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How To Think More Strategically (Step-by-Step Guide)

Let me know if this sounds familiar: You are doing great work, and your manager tells you you’re fine, but… you should be more strategic. There is no explanation of what this means, no guidance… just this vague feedback—you need to be more strategic.

We can all agree that strategic thinking is required to increase your impact at work and level up, but what does it really mean, and how do you do it?

This is what I want to break down for you this week.

I want to demystify what “thinking strategically” is all about and how anyone can learn to do it.

What Does “Strategic Thinking“ Really Mean?

Strategic thinking is the compass that guides executives through complex challenges and toward sustainable success. It’s less about executing daily tasks efficiently and not about the immediate fires you need to put out.

There are 3 elements that go into strategic thinking:

Foresight: Your ability to “see” the future and plan ahead. When you develop foresight, you learn to identify trends, forecast needs, and identify opportunities before they become obvious. You learn how to make decisions about the future to create a bigger impact.

Critical Analysis: This is your ability to evaluate information, ideas, or situations systematically and objectively. When you develop critical thinking, you know how to break down complex issues into their parts, assess the validity and relevance of each part, and synthesize this information to form reasoned judgments or conclusions.

Long-Term Planning: This is the ability to formulate strategic objectives and create actionable plans that extend beyond the current situation. When you develop this skill you can set goals with extended timelines, anticipate future challenges and opportunities, and make decisions accordingly.

These skills are learnable, and anyone can develop them with the right process.

5 Steps To Train Yourself To Think More Strategically

I don’t know many people who were born with the ability to think strategically. It’s a skill you can develop over time by using the right process. If you do this long enough, it will become a habit and a corporate superpower.

1. Information Gathering:

You’ll need access to valuable information to make smart and strategic decisions. Instead of randomly being exposed to this data, set up a system to regularly access information about your discipline, industry, and company. Proactively consume internal communications like all-hands meetings and public strategy documents and build relationships with stakeholders who have relevant knowledge.

This first step is crucial and must be intentional. Put yourself in the position to be in the know.

2. Insights creation:

More than simply having data is needed; you must distill it into actionable insights. That requires time and practice. Put time on your calendar to review and process information so you can connect the dots and identify opportunities.

This skill takes the longest to develop because it relies on your ability to connect the dots and understand the root cause and future impact.

Tip: The last thing you want to do is start with a blank page. Instead,, you want to have a list of questions or prompts to help you connect the dots. I like to use the same questions associated with SWOT and PESTEL analysis as prompts to get started. Feel free to steal some great questions from this list.

3. Developing a Point of View:

Strategic thinkers go beyond relaying information; they develop perspectives and make decisions. If you just share what you learn, you are not adding value. Your goal is to use your experience and knowledge to make decisions. That’s the “strategic” part of the whole process—eliminating the noise and choosing a direction or action that would drive the impact you are looking for.

Tip: To develop a perspective, you need to consider your options. Lay out different scenarios and evaluate the pros and cons before choosing what to recommend. You can use this Scenario Planning Guide to do that. These scenarios present different possibilities for the future if certain events help you make informed decisions.

Here is a simple example:

4. Packaging:

If you think strategically but no one can see or value your perspective, you won’t get very far. HOW you present your ideas matters as much as what they are. 4 elements to include to make your strategy more compelling:

→ Rationale: Add enough context to let others see how you think and why you made your decisions.

→ Contrast: To increase your ideas' perceived value and impact, you should use contrast. Show the existing situation vs. the potential future.

→ Show value: Explain the expected return of implementing your strategy. It’s not enough to show what you want to do; you need to make the outcome desirable to get support and buy-in.

→Manage objections: Consider pushbacks and concerns in advance and address them with solutions.

5. Socializing:

Your strategy will only drive results if you execute it. That means getting approvals, budgets, and buy-in. That’s why you need to socialize your work with the right people and get their support.

Following these steps will strengthen your strategic thinking and drive impactful decision-making in your role.

Your next steps

Thinking more strategically doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right process and a little practice, you can become a strategic thinker. Developing this ability to connect the dots and drive success will help you level up into executive roles and make a big impact.

Instead of waiting to feel ready, train yourself to think strategically by following this 5-step system. You’ll be amazed at what can happen when you do.

I believe in you, and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


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