"We keep talking about the importance of planning, Ariana, will you host a workshop and show us how?" Kim asked me at an EntrepreNerds book discussion I was facilitating about a decade ago.
There was a chorus of agreement from other participants in the room - they all got the importance of stepping back to think about the big picture for the year but didn't know where to start and wanted camaraderie on the journey.
Before that, I had never considered hosting such a workshop. And yet, this is the most enduring program I have offered in my business. It's all because I co-created it with my clients from the get-go. The Annual Planning Workshop was born out of a need others had, which happened to fit within my business vision even if it wasn't my idea.
There is a give and take when co-creating that requires a leader to be both open and steadfast. The openness is necessary for there to be space for others' ideas to be shared, explored and adopted. The steadfastness provides a container for which the efforts most fit within so there isn't a total lack of focus or cohesion.
From the very first time I hosted the Annual Planning Workshop, I fostered space for co-creating with participants.
"My goal is to delight you with my services. If there's something you wish was different please let me know. And if there's something you loved that you want me to maintain, tell me that too" I shared at the end of the workshop as I asked for feedback from participants.
Every year I get valuable feedback and refine the program, making it better and better. Although, not every experiment I’ve run has panned out as hoped. But that just gives me a chance to live and learn.
Continuing to interact with workshop participants and listening to their perspectives over the years has enabled me to see things more holistically. It's helpful for me to understand when concepts that seem obvious to me don't make sense to them. It's beneficial to hear their questions and struggles so their needs can be addressed.
At the same time, I strive to stay true to the values that guide my work. One of which is to offer services that are simple yet powerful. I reject overly complicated planning practices that require an advanced degree to follow because that goes against my values.
I'm pleased to share Annual Planning process I teach is quite fluid and builds naturally on itself.
I also don't believe in doing things the way they've always been done just because. So many aspects of traditional planning practices, like setting SMART goals, are uninspiring and tedious. Rather than forcing myself and others to do things the way they "should" I give people permission to do what's best for them by offering a framework they can adapt.
So if someone asks me to show to them how to set SMART goals in the Annual Planning Workshop, I'll kindly explain why I don't ascribe to such goal-setting practices. They can choose if what I have to offer will work for them or not. But I'm not going to try to fit my services into a method that is disingenuous just because someone asked me to.
Such discernment, when to embrace the ideas of others and when to let go of them, is an essential skill in co-creating.
If you try to listen to everyone you'll end up with an incompatible recipe for your vision. It would be like making a meatloaf with Nutella on top. No one wants to eat that because the flavors are contradictory and appalling.
Next month I will host my 21st Annual Planning Workshop! Hundreds of wholehearted professionals have gone through this program. Many have come to the workshop for years because they like the camaraderie and find value in routinely honing their planning skills (as well as benefiting from being a part of the evolution of it all).
I love hosting the Annual Planning Workshop, not because it's been a consistent money maker for me (although that's been nice). But because it's been a consistent co-creating endeavor.
I offer wholehearted professionals a chance to step back. To evaluate their work and life. To listen within so they may embark on a path that enables them to be more aligned, purposeful, intentional, focused, fulfilled, connected, happy, and authentic in the New Year. And they get to ask questions plus share insights that make the program even better for everyone!