Next month, my company Be Leadership celebrates its first birthday. In recognition of that, I’m stealing an idea from my former employer.
When I was at Microsoft, Bill Gates used to take time out each year for what he called Think Week, to get away from the day-to-day and think strategically about new concepts. For Bill and Microsoft, this week was about reading, learning about new technology and innovation, and getting caught up on recent research. What came out of these weeks were new ideas for the direction of the company.
As part of Be Leadership, I do lots of reading. I read more in this role than I have in any other; I feel I’m constantly learning about incredible innovations in leadership and business. But what I don’t do enough is step out of the day-to-day to focus on my longer term strategy and reflect on how I want my business to develop.
So next week – when many of my American clients and friends are on holiday celebrating Thanksgiving – I am having my own Think Week, where I will spend three and a half days reflecting on the past 12 months and then looking forward to 2016.
Day 1: Business Strategy
My Think Week will start with a look backward and then project forward to next year. I use a fantastic cloud-based accounting tool called Kashflow, so I have a good handle on my finances and P&L. But there are other questions I want to spend some time considering.
- What are my overall financial results? How does this compare with my projections?
- Who are my company’s clients? Where does my business come from?
- How happy are my customers? How much impact am I having with the work I do? How can I tell?
- How diverse are my company’s clients?
- How diverse is the work I have done? Are these the areas I want to be focusing?
- How do I spend my time? Is this in line with my desires and expectations?
- What are my company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?
- How complete is my (primitive) business plan? Should I make it more robust?
- What is my company’s unique value proposition? How clearly can I articulate that? Can I make this clearer?
- What is my company’s mission? Purpose? Values?
- Who would I include on my company’s Advisory Board? My personal Advisory Board? Are these the same? How should I be working with these people?
- How can I get customer input on my work and my plans?
- What are my business objectives for next year?
Day 2: Business Growth
Given the maturity of my business, I am spending a whole day this year focused on growth. If Be were at a different stage, I might choose to look strictly at customer satisfaction or zero in on marketing. If my organization were larger, I might focus on people management. As Be Leadership heads into its second year, I have a number of questions to consider around growth, relating to customers, marketing and business development.
At the end of Day 2, I have a call scheduled with my mentor of nearly 20 years, Holly. I work quite a bit on my own, so it’s important to me to have people I trust who ask good questions and challenge me. My friend and ex-colleague from Microsoft, Matthew, has offered to review some outputs from this week. And my fellow executive coach Sarah is meeting with me on Friday to check on what I’ve achieved. All of these check ins will keep me focused and accountable and help make the week a success.
Here are some questions I will answer on Day 2:
- How do I define successful growth for 2016 and beyond?
- What do my clients need from Be Leadership? Will this change in the future?
- What are my customer channels? Are there new channels to consider?
- How effectively does my website represent my company?
- Are there resources I can develop that would help me more successfully market my business?
- How effective is my customer tracking? How can I better support and communicate with my clients?
- What partners do I need in 2016 to grow my business?
- What other changes will I make in 2016 to support growth?
Day 3: Personal Growth
Day 3 is my last full day of Think Week, and I want to use this time to make some decisions about my personal involvement in Be Leadership and my own development next year. In 2015, I did work on my executive coaching practice and completed a certification with the NeuroLeadership Group. As I continue to invest in my skills next year, I need to consider where to focus. I also need to think about my overall career.
Here are some questions for Day 3:
- What do I want to achieve with my learning and development in 2016?
- Given this, where should I invest my development time and money?
- What financial investments should I be making for my future (eg pension)?
Day 4: Reflection
On the final day of my Think Week, I will spend time reflecting on what I covered during the week and will have a coaching call with my colleague Sarah.
I’m energized by the thought of this work and spending my Thanksgiving week exploring these questions. And since it’s Thanksgiving, I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported Be Leadership and me personally this year. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I have met and how much I have learned.
Would you or your organization benefit from a Think Week? What questions would you like to reflect on and answer?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.