Leaders often get feedback that they need to be more strategic and it stumps them, especially when they don’t hold an executive position. They think strategy has to do with the vision and goals set forth in the 10 year plan or outlined in the company’s annual report.
But, what thinking strategically really means is broadening your view and looking beyond the immediate. This requires a step back or out of the action in order to get a different perspective. It’s getting out of the day-do-day and “up on the balcony” to coin a phrase from Harvard leadership professor, Ronald Heifetz. It requires curiosity, an openness to new ways of thinking and the ability to link information.
There are opportunities to think and act strategically at every level of leadership including team leaders, 1st line supervisors and managers of managers. Here are my Top 5 scenarios to spur your strategic thinking … what might you add?
Paint the Picture – You’re a project leader with responsibility for a major organizational program. From your chair, where do you see this project in the next 6 months? 12 months? What do you want to accomplish? What would success look like? How will you navigate the organization’s leadership and communication with them and the other stakeholders?
Change Hats – You’re a department head charged with making a tough decision based on a personnel policy which has a lot of room for interpretation. When you wear the HR manager’s hat, what might your answer be? When you wear the COO’s hat, how would you answer the question? If the newspaper reported the story, what would you want the message to be and how would you like to be portrayed?
Leverage your Learning – You’re a team leader in a customer call center and an ongoing goal is to decrease customer “hold” time while maintaining quality service. Looking at your team stats for the past few months, when did you meet the goal? What made that possible? If you’ve not met the goal, what can you learn from another team who has? What’s driven their success? If you look outside your company, who excels at customer service, including short wait times? How do they achieve this? Who might you talk to?
Create within the Box – You’re a deputy director. Your boss micromanages an important project that is supervised by one of your managers. You’ve had frank conversations with her about this yet she can’t resist – it’s a pet project in which she has a personal interest and experience. The organizational culture supports her behavior and has for many years. How can you and your manager work effectively within this construct? What assumptions need to change? How will you help your staff do their best work given the circumstances? How might you leverage your boss’s energy and passion in a positive way?
Ask What If? – You’re a director. Your department has earned a bad reputation for internal service. You’ve reviewed your customer survey results and interviewed key stakeholders. Timeliness, accuracy and communications are abysmal. You’ve made some changes to your processes and did staff training, but it just hasn’t made a difference. What’s really important here? What if you scraped the current way of operating and designed a completely new service model? What, if anything were possible? In what outside areas can you look for ideas and inspiration? Who and what resources will you need to achieve success? What will it take for your staff to deliver services in this new way? How will you set, manage and monitor customer expectations and satisfaction levels?