Are you known more for being more strategic or are you still stuck in the comfort of the detail? What will it take to change that?
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Particularly when coaching business professionals and business managers through the transition into leadership, I so often hear the wish that they could be known for “being more strategic“. Or that they wish their language could be “more strategic”, like some of the other leaders they admire.
That’s quite normal as we come up our “vertical professional silo” that we are full bottle on the detail necessary to get and stay on top of our area of subject expertise. And as we transition into greater levels of leadership emphasis, of course it is more difficult to “let that detail comfort go”. Why? Because that’s our comfort zone; our value proposition; what we are known best for.
Many of my clients in this situation admire numerous leaders in whom they have observed the strength of having such a strategic outlook and perspective on things. And for how well they seem to be able to articulate their “strategic views”.
How Is Being More Strategic Achieved?
Well, therein already lies part of this transition solution. Perhaps you are one of those I’m referring to? If so, why not spend the next weeks observing such admired players and capture specific attributes you notice they employ so well in their being more strategic in their approach? While always being yourself, why not try to engage some of these traits and tactics for yourself and see how they work for you?
The key practise here is listening. If you are really actively listening, you’ll not only hear what’s being said, but notice what’s not being said and also how it’s being said. You’ll observe how polished players are able to select the right influential and ambiguous language. That way they leave enough room for those listening to put their own interpretation on the context and message they receive. However, what you’ll notice above all is that they are usually mostly “big picture” focused.
In the context of “chunking” (the process of taking individual pieces of information (chunks) and grouping them into larger units), when “chunked up”, we are in the more strategic and higher levels of the conversation. This is where agreement is significantly more likely than when we are “chunked down” in the detail.
Senior and polished “strategists” like to keep things “up here” as there is less likelihood of disagreement or being challenged.
Practicing Being More Strategic
Another recommendation also sits in my blog “The Power of Summarizing” where I suggest you practice as often as possible to offer to summarize your take on a meeting or discussion about to end. Of course you don’t want to become a nuisance and do a “wolf-wolf” on those you’re meeting with. However, picking the right audience and the right situations can become extremely useful for you to get “labelled” as one who is really good at “cutting to the chase”. That is boiling down and highlighting the key issues that matter. Practice makes perfect.
I also give my clients in this situation a homework I reckon helps make a big difference. I suggest that 3 or 4 times a week you take an article of say 500 words and then boil it down to a crisp summary of say 30-50 words. I promise you that after a few months, this will have a significant effect on your ability to “separate the wood from the trees” and be able to not only see but also articulate your views much more strategically.
One Page Thinking
Another tactic I urge my clients to employ is based on Kharden & Lorber’s work “One Page Management” in that I suggest that whenever you are meeting with and presenting to your boss or bosses or to a meeting, that “your entire story” for your topic is captured on one page. My clients learn to start working with an A3 size paper to capture all relevant thoughts and content on that one page. This not only forces you to have to make it all fit on one page, but probably also forces you to be more visual. This is important given that 40% of any given population usually has a visual preference in their communication, so you can pander to that. But that’s another whole blog.
Being More Strategic – So What?
One key factor about being more strategic is to get into the habit of stepping back in the midst of a conversation or process and ask yourself: “what’s my purpose here; what am I trying to achieve“?
That way we force ourselves to let go of the detail we might be wrestling with and reflect on what we are wanting to achieve and where we might be on the path towards the anticipated or desired outcome.
This should always serve to get you back to the big picture.
However, if there is one simple fact that will help you most about being more strategic, its being deliberate about being more strategic. Simple. Awareness and purpose combined will have you watch and learn from people really good at this. Seeking them out and talking to them (or getting them talking) is a sure fire way of raising your exposure. And then, as with most successful techniques – it’s just a matter of practice. What if you could?