The Surprising Trick to Selling Yourself

It turns out the selling yourself is neither about you or what you're selling. It's about the benefit someone else will get after engaging with you. Whether you're in business or in government, we're all in the position of having to share our ideas or ways of doing something and get another person or group to buy-in. It's the nature of how we work.

Maximize your effectiveness by focusing not on yourself but on the results to be gained. Check out this recent article for more on the topic of selling yourself.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.

Strategic Plan Template

Very Sleepy by Lisa Barbero

Very Sleepy by Lisa Barbero

A client asked me this morning to review and comment on his organization’s strategic plan template.  A template?  What? The thoughts racing through my mind went something like... "You can’t template a strategic plan. I mean, sure, there are a handful of broad headers that you could type up but to what end? Creating a template would exacerbate one of the biggest problems with our typical approaches to strategic planning and not something I could get behind.  The focus seems more on the end document that the process of discovery, creative thinking, and cross-discipline input. Grrrr."

He elaborated that he was looking for some thought-provoking questions to include in an annotated outline.  Sigh.  Ok, now, that makes a lot more sense.  Based on his request, I jotted down some basic strategic planning guidelines and the kind of questions you should be asking of your team.

Before doing “save as” and creating your spanking new strategic plan file, set some time parameters.  As arbitrary as they might seem, establishing short but reasonable boundaries around the effort is tremendously helpful.  Without sideboards, strategic planning can and will go on forever, quickly lose momentum, cause the team to question your leadership and the organization's direction, and result in a reassignment to organizing the supply closet.  Definitely not a strategic career move.  So, I’d suggest that you set a deadline of about a week-- 2 max.  No joke.  You really do not need more time. Simple and clear beats perfect and polished every time.

Ok, here you go...

Problem Statemen

  • What are you “strategically” trying to solve?  Don’t get too hung up on the language and meaning of strategic.  I’d say that a plan is strategic if it’s taken into account multiple viewpoints and approaches and selected the best possible path given the information available at the time.  A project plan would describe the step-by-step once this approach is finalized.

Current State and Desired End State

  • Briefly describe where the organization stands today in the face of this problem.
  • In an ideal world, where would you be and by when?  Personally, I recommend that you keep the goals modest and the timelines relatively near-term.  Multi-year strategic plans have very limited practical value.

Stakeholders and Customers

  • Besides you, who cares about this outcome?  These are your stakeholders who should be asked for input.
  • Who are you trying to please, support, engage, or help?  These are your customers (even if you’re not “selling” anything.) Spend most of the time you have talking about this group then take another pass through your decisions and tweak from the customer’s point of view.

Opportunities and Limitations

  • What events can you reasonable anticipate in the set timeframe that you want to take advantage of or avoid.  Keep it short and snappy.

So what’s the path?

  • Given all the thoughts above, provide some sense of the range of options considered.  Which path best takes advantage of all of the resources at your disposal? This is your strategic path.  Write this down—on paper if that’s easiest.

Evaluation Points

  • What logical evaluation points along the path exist?  Mark these roughly on your calendar and commit to a quick (less than 1 meeting) evaluation of how you’re doing.

Have fun with it.  To me, one of the most commonly missed opportunities with strategic planning is that we all take it too seriously and limit input to only the coolest kids in the office.  Lame.  Instead, even the most modest effort to make it interesting, take some guesses, accept some risk, and integrate as many viewpoints as possible will make this different from the last time.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.

8 Tips to Writing a Strategic Plan That Works

Succulent Pod Wall Sculpture Tile by Dilly Pad

Succulent Pod Wall Sculpture Tile by Dilly Pad

Strategic plans both ground us and free us to move forward. Developing a plan creates a common understanding of where we're going so that we can tell others and invite them to join in. Plans provide a ready answer to the daily question that pops ups, "This is cool. Should we do it?" Without plans, we wander.

Plans are often very good things, but writing plans down can be a tremendously onerous and frustrating process for organizations. Why? Because we worry about whether we're doing the right thing, what other people will think, whether it will work, or if we have what it takes. We often don't know how to articulate and incorporate the input received from our teams in a way that makes them feel included and inspire ownership. It's also hard to know when to start planning or when to stop.

Traditional approaches to strategic planning are process-laden and lengthy. The typical process for strategic planning has, in fact, earned a bad rap for precisely these reasons. Such plans require a tremendous amount of time and, in the end, no one is really sure what they got out of the process. What's worse is when those plans we agonized over sit in a network folder and are rarely referenced.

The alternative is an ultralight approach to discovering and documenting a strategic objective and pulling out the key actions needed to achieve that goal. An objective many teams strive for is to develop an actionable plan that allows them to move together toward a common goal. Here are 8 ways to inspire action with your strategic plan:

  1. Include as many people and as many diverse perspectives as can reasonably be accommodated in the physical space.
  2. Tell the group developing the plan that they own the process, the plan, and the outcome. Planning and completing strategic activities is everyone's job.
  3. Avoid writing or refining mission and vision statements. It's a waste of time.
  4. Ask participants to articulate their own purpose in doing this work and what excites them about the future of the business.
  5. Conduct an exercise to list and generally agree on what you (the organization) do, as well as what you don't do.
  6. Stop writing when you hit 3. Fewer words have more power--if for no other reason than the likelihood of someone actually reading them going up.
  7. Know that good enough is actually pretty good. Make this point as often as needed. The Atlantic's article entitled "The Power of 'Good Enough'" hit home for me.
  8. End on a high note. Generating a feeling of community, collaboration, and being a team builds momentum and creates and eagerness to reconnect.

The difference in this ultralight approach to strategic planning is in its ability to inspire. Its duration is deliberately short, and efforts to wordsmith and smooth over the language to the point of meaninglessness are eliminated. All participants are involved, and the team leaves clear, motivated, and energized around a common objective.

Robin Camarote

I'm the co-founder of Federal MicroConsulting and strategic planning consultant based on Falls Church, VA. I am intent on helping leaders get more done with fewer headaches by outlining clear, creative strategies and solutions that build momentum and buy-in at all organizational levels. In addition to consulting, I write regularly for Inc.com, GovExec.com, and Bloomberg Government on leadership and how to increase your positive impact at work. She is the author of a best-selling book on organizational behavior entitled, Flock, Getting Leaders to Follow and Own It: Drive Your Career to a Place of Happiness and Success. I live with my husband and three children in Falls Church, Virginia.