Excerpted from Gen Y Now: How Generation Y Changes Your Workplace and Why It Requires a New Leadership Style

Tom Grealish, President of Henderson Brothers, Inc., is focused on building a company recognized for excellence throughout the insurance industry. He believes the key to success is developing strategic plans that are aligned from top to bottom. In fact, for the past ten years he has even developed an annual personal strategic plan to guide his own development. This personal plan is also aligned to the larger corporate plan, which in turn is aligned to departmental plans.

Having been involved in many business leadership forums over the years, Grealish has heard all of the excuses leaders make for not creating, let alone aligning, strategic plans. “People will say, ‘I’m too busy to create a strategic plan,’” said Grealish. “The fact is, I’m too busy not to create a strategic plan. I believe strategic planning is to continuous improvement as exercise is to fitness. One cannot be accomplished without the other.”

At Henderson Brothers, the strategic plan begins with a vision and is carried all the way through to regular one-on-one meetings with every employee. Part of the vision statement refers to providing “heroic service.” “You could build the entire platform on the word, heroic,” Grealish says. “If you woke everyone up at 2:00 in the morning and asked ‘What’s the one thing you do at Henderson Brothers?’ they’d say, ‘Provide heroic service.’”

In order to assure alignment between his personal plan, corporate plan, and departmental plans, Grealish also has implemented regular one-on-one meetings for every employee with their managers. No one in his organization goes longer than 90 days (many people have monthly meetings) without a regularly scheduled session with their supervisor. “Strategic planning gives you a relentless scorecard to measure success,” observes Grealish. “Our one-on-one process allows for regular, timely feedback on everyone’s progress. If needed, we can quickly make adjustments and, maybe more important, give feedback, give recognition, and celebrate successes in real time.”

“Most employees leave because they don’t know they’re valued in an organization, and they don’t know where the organization is going,” stated Grealish. “Our commitment to alignment and accountability means most people are invested in Henderson Brothers’ strategic plan. People take ownership, everyone contributes, and even our newest Gen Y employees are connected to our long-term strategic success.”

Grealish’s Tips for Alignment:

  • Words matter. “Choose your vision and mission statement carefully. Make sure it is uniquely you and avoid a ‘visions-R-us’ approach.”
  • Implement a regular one-on-one process. “Annual appraisals are not enough. Our veteran employees, appreciate the regular feedback and our newest employees almost demand it.”
  • Train your supervisors. “Many of our senior leaders never experienced a monthly meeting with their boss, so they didn’t really know how to conduct a productive session. Give them some help.”
  • Model the behavior. “I still conduct monthly one-on-ones with my direct reports, and I am constantly aware that I am setting an example.”