The best strategic planning sessions use facilitators. Am I biased on this point? Of course (strategic planning is one of the core services we help clients improve). But as we tell credit unions and banks, we are also going to serve as your frienemy.

A frienemy is someone who is going to love you like a friend, yet challenge you like an enemy. That person who is going to get in your face. That partner who is going to hold you accountable.

As Jim Stengel says in his book Grow, “Remain stuck inside your current business model and your business’s days are numbered.” Too many financial institutions are stuck in doing business the old way because they are using old school facilitators and not new school frienemies.

A good frienemy will:

  • Love you and challenge you. Notice that frienemy starts with love. But they are not there just to waive pom-poms. For example, they may acknowledge that your double-digit loan growth is awesome, when in actuality it could be more.
  • Push you when necessary. A good frienemy will not let you settle for the status quo. Sometimes the goals we set in strategic planning sessions do not stretch us enough. Consider the using the “BAM” technique: basic, awesome and miracle. Too many facilitators let us set basic goals, while a frienemy will make you stretch.
  • Stand up when necessary. Yes, this could even mean standing up to the CEO or board chairman. That is hard stuff—after all, they are the ones signing the check! But the truth is everyone can be wrong: even those in leadership positions. Rather than take the organization in a wrong direction they know won’t work, a frienemy will serve as a guide.
  • Tell you what you DON’T want to hear. In other words, they are more concerned about the financial institution than coming back next year. A lot of planning sessions have a lot of “yes” men and women in them. Make sure your facilitator is not one of those people. There is a place for good news. But there is also a place for a reality check.

The next time you seek a strategic planning facilitator, don’t. Rather, seek a strategic planning frienemy.