According to Peter Drucker, the second of eight effective practices of effective leaders is to invest time in writing action plans. Writing an action plan is the task that follows answering the most difficult question: “What needs to be done?” which we discussed in the last article.

I recently heard a friend explain in a somewhat sarcastic tone, “The idea of a map is to have it in your possession before you begin your journey.” Supposedly, Napoleon said that he never won a battle by perfectly following his written plan. Yet anyone who studies history knows that it never stopped him from planning out in detail every one of his battles! I wonder what history might have said if he had never planned.

At Lead Today we call an action plan, The Leader’s Playbook. We believe in it, we use it, we teach it. It is not perfect and probably never will be but it gives the leader more than an edge, it provides meaning, direction, and confidence. How? It’s a process that shapes the leader’s soul – her mind, her emotions, and her will. It’s a process that creates winning habits and skills.

We see it all the time because it is common among us humans. We have no plan. If we have a plan, it is simply to get up every day, go to work, and then rely on our experience and intuition. Surprisingly, experience and intuition fail us because they are not part of a plan; they are the plan – consciously or unconsciously. And it’s a really bad plan. It is like a raft floating aimlessly at sea.

The to-do list is one of the most obvious places where you will find evidence of a leader without a plan. To-lists most often consist of housekeeping issues originating from one of three categories: tasks given to you, tasks that reflect the needs and strengths of your personality, or urgent “911” issues. After close investigation, you will find that a few items on your to-do list originate from a well-thought-out plan.

Five keys to an effective written action plan:

  • It includes one’s vision for the future, values, and needed elements of character for success.
  • It is a statement of intentions rather than a rigid contract. With every success or setback, new opportunities surface. In other words, it is revised often.
  • Every good plan includes a tracking system comparing results against expectations. For example, one would calendar progress review dates before the plan is ready to implement.
  • The plan is the basis and foundation for scheduling the use of one’s time. The plan informs the calendar, the blocking of time, and the priority of tasks and appointments to schedule.
  • An effective plan always considers its effect on others, includes others, and is for the benefit of self and others.

Effective leaders think long and hard about what needs to be done and why. They put a plan together informing how they will best use their time instead of becoming like a leaf blowing in the wind whenever and wherever it demands.

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