
Throughout the quarter, a project management platform such as Asana can be a great implementation tool. People can go into the project and add to suggested discussion lists. That way, by the time your team gets together, you have a good idea of what you want to accomplish.
No head-scratching required.
Now, doing homework doesn’t mean answering cliché questions. You know the type: What’s working? What’s not working?
Instead, consider prompts like: What’s working for the leadership team in your department? What’s the elephant in the room no one is talking about?
These kinds of prompts get people thinking and help give clarity to their thoughts before the meeting even commences. You avoid discussing big ideas that may not be actionable and focus on things people want to talk about.
2. House Rules
They apply here. They apply now. They apply to you. We’re talking about the house rules.
One of the things Nicole has found over seven years of quarterly planning is that some things are guaranteed to derail productive conversation. She and her team listed out these things.
Then they made rules against them.
There’s a full list of ten rules, but two are particularly key.
Be distraction free. No emailing, chatting, working, taking breaks, or whatever. Stay on camera if it’s a Zoom call.
Avoid the “royal we.” Just say, “I feel.” Don’t say, “We always. We never. We only. We whatever.” When you speak for yourself, it leads to less arguing about words. (Helpful tip: You may want to try this in your marriage as well.)
Speaking of Zoom calls…
The ideal approach is to do quarterly planning sessions in person. But we haven’t lived in an ideal world for the last 18 months, so that might not happen. Consequently, you may need to add some rules about muting and/or not turning off the camera.
Team health is huge.
Team health is about bringing things out of hidden places and into the open. Patrick Lencioni talks about this principle in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Leadership Team.
Nicole’s team uses Lencioni’s visual to talk about what they’ll start, stop, or continue to do throughout the quarter. They also share something personal such as their histories, what they’re proud of, or even something they’re not proud of.
Quarterly team health exercises are the perfect way to include new leaders in the organization.
Nicole coined the term “scale of one to care.” As soon as the group starts a conversation, she asks “Where does that fall on a scale of one to care?” One means “I don’t care at all.” And ten means “I care a whole bunch.”
Everyone rates the topic using their own personal viewpoint. It lets people see what matters to each other.
The team also does something called “turn and learn.” Everyone has a stack of paper on their desk. When prompted by the leader, they physically write their idea, opinion, or number, Then they hold it up to the camera. This process dissuades groupthink and exposes people’s true opinions.
One final idea for honesty involves asking for two emotions, one positive and one negative. “Tell me what’s bringing you joy about this conversation. Tell me what’s freaking you out.” Extracting people’s real feelings lets leaders identify potential problems.
How to Have Clear and Kind Expectations
Expectations must be incredibly clear. And the feedback you get must be incredibly kind.
Managers should hold each other accountable to what Kim Scott calls “radical candor.” You show you care personally and challenge directly.
And that’s what keeps your team alive.
Be sure to check out the books we mentioned in the episode: