The One Thing That Separates Leaders From Everyone Else
Updated: Dec 23, 2021
Hi friends! This is the third in a five-part series on my newly released Promotability Index, launched last month. (In case you missed it, here is a link to our prior issues on Self-Awareness and External Awareness). This information I'm sharing is valuable for your team whether you have taken the assessment or not. Today we are going to focus on Strategic Thinking – the third of the five key leadership elements that help you get promoted. Strategic thinking separates leaders from – well, from everyone else. When done with purpose, it is a demonstrated ability to see and understand the bigger picture: where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there. You can apply strategic thinking to both your work and your career aspirations to move forward. Strategic thinking takes several components into account, including mission, vision and values, which are outside the scope of this self-assessment. For purposes of promotability, we are focused on the degree to which senior management likely views you as a strategic thinker and does things like asking for your input on major decisions. You need to assess whether you have adopted good habits in terms of applying strategic thinking about your own career as well: are you staying open to a lateral move or identifying and obtaining the necessary skills for your next level role? In simple terms, strategic thinking is the ability to think more broadly than your own immediate tasks. It’s the degree to which you can think in terms of systems, see into the future, recognize interdependencies, assess the pros and cons of a given course of action, and tolerate ambiguity. To some degree, it also incorporates your appetite for risk-taking. There’s really no other capability listed in the Promotability Index that is, to some degree, more difficult to cultivate, because it requires other people to trust you and hand power off to you if you want to build and exercise this muscle. So, what three things can you do in 2020 to exhibit strategic thinking? 1. Make time for it. If there’s one thing most successful CEOs do, it’s block regular time for strategic thinking. (I recommend doing this on a monthly basis, with particular focus at quarterly milestones). Whether meditating in their office or on the golf course, CEOs schedule downtime where they’re not completing business tasks.They make mental space and time to reflect on the big picture - the current state of their progress towards goals, their team dynamic, and obstacles that may arise. They identify gaps in where they are vs. where they want to be, to check and see if they are focused on the right actions and investments. Making this a habit enables pivots and small course corrections and prevents small gaps from becoming big ones.
2. Change the air you breathe. The best way to gain a new perspective is to get one. At work, the best way to do that is to join a project or enterprise initiative outside your normal area of responsibility. Sign up for a team where you can contribute, but where you’re not the subject matter expert. A cross-functional task force is often the best way to get out of your comfort zone, engage different skills, and be viewed with fresh eyes by senior management. 3. Envision the future. Picture your role ten years from now. Consider technology, business cycles, the maturity of your company, and potential risks. What trends will impact your future? How is your company’s business model currently being challenged? Think of your target client market and the dimensions you compete in now. Is that value proposition sustainable in the future? What problems will your customers have in five years that they will pay you to solve? Once you have some answers, consider whether these are things you should be working towards now. In the event that you are not already getting exposure to the information you need to think along these lines, or if you’re early in your career or experience with this, it can be challenging to get access to the ingredients you need to think strategically. It’s frustrating if you don’t have a certain perspective, scope of responsibility, or invitations to vision-setting meetings, where your entire business is reviewed so you can see the whole system in order to learn competitive information, connect concepts and formulate insights. It is these opportunities to experience bigger successes (and risk bigger mistakes) that allow you to build your strategic thinking skills. So, know that strategic thinking is something you can study, but actual experience is important and needs to build over time. Start asking for more responsibility now, and work to understand senior management‘s perspective. Keep up on business trends and publications that impact your industry and role so you can start to formulate new insights. After you’ve taken the Promotability Index, take a look at your Strategic Thinking score. Which checklist items are missing? Where would you like to invest? Work With Me I will have availability for coaching engagements starting in May, and I'd be happy to have a complimentary exploratory call with you to see if it’s a fit. My clients are often thrilled to discover that their companies will sponsor executive coaching – sometimes you just need to ask. Wondering what executive coaching is like? This recent article from the Financial Times (subscription required) explains that “these days, it often indicates a serious corporate player, someone who is valued by their employer — much in the way an elite athlete is.” To your success, Amii Amii Barnard-Bahn Executive Coach | Strategic Advisor | Keynote Speaker Outperform.