Over the years I have heard countless leaders share that they have received feedback like, “You are not strategic enough. You need to be more strategic,” and this is often a reason why people do not get promoted. During sessions where we facilitate CliftonStrengths with teams, we also hear concerns from leaders when they realize they do not have a strength that falls within the Strategic domain. However, we share that strength envy is not permitted, as we need diverse strengths in organizations. Although to be honest, I do envy those who have the strength of WOO, as they are fun to be around, and always get invited to parties! Until I found out that strategic was my number one strength, I didn’t realize how much I said the word and how my thought patterns were unique. But we also know that it doesn’t take having strategy as a strength to become more strategic. Everyone can shift their thinking and here are three tips you can use to practice:
- Shift Your Mindset. Thinking strategically means that you are considering the entire organization and not just your area of responsibility. At lower levels, or when we first become managers, we spend most of our time making sure our team or department achieves their goals. However, as you move up into roles with broader responsibility, it is imperative that we take on a more enterprise-wide mindset and concern ourselves with the overall success of the organization. Instead of always talking about how our department is performing, we should ask questions and make statements that demonstrate we care most about how the organization is meeting its mission and vision. To be more strategic you need to look at the organization through the lens from the top and focus on meeting the overall strategic objectives simultaneously while achieving the goals for your area of responsibility.
- Break Down Silos. Another way you can be more strategic is to work to break down silos. Those with strengths in building relationships and executing can leverage these superpowers toward driving strategy. With complexity increasing inside and outside of where we work, we need to leverage the strengths and inputs from everyone and every team to be more strategic. Being territorial or keeping decisions hierarchical works against strategy because it stifles innovation. However, when you break down silos and develop strong relationships, processes, and procedures that flow freely across the organization you will find efficiencies and new ideas that will take you and your strategy to the next level.
- Get Out of the Building. I know as many of us work from our home, weare not in the corporate headquarters, so this is more of a figure of speech. What this means is to take the time to observe and understand what is happening outside of your organization. What are your competitors doing, what political, social, or environmental shifts are happening that could eventually influence your organization? The World Economic Forum and many consulting firms, such as McKinsey, publish reports on a variety of trends for your reference and Harvard Business Review is an excellent resource as well. Futurists spend their careers putting these seemingly random events into context and forecasting what might be coming, while strategists work to design potential paths forward based on various inputs. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a futurist or strategist to be more strategic, you just need to take the time to learn, observe, and consider how what is happening outside of your organization could influence the future.
It is always good when you receive feedback to ask for clarity and examples but often leaders don’t know how to articulate what they mean when they observe someone as not strategic. As Michael Porter said, “Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.” This also reinforces that we need everyone’s diverse talents, working together to create the best strategy. I hope these three tips of shifting your mindset, breaking down silos, and getting out of the building will help you become more strategic in your role.
Angela Crawford, PhD