Use Planning to build Leadership Capacity

Use Planning to Build Leadership Capacity

Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, Leadership Advancement Coach

There are various ways to build leadership capacity in your organization.  You can bring in trainers or leadership coaches, or both, and these can be invaluable.  You can bring in a facilitator for your leadership meetings for a period of time, to facilitate meetings with an emphasis on developing the leadership capacity of the whole team of leaders. And another way to build the capacity of your leadership team is to use planning specifically to strengthen capacity of your leaders.

Members of the charter school Board of Directors felt meetings had become too contentious. Several directors had left over the past year because they felt the organization was going in a direction they didn’t like, or didn’t understand. Pretty soon, it became clear that there were some fundamental differences of opinion among board members about the organization’s focus and priorities. Once the group set aside time for a thoughtful planning process, they began to dive into these differences of opinion and discuss them at length.

Taking the time outside of their monthly board meeting to do a deeper dive into the issues, they were able to work through disagreements and confusions to achieve clear agreement about the organization’s mission. From that point, they began once again working effectively together to govern the organization.  Many reported a great freeing up of energy.  Their experience on the board became more rewarding than ever.

Conflict and Communication Issues. When you sense that certain members of your leadership team are not communicating effectively, you may initially may want to ignore it and hope it goes away.  Instead consider that this may present a good opportunity for advancement and freeing up energy among leaders.  

Failing to address miscommunication may lead to disruption in organizational functioning. Departmental leaders may find workarounds for system malfunctions to the point that they become practically invisible; however, front-line staff will often be left struggling to try to cope with these organizational glitches, and may end up feeling that their leaders have let them down by failing to address them.

It is important not to assume that conflicts between leaders are simply personality conflicts, as this is often not the case. Often, there are real underlying organizational problems inherent in these conflicts.  You need to determine as a leader when the organization will benefit from identifying and resolving those challenges. You can use a planning process to surface the issues that need to be resolved and get the team working through steps to solving such roadblocks in the best way to support the mission of the organization. This process can unleash tremendous organizational energy.

Indecision. A good opportunity for a planning process occurs when your leadership team is having difficulty making critical decisions in a timely way.  Many of the executive leaders I work with prefer as much consensus-based decision-making as possible; however, they find that they fall back on autocratic decision-making more than they would like when their leadership team gets stuck in a loop when making certain critical decisions. Recognize such conflicts as an opportunity for your organization. Take the opportunity to introduce constructive disruption by implementing a planning process in which you can surface points of agreement and disagreement and, ultimately, move forward toward a decision that everyone can support.

Role Confusion.  Have you ever had another leader in your organization giving direction to staff you supervise and felt “this is not helpful?!”  It is not unusual for different organizational leaders to give somewhat conflicting directions, but this can become a serious cause of organizational dysfunction or even chaos, and may need to be addressed.  This reflects another leadership challenge that may indicate the need for a planning process. 

I remember being surprised, as a young manager, when I discovered that this kind of confusion was generally not cleared up by a quick conversation in which I would simply tell the other leader, “that’s my responsibility, stay out of it.”  Often, a more thorough discussion was needed to wade through the complexity of different leaders’ responsibilities and authorities.  

When you use planning intentionally to implement organizational change, surface and resolve misunderstandings and obstacles, mine differences of opinion or clear up role confusion, your leadership team becomes empowered and can function in a more aligned way.  The team can learn to make better decisions together. And the experience of solving complex problems together is something your leadership team will always have to fall back on when confronted with a crisis.

When you thoughtfully plan for organizational advancement, you can achieve a point of departure for your organization, and your leadership team can strengthen communications and pick up great forward momentum. When this happens, your organization can achieve more positive results in all areas — client outcomes, staff recruitment and retention, customer service, productivity, and financial. 

Planning can strengthen your leadership team’s functioning and release great energy for your organization.  Have you used planning in this way?


Planning conversations related to conflict, role confusion and communication problems can often be most effectively achieved with use of a facilitator from outside the organization. Please get in touch if I can help you use planning conversations to build leadership capacity and move your organization forward.  or 720-254-1466

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