27 September 2023

Three ways to show you’re strategic

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May Busch* says ‘being strategic’ is an often-used but fuzzy concept that many people don’t really understand. She has advice for those who can’t get their minds around it.

Have you ever been given the feedback: “You need to be more strategic”?

If so, you’re not alone.

Whether you’re seeking to advance from mid-career or already senior and headed for the C-suite, being strategic is an essential skill.

The thing is “being more strategic” is a fuzzy concept.

Ask three managers what it means and you’re likely to get three different interpretations.

Getting the feedback that “you need to be more strategic” is just the first step.

The tricky part is figuring out what to do with it.

Here are my top three ways to be more strategic.

Make time to think

If you’re constantly busy with urgent tasks, it’s hard to think bigger thoughts.

It’s like being a short-order cook who’s completely occupied with keeping up with all the orders and making sure the operation is flowing.

In urgent task mode, it’s almost impossible to be truly strategic in your thinking.

You just can’t fit it in between all the chopping and changing.

To be strategic, you have to make time to think — and do what you need to do to get resources to delegate so you can do something with that time.

Take a systems view

This means taking into consideration the entire ecosystem when making decisions, not just your own area.

That’s because there are interdependencies across the units in your organisation and beyond it.

For example, if you’re in the legal department, a policy that reduces risk might look sensible.

However, if the knock-on effect on the project team’s ability to relate with clients is severely hampered, then it might not be worth it.

Your top management is certainly taking a systems view of things because they can totally miss the boat and become irrelevant if they don’t.

So if you want to keep advancing to the next level, it’s in your interest to develop your ability to take the systems view as well.

Ask questions, speak up and share your thoughts

It’s very hard to show you’re strategic if you’re not sharing your thoughts and ideas.

Whether it’s in a meeting, on a call or even in writing, putting your insights out there gives others a way to see how strategic you are.

Another way to speak up is to ask questions.

Framed properly, your questions can reveal you’re thinking broadly and deeply about things.

Asking the right question in the right way at the right time can shift the entire trajectory of the meeting or call.

It can put you in a whole different category in the eyes of peers and senior management.

So don’t keep your strategic thoughts and questions to yourself.

Let them breathe.

In my experience, these are the three most foundational ways to become and be seen as more strategic.

For you, there could be a slightly different answer, given your context and capabilities in your career stage.

Which of these three ways would most help you be more strategic?

*May Busch works with smart entrepreneurs and top managements to build their businesses. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at maybusch.com.

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