Conduct an Effective Stewardship Process


Conduct an Effective Stewardship Process
© MohamadFaizal

Best Practices

As year-end results become available, it is timely to take a good look at the annual stewardship process for your business. I have found that an effective stewardship process is a valuable tool to assist in the management of the business, and it also provides a useful window into colleague development and evaluation. This article will provide some aspects to consider for your stewardship process, both for those who are designing the process and listening to the presentations, as well as for those delivering them.

Let’s first consider the process objectives, which in my view include the following:

  • Evaluate the health of the business at various levels and across different parts of the organization, including competitive positioning and growth prospects for the future.
  • Ensure alignment of the business activities and resources with overall company strategy and plans.
  • Provide input to the personnel process with regard to colleague performance as well as identification and development of future leadership.

With this in mind, here are some recommendations for conducting an effective process:

Timing: Ideally, stewardship is not just an annual process but an ongoing one during the year that is carried out throughout the organization. However, I believe the annual stewardship process conducted early in the New Year that looks back on the prior full-year results is most important and deserves more formality as well as a wider management audience. The specifics of where and how to do it will depend, of course, on the size and complexity of your organization. But I would ensure that this is scheduled early enough, so that you can get key leadership to attend, and I would place special emphasis on stewardship of the sales organization and your business lines (including P/(L) responsibility).

Format: You may want to establish a uniform format for the presentations in each area, so that management can easily glean from the presentations key results, issues, prospects and needs. Financials should be on a common basis to facilitate comparisons between areas, across time periods and compared to your corporate plan; however, you may also want to leave some room for presenters to use their creativity to showcase some aspect of their business unit or to offer new ideas and insights. I would ensure a common time period for the presentations and include time for a Q&A session at the end.

Audience:  This will again depend on the size of the organization, but I would go for a wide audience for your year-end stewardship, as this will be a good opportunity for newer colleagues to interact with more experienced colleagues and learn from their presentations, both with respect to business understanding as well as how the presentation is delivered. I suggest you ensure that those who will be evaluating the relative performance of the presenters are in attendance at the stewardship.

Feedback: Be sure to take notes as each presenter from your team delivers their presentation, and provide prompt feedback as to how they did both with respect to their performance on the day as well as their business performance overall. Seek input from other leaders, especially concerning those colleagues whom you regard as high potential leadership candidates.

As a presenter at the stewardship process, you may want to consider the following tips:

Take it seriously: The stewardship presentation is your opportunity to show how well you have delivered results for your area, so take the necessary time to prepare the presentation and practice its delivery. Seek to differentiate your presentation in some significant way, so that you stand out from the crowd. Ensure the presentation is reviewed by someone you trust, so that it is error free and that key messages are highlighted. Consider the questions that are likely to emerge and practice how you will respond. 

Consider your tone: As a listener over many years to such presentations, I as a manager would typically be assessing how the presenter is coming across. Do they seem knowledgeable about their business and customers and aware of their competitive situation? Do they appear motivated, proud and excited about new business opportunities? Do they demonstrate the linkage between their work and corporate strategies and plans? Striking the right tone is very important. 

Focus on what you can control: If your business area did not meet plans, be sure you show what specific actions you took to offset the shortfall and what you are doing to address it in the coming year. Avoid vague excuses, such as the macroeconomic environment or supply chain issues—although of course those can be crucial elements—and focus on what you can control, such as actions to increase margin, gain new business, introduce new or improved products and reduce costs.

Demonstrate teamwork: Acknowledge the contributions of others who were instrumental in your success, such as those in technology, who may have developed a great new product or those in supply chain, who may have impressed the customer with on-time performance. 

It’s about the bottom line:  Show that you understand that delivery of profits is the ultimate goal regardless of where you are in the organization. If you have brought in a new piece of business, focus on the dollars it will deliver to the bottom line. If you have been involved in construction of a new project in manufacturing, demonstrate your understanding of its return on investment and/or how it will reduce manufacturing costs. 

After the stewardship process is over, I suggest that the management team reflect on the overall messages that they heard. What were the biggest new opportunities that emerged? What were the biggest and most oft-mentioned gaps? Overall, does the organization understand the corporate plans and strategies, and are the resources properly deployed to deliver these plans? An effective stewardship process should leave the management team with a feeling that the organization is aligned and powering ahead, as well as perhaps identifying a few areas needing attention.  

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Contact her at or (908) 400-5210.

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