Does this sound familiar?
You are doing great work, your manager tells you your performance s fine but maybe… you should be more strategic. No explanation of what that means, no guidance, just this vague feedback - you need to be more strategic.
Okay, so let’s talk about what it actually means to think strategically. Whether you’re a mid-career or a senior executive, being strategic is an essential skill to stand out, add value and grow your career.
Without any context “being more strategic” is a fuzzy concept so today I want to try and demystify what it means to “be more strategic” so you can start practicing it in your career.
What it means to be more strategic
Thinking more strategically means you know how to connect the dots. It means you are able to see both the bigger picture - the macro - and the small details - the micro. It means you have a system view of the organization or department that goes beyond your role and immediate scope. It means you can think long-term, and not just optimize for immediate solutions.
It means you know how to add value, work smarter and create a bigger impact.
It means breaking thinking patterns and finding better ways to get the same results. It means having a more holistic view and not becoming complacent by doing what you have always done.
Thinking strategically is a skill you need to develop
Most of us tend to get comfortable in our habits and in our day-to-day work. It is easier to do the things you are familiar with. Unfortunately, nothing truly great ever happens inside your comfort zone. No breakthroughs, innovation, or…strategic thinking. So doing more of the same won’t get you far in the corporate world.
If you want to become a better, bigger, bolder version of yourself, you need to do things differently and think more strategically. That means you need to change your perspective and become more intentional instead of staying complacent.
If you want to give yourself the opportunity to make a breakthrough you need to practice strategic thinking. You need to make it a habit. You need to learn how to put on your strategic hat whenever you need it, in any situation so you can be the person who connects the dots and gets recognition.
How to start thinking more strategically
1. Make time
The first rule to think more strategically is to make time to think more strategically.
If you are wrapped up in the day-to-day you will keep doing the same things you are doing. You need to add dedicated thinking time to your calendar.
I know it sounds weird, but this is what top executives do. They understand that 2 hours of thinking strategically can yield a much bigger ROI than 2 hours of working on tactics. They are willing to invest their time in high-leverage activities and you should do the same.
Put time on your calendar to think strategically and you will start developing this habit.
2. Change your perspective
You can start thinking more strategically immediately by making these 3 simple perspective changes that will allow you to view the world with a different lens.
Stop thinking like an employee, start thinking like a CEO.
I know that technically you are an employee since you work for someone else, but I want you to stop thinking like one. I want you to stop focusing on your own scope of work and start thinking like the company CEO. I want you to stop thinking within the purview of your own department or discipline and start thinking about the company as a whole.
Every time you are faced with a challenge or a problem ask yourself:
what would the CEO do?
Why does this work so well? Because you actually know what the CEO would do. You have a hunch as to what the CEO would optimize for and prioritize because you can imagine where she is coming from.
Stop thinking about the micro and start thinking with a 360 view.
The micro is your day-to-day. Your role, your responsibilities, your immediate environment.
When you see things with a micro lens you limit your options. You are not considering potential solutions because they are outside of your scope. It’s like you have tunnel vision - you can only see in one direction. That is a very dangerous place to be because it limits your options. You are only considering what is right in front of you instead of looking at the bigger picture.
You can’t be strategic when you have a limited view of the situation. That means gaining 360 view to make better decisions. That means looking at the bigger picture and the details. Considering long-term and short-term implications.
Stop thinking in terms of “me” and start thinking in terms of “we”.
There is a limit to what you can do on your own, but with alliances, you can move mountains.
You want to stop thinking in terms of what YOU can do and start thinking in terms of what WE can do. What would be possible if you had the executive team on your side? What would happen if you had your colleague’s budget to support your initiative?
You need to stop limiting your solutions to what is readily available to you and start thinking about what’s possible as a team.
Thinking more strategically requires practice. It does not happen overnight. The more you are intentional about it, the faster you will train yourself to think more strategically. Find opportunities to wear your strategic hat and gain some practice.
This is how you start thinking more strategically and impress your executive team. You stop focusing on the execution and the day-to-day and make time to think about ways to help the company grow. It means changing your perspective and having a broader lens, to make sure your work, your decisions, and your actions have a positive ROI for you and for the company.
I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.