5 Key Elements of a Strategic Leadership Action Plan

I’m honored to work every day with so many outstanding executives, leaders and managers. I truly feel fortunate to play my role in their professional development.

How Leadership Coaching Elevates Performance

Leadership coaching helps professionals increase their versatility to perform at a high level, regardless of the situation or circumstances. Partnering with their coach, executives broaden their perspective and reduce judgment by identifying the beliefs, interpretations and assumptions they are holding onto, but that may not be serving them. Eliminating these self-imposed inner blocks raises their awareness of what’s possible, while increasing their fearlessness and confidence. This shifts their focus away from fearing failure or playing it safe, toward achieving mastery and pursuing ongoing excellence.

Why Executives Require Leadership Coaching

Consider the role of a coach on a sports team. While coaches themselves don’t play the game, they leverage their keen observation to identify and help athletes make subtle adjustments in their own approach, technique or mindset to achieve success more consistently.

When an athlete is slumping or feeling “off their game,” they often are limited in their awareness of what is driving their inconsistent performance. They just know they feel uncomfortable and aren’t getting the results they seek. That’s where the coach comes in.

The coach breaks things down to the fundamental elements of performance. They help the athlete slow the game down and narrow their focus. This raises the athlete’s awareness of what’s holding them back, so they can shift their attention to addressing it. They can then adapt their approach to one that will bring them success. Leadership coaches play a similar role with business professionals.

In many cases, a leader seeks to work with a coach when they:

  • Have enjoyed success over their career, but suddenly find themselves struggling or out of their depth.

  • Are limited in how they see a path forward.

  • Find themselves doubling down on strategies that used to work for them, but no longer do because the business environment or criteria for success has changed.

Just like a sports coach, a leadership coach breaks down managers’, leaders’ and executives’ performance to their fundamentals. Rather than focusing on what they’re doing, the coach shifts the focus to how they’re going about their performance. Coaches help clients understand how thoughts, feelings and emotions lead to actions that drive results.

If you want to change the results you’re getting, start with changing your thoughts. Breaking that cycle can be challenging. That’s when partnering with the right leadership coach can help.

Key Strategic Leadership Action Plan Elements

Every initiative needs a clear definition of success and buy-in from everyone involved. As the saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any map will get you there.” The leadership action plan is a roadmap for you and your coach, or your manager, to develop in partnership and reference to ensure you are on course for achieving the changes you’ve prioritized.

The plan also serves as a blueprint for your development and growth as a leader. In addition to prioritizing areas for change, it also identifies opportunities to build on existing strengths in areas where a leader is performing well.

Think of this as a “keep, stop, start” doing plan for your areas of focus, which comprises:

  • Skills to develop (particularly interpersonal skills)

  • Key connections to cultivate

  • Critical experiences to seek

  • Cadence for reviewing and discussing your progress

Key elements of a strategic leadership action include:

  1. An objective assessment of your leadership behavioral strengths, development areas, motivators and values. The Hogan Assessment is a particularly robust tool that addresses all these areas. It provides insights into your day-to-day strengths, your tendency to overplay strengths when under stress and what drives you to do the work you do.

  2. A professional mission and vision statement. The Hogan begins uncovering these elements for you. Working with your coach, narrow this to your “noble purpose” to get clear on your personal “why.” Understanding your core motivations and connecting them to your purpose will simplify your leadership message. It also will motivate and inspire you to break free of your comfort zone.

  3. Your leadership development goals. Identify behavioral items to keep doing, stop doing and start doing. One of each is sufficient to start. You can add additional ones over time. Set these up as “SMART” goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound – so you can measure and evaluate your progress over time.

  4. “Feedforward.” Instead of seeking feedback on past performances, which cannot be changed, ask for insights from trusted colleagues on areas where you can make future performances even stronger.

  5. Regular progress reviews and updates. Your coach will help you celebrate your successes, objectively assess areas where outcomes weren’t what you sought, and build resilience and courage to persevere when situations challenge you.

Leadership Action Plan is Vital to CFO’s Success

As shared in our last blog on succeeding in the C-suite, a leadership action plan is a key part of each client’s engagement.

Leading Edge Coaching & Consulting worked with the newly hired manufacturing CFO on his action plan, which included the following:

  • Recognizing the unique factors that influence his own ability to perform at peak levels.

  • Identifying and challenging performance blocks. This included limiting beliefs, interpretations, assumptions and negative self-talk, which narrowed his perspectives, limited his options, constrained his effectiveness, and diminished his success and happiness.

  • Developing awareness and building strategies to reduce judgment, increase curiosity, build resilience and create accountability.

  • Learning the business intimately, identifying his colleagues’ priorities and values, and seeking opportunities to jointly develop and implement plans to make changes, support continuous learning, and ignite versatility.

One of his biggest successes came during a midyear board meeting. The board chair remarked to him afterward that this presentation was entirely different from any other financial review he had seen. There was deeper engagement, more robust questions, and a greater sense of understanding and buy-in. Most significantly, it built stronger alignment and commitments around future plans than the senior leadership team and board had experienced in previous meetings.

Get Results from Leadership Coaching 

Creating your leadership action plan provides you a clear map to growing as a leader. It begins with deeply understanding what’s most important to you about leadership performance and connecting actions to that purpose. In recognizing the behaviors that enhance or inhibit your performance as a leader, you develop the ability to pause and choose how you’ll respond in any situation without relying on the old scripts that no longer serve you.

Find out more about 4D Leadership & Executive Coaching by Leading Edge and schedule a complimentary discovery call to discuss how it can support your growth and performance as a leader.