4 Planning Lies & Why Great Leadership Hinges on Great Planning


It happens… there are some people who have a great idea and can whisk their way into a market and do much more than “make ends meet.” There are some people who can get promoted into a new position and think that their charm and charisma is going to take them far. There are some leadership teams who meet weekly, solve problems and expect massive growth from just solving problems.

I hate to break it to these people, but eventually things flat-line. This is true for businesses and it is true for our personal success and development. Planning is a very unsexy act that so many leaders get completely wrong. In my precious post, 25 Stellar Reasons Why You Need a Killer Plan, I talked about the huge number of advantages to planning. I won’t go into that. What I want to do is smash down the lies that I often hear about planning, and my take on why good leadership, hinges on good planning.

Lie 1: Planning Will Produce a Huge Document That Will Only Collect Dust

I have helped organizations with Business Plans, Strategic Plans, Marketing Plans, Sales Plans, IT Plans and more, and lots more people with personal success plan. Sometimes the plans end up being a page, and sometimes they end up being 100+ pages. There are many formats to choose from and the depth of the plan is dependent on many factors. To say that in an organization, a plan will only collect dust, is essentially stating that the organization has one of the following problems:

  1. They wrote a bad plan that can’t be followed
  2. The organization has severe execution and/or leadership problems

When planning, plans have to be created and vetted through scenarios and research. Then the plan has to be broken down into manageable and readable details so that it can be followed. A poorly written plan will end up being a waste of time in many respects, and yes that type of plan will collect dust. As leaders you need to dig deep, plan hard, and ask for help if planning is not one of your strong suits.

Lie 2: Planning Will Not Allow Me to Be Innovative and Agile

Hogwash… as my father used to say. You don’t become a robot when you plan properly. Good plans take many things into account and while a detailed plan is usually better, they should never constrain you. The fact is that a good plan will liberate you. It gives you direction, guidance, and confidence to be moving in the right direction. It gives you milestones to shoot for at intervals, and if done properly good planning will make you more agile, and give you the opportunity and resources to be more innovative, more productive, and more agile.

Lie 3: Planning Wastes a Lot of Time

Is planning a waste of time, or is not planning a waste of time? In my experience the latter is true. Leaders tend to have so much going on that they find any task outside of their core duties to be a waste of time. Pulling themselves from those daily tasks and dedicating their mind and activities toward planning for a few days, or even a few hours, seems daunting. Couple that with the plague of an inability to execute and it can be easy to give “planning” a bad name. After a good solid planning session with leaders, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, I have never heard anyone tell me they felt like it was a waste of time. A plan provides structure for the chaos of leadership. With that structure, chaos can be ordered, and what was previously thought to be unachievable, can be achieved.

Lie 4: Cool People Don’t Plan

Well, I’d rather be uncool and successful, with a plan to get where I want to go; than cool, chaotic, unorganized, and no idea where I should be going. While this subtitle is written in jest, I have seen a huge negative stigma around planning. That it is hard, not fun, and a waste of time. Get over it, leaders do hard things. Planning can bring so much success, that it is worth every bit of angst, and the time spent planning, if done properly, will more than make-up for the whatever things you would have been doing during the planning session.

Great Leadership Hinges on Great Planning

Between the previous post, 25 Stellar Reasons Why You Need a Killer Plan, and this post, I hope you are now convinced on the importance and value of planning. To be a great leader you have to have the ability to plan. Business and life have so much chaos, and so much uncertainty, that leaders need to take the time to plan their success. Whether in life or business – hoping for success – is never as fruitful as planning for it.

What other lies have you heard about planning, and what is holding you back from being a better planner? Let me know any questions you have on planning, or anything about planning that frustrates you in the comment section.

About Todd Nielsen

Todd Nielsen helps organizations create miracles of success and profitability through the power of execution. Having served as Vice-President, President, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, and Chief Executive Officer of organizations, he has learned how to create a culture that "Gets Things Done." He is passionate about leadership, and is a dynamic and inspirational speaker.


  1. […] It happens… there are some people who have a great idea and can whisk their way into a market and do much more than “make ends meet.” There are some people who can get promoted into a new position and think that their charm and charisma is going to take them far. There are some leadership […]  […]