If you are like me you hate when you are not working toward something meaningful and/or not living up to your God-given potential. I live with the desire to avoid these situations. Personal strategic planning is a tool that I believe can be helpful for each of us.
As I wrote in Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan, creating and owning a strategy provides many benefits to successful organizations and I believe many of these same benefits are available to each of us if we employ a tailored version of these same planning tools.
I was due for a plan refresh and decided that working through my personal strategy would be the best way to model a simple but effective way for people to build their own plan. I hope you agree.
Here is a link to the Personal Strategy Template. It should be downloadable and editable. This tool is simple, but much reflection is required to arrive at something that will be meaningful and motivational to you.
If you haven’t reflected on what you truly value then you have some work to do. I don’t like the idea that we should all run to some predetermined set of values and just pick a few that feel right to us. Although this might be helpful for some, I think it is most useful to put what you value into your own words so you know exactly what you mean.
If you don’t understand what you value then you cannot successfully determine your purpose or strategy.
Simply understanding what you truly value will lead you to clarity that will improve prioritization and decision-making.
Here are some questions and resources to use as thought starters.
These are all worthless if you are not honest with yourself. After you develop your values I suggest running them by someone who knows you well so that they can call BS if you are off base…the same is true of the subsequent parts of the strategy document.
What do you hope people will say about you when you die?
Write your own obituary.
What do you want carved into your tombstone?
When do you feel most like your true self?
When do you feel most alive?
Describe the personal characteristics of the perfect person.
What things or ideas would you never sacrifice?
What are your greatest aspirations?
Who do you truly love?
What do you truly love?
Strengths & Weaknesses
To be crystal clear…we all have both!
Mountains of research suggests that when you are working in your areas of strength you will be more effective. Also, and contrary to some people’s/organization’s beliefs, your weaknesses matter as well.
You need to bolster and work from strength while mitigating weaknesses so they do not become fatal flaws.
Once you understand your personal strengths and weaknesses you can better determine which opportunities are a good fit and what might derail your pursuit of a given opportunity. Furthermore, you will better understand which tasks you should take on yourself vs. those that require you to ask for help (delegate, partner, hire).
Questions and tools to help you determine your strengths.
What do people regularly compliment you on?
What activities lead to positive feedback?
What do other people see as your strengths (hint, ask them)?
What attributes do you have that are fairly unique (skills, degrees, experiences, certifications, personal networks)?
Questions and tools to help you determine your weaknesses.
What tasks or situations most frustrate you?
What tasks or situations lead you to most frustrate others?
What tasks do you hate?
When do you most lack confidence?
What do other people see as your weaknesses (hint, ask them and stress that you need to know the truth)?
What habits do you have that lead to frustration (missing deadlines, arriving late, being unorganized, miscalculating)?
I believe lives are clarified through purpose driven work. This can be work that is done for a business, not-for-profit, your family, or for yourself. When people have a sense of purpose they are more motivated and effective.
I believe that you need to have a purpose statement that is informed by your values and strengths then drives your personal strategy. Some people might prefer to call this a mission statement and that works too if it is authentic and/or meaningful to you.
The statement does not have to be fancy. It should be short and clear. People who know you should see it as authentic.
I believe we can all determine a purpose that is inclusive of our entire lives. However, it will take several drafts and will likely change over time as circumstances change and you better discern your values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Some questions to help guide you to your purpose statement.
What value do you want to provide (your family, your work, your community, the world)?
Which of your activities provide the most value to the people you care about?
What do you desire to do in and for the world?
I am a big fan of Collins and Rukstad’s, and Lafley and Martin’s work on strategy creation. That said, their full treatments are probably overkill for most beginning personal strategists. As long as you have discerned your values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose/mission I think you can write your strategy statement with just a little further effort.
You need your object, scope, and advantage (Collins and Rukstad).
Objective = A specific and measurable goal that will drive you into the future.
Mine has two parts because it is mine and that is what I need, but don’t go much beyond two or three parts or it will lose its ability to provide focus. Make yours meaningful to you!
Scope = Where you will take action (context, “customer”, activity areas, market, industry, etc)?
Advantage = What unique contribution(s) will you make that will allow you to meet your goal? You have a contribution to make!
Then combine these into a concise statement.
What specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable goals do you need to meet in the short-term (one year) that will lead to you meet your strategic goal(s)?
These goals should guide your monthly, weekly, and daily (to do list) goals.
If these goals are properly aligned with your strategy you can monitor your progress via the completion of these goals. Three is probably not enough for me given my strategy, but I think that is a good starting point.
If working toward your goals is exhausting or demoralizing you…something is amiss. They probably aren’t the right goals or you may have some personal work to do.
I hope this is a helpful starting point and I would love to help you continue on your journey. Please post questions and eventually your strategy statement as a comment to this post on the Facebook page. I would also love to hear about your successes and setbacks. I believe a Minimalist Manager Community would be helpful to people. Let’s get one started on Facebook.