Strategic Thinking

Being tagged as “strategic” or “not very strategic” can be a boon or a bust for your career in the business world. Unfortunately, you must dig deeper to understand what the compliment or curse means.

Have you ever met a strategic thinking payroll clerk? Probably not, though I bet there are some. Some positions are thought to be strategic, and some aren’t.

Have you seen someone who’s admired for being a strategic thinker when what he or she really has is chutzpah? You don’t have to be slick or a brilliant communicator to be strategic.

CEOs are strategic thinkers, right?

Many aren’t. It’s not the job title that makes you strategic, though the job of a CEO should require strategic thinking.

Just being smart doesn’t make you a strategic thinker. Your genetic material doesn’t make you one, and having an MBA doesn’t make you strategic either.

“Strategic” isn’t a personality trait, though there are some personalities that seem more capable of thinking that way.

So what does strategic thinking mean?

Strategic thinkers contemplate the future and identify how they’ll prosper. Activity defines a strategic thinker, not education, birthright or title. If you don’t think about the future and pinpoint ways to succeed, you aren’t a strategic thinker, regardless of your job title. People with good, fast-twitch muscle fiber and superior eyesight might be decent baseball players, but if they don’t routinely play the game, they ain’t baseball players!

I’ve helped numerous management teams craft a winning strategy (i.e., where they’ll play, how they’ll win and the critical issues to address to execute that strategy), and more than once I’ve heard someone say, “I’m just not that strategic!” My response is, “You don’t have a personality flaw; it’s just that you aren’t doing the right activity!”

Those people who seem to be naturally “strategic” may in fact have some personality traits that are strengths. They ask great questions and understand they needn’t be held hostage to their desire for an immediate answer. They also know how to frame issues appropriately. They may be intuitive, but that intuition is born out of experience and curiosity. And if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that many of them have great self-discipline around the activities required to consider their future business environment.

“Thinking about the future and how you’ll prosper will make you strategic, regardless of whether you receive accolades for it. It doesn’t require clairvoyance or brilliance — though
intelligence helps!”

It’s about having a process and doing the hard work. People talk about many things — such as thinking strategically — in mystical terms, when it really just requires activity.

Strategic thinking needn’t be a solo activity. In fact, the best results come from engaging your team in the process. “Great minds think alike” may be a cute phrase, but it’s actually better to consider different perspectives before moving toward a clear direction.

I hope I’ve conveyed that you can learn to be a strategic thinker. If you want a partner to help you develop the framework, skills and discipline to become one, call me!