Avoid the Frustrations of Fear-Based Planning

executive walking the planning road with an ocean of sharks on both sides
By Bo McDonald

2 minutes

Once challenges are identified and solutions developed, big goals and new ideas seem much less scary and far more achievable.

Sponsored by Your Marketing Co

It’s estimated that 90% of companies fail to execute their strategic plans successfully. With statistics like this, it’s not surprising that only 2% of leaders surveyed express confidence their organization will achieve 80-100% of the goals they set. Unfortunately, credit unions aren’t immune to these discouraging trends—which is why many leadership teams encounter resistance during strategic planning sessions.

Resistance is usually a sign that it’s time to pause, regroup and gain perspective. In many sessions, bold new ideas are introduced, and the board and leadership teams have a hard time imagining how they’ll even attempt something so audacious. Resistance rarely happens because the leaders don’t care; it surfaces because fear causes them to freeze.

Fear-based paralysis is real. It’s one of the primary reasons strategic plans fail. When leaders give in to the fear of the unknown, they stay in their comfort zones because they don’t have a reference point for what they’re trying to accomplish. As funny as it sounds, organizations refuse to try something new simply because they’ve never done it before. 

Fear obscures strategic planning. Instead of crafting purposeful plans to accomplish bold new objectives, many sessions stop cold when new ideas are presented. Participants get hung up on tactics and processes and never get around to developing the strategy that should drive the planning process.

Ideally, strategic planning sessions should begin with a thorough review of the credit union’s past performance and challenges. A quality debriefing will address ideas that have worked before as well as those that haven’t. This process should provide an honest perspective that enables productive discussions of tactics. But before discussing specific tactics for accomplishing strategic goals, there’s another step that needs to happen first.

It is essential to spend time examining the factors that have kept the credit union from achieving success. Maybe it’s leadership style. Perhaps it’s lack of accountability. Whatever the obstacles may be, it’s important to discuss them openly and address them head-on. But rather than dwelling on the challenges, find ways to fix those issues and avoid future problems.

Once challenges are identified and solutions developed, big goals and new ideas seem much less scary and far more achievable. Armed with a fresh perspective, leadership teams gain the confidence that success is closer than it appears. When a credit union’s goals, strategy and tactics align with its vision, consistent implementation will lead to growth.  

Bo McDonald is president of CUES Supplier member Your Marketing Co., Greenville, South Carolina.

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