Three Effective Ways to Develop a Strategic Mindset!
How much time and effort have you been investing in developing your strategic mindset? Strategic thinking skills are fundamental to enhancing and accelerating your professional trajectory in today’s business environment. They are among the most sought-after management competencies because individuals capable of thinking critically, logically, and strategically can significantly impact organizational growth and success.
Who is expected to think strategically in organizations today? Strategic thinking is a must-have skill required for the efficient functioning of every level in an organization and not just part of the senior executives’ responsibilities. An unwritten part of all job descriptions, ‘strategic contribution’ is something you should always prepare for.
But how can you develop a more strategic mindset? In part one of this two-part series, we have shortlisted three practical steps to build a solid foundation for strategic thinking. Let’s get started!
1. ‘Here & Now’ vs. Strategic Thinking (Important vs. Urgent)
Most people find drawing a line between important and urgent tasks hard. This often makes them victims of reaction-based work culture where they have zero time to think or work towards a higher goal. You need to learn to manage your tasks in a way that will allow you time to develop your strategic thinking skills. Dorie Clark, named one of the Top 50 Business Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50, provides two very relevant tips on how to do that. First, be clear on where your time is actually going. Use a spreadsheet to map out your activities and how you spend every hour of your day over the course of a week or a month. Then, critically analyze how much time you are using to tackle urgent vs. important tasks. Learning to triage is fundamental to making room for strategic thinking! Which activities or decisions really require your full participation, involvement, and attention? Which ones can you have other members of your team perform? “It’s quite possible there are tasks you could combine, defer, or outsource to help you buy an extra two hours per week.” This time will be fundamental for you to step outside the more transactional activities and focus on the big picture.
2. Focus on the big picture.
Being strategic requires understanding the industry context, trends, and business drivers. However, our job roles can easily make us take a ‘heads down’ approach to work — not allowing us to consider new factors and trends. One fundamental element is the use of data to understand market trends, consumer behavior, preferences changes, technological advancements, etc. Additionally, you should also proactively connect with peers in your industry to gain a better understanding of their perspectives on market characteristics and trends. Exercise critical thinking regarding how such findings can impact your organization and department.
You also need clarity about the corporate strategy and how your department, position, and function contribute to it. Developing a systemic view of the organization and how you and your team can be key players in advancing the bigger strategy will put you in a position to better communicate your views and be perceived as a more strategic thinker.
3. Ask better questions.
“Questions are the language of strategy.” Develop a curious mindset that goes beyond your direct job or position and work on your inquiry skills. This will push you to think about the repercussions of certain decisions and contribute more towards the organization’s broader goals. Learn to ask tough questions while engaging with colleagues or senior executives — a habit that will make you more thoughtful and strategic than ever. Here are some suggestions for strategic questions:
What might be the short-term and long-term consequences of this trend?
How can my organization and department be affected by such trends?
Are the various activities and businesses I am involved in aligned with the company’s strategy? Do they make sense together, or are they only individually attractive?
Why do we do things this way? What are some other options?
Developing our strategic thinking skills can be challenging and uncomfortable at times. We must question our thoughts and assumptions, make time out of our packed agendas to consistently consider trends and options, focus on our connections and network, learn to ask difficult questions, etc. In short, we must push ourselves through the storm to bask in the serenity on the other side. But, once you are through, it will be easier to think strategically and contribute to our organization’s goals at a higher level. And this is a road of no return that can make a huge difference to your career path.
Research indicates that 97% of senior leaders consider being strategic the most critical leadership behavior to their organizations’ success. Leader Essentials Group’s Developing your Strategic Mindset Master Class training provides your leadership team with tools to develop their skills in thinking more strategically to provide an even more impactful contribution to your organization’s future. Email us at email@example.com or direct message us on LinkedIn to schedule a 15-minute telephone or virtual consultation to learn more and how we can partner with you to help you develop your employee’s strategic mindset!
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Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
_________________________________________________________________________  Stobierski, T. (2020). 4 ways to develop your strategic thinking skills. Harvard Business School Online. Retrieved from 4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills | HBS Online, 01-29-23.  Browman, N. A. (2016). 4 ways to improve your strategic thinking skills. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 4 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills (hbr.org), 01/29/23.  Clark, D. (2018). If strategy is so important, why don’t we make time for it? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from If Strategy Is So Important, Why Don’t We Make Time for It? (hbr.org), 01/29/23  Vermeulen, F. (2015). 5 strategy questions every leader should make time for. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 5 Strategy Questions Every Leader Should Make Time For (hbr.org), 01-29-23