Trust is the foundation of effective and authentic leadership. Without it, leaders lose teams through attrition or dangerously low engagement. Among the many qualities of trusted leaders, clarity is key: employees trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous. So leaders who earn employee trust provide transparency around goals, plans and expectations.

One widely used leadership tool has the ability to destroy clarity and trust: the annual strategic planning session. While planning is important, many employees have developed knee-jerk skepticism toward these annual sessions. Why? Because most of these sessions involve days at off-site retreats and long hours of analysis without much change afterward.

Instead of an annual planning session, try 90-day quick planning. Choose one to three areas of the business you want to address, then ask and answer these four questions every 90 days.

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1. Where are we? If you don’t know where you are today, you can’t know where you’d like to go in the future. Many leaders use a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. This is fine, but give teams only 20 minutes to complete it, as most can perform this analysis quickly.

2. Where are we going? Ask where you want to be in 90 days. Would you like to double sales or reach 100 more customers? Document a clear, quantifiable goal.

3. Why are we going? If the why is strong enough, the plan doesn’t need to be perfect. When your team members have a motivating and unifying reason, they’ll stay passionate and focused.


Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life.

Trust is not a ‘soft’ skill.

A lack of trust is your biggest expense.

“In the 21st century, trust has become the world’s most precious resource.

Show people they can trust you and most often they will.

Source: The Trust Edge

4. How are we going to get there? Finding the answer will likely take some digging. I recently worked with a group of healthcare executives. After a day of training and consulting, they decided the issue they needed to address most urgently was clarity. They discussed what they would do to improve it. Their first idea was, We will communicate more.

But what, exactly, does that mean? When asked how they were going to communicate more, they huddled and then responded, We’ll hold one another accountable. When asked for more details, they huddled once again. Finally, they came up with something specific they would do during every meeting to build clarity.

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The message: keep asking how until your team commits to taking specific actions. If people don’t start acting differently right now, the overall plan doesn’t matter. So instead of engaging in laborious strategic planning sessions once a year, try this challenge: every 90 days, go through the quick-planning process for three areas of your business. Rather than approaching it skeptically, your team members will find focus, inspiration and motivation.

With increased clarity around your plan and vision, you will gain their trust. And then bottom-line results will follow.

David Horsager is an award-winning speaker, business strategist and author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.

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Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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