Is your boss telling you to be more strategic? - Lean in Canada
4 actions that you can implement immediately

Early on in my career, I met with my leader and while delivering to me my performance appraisal – I heard this sentence:

“Angela you have had an exceptional year but the area you need to work on for this upcoming review period, is to be more strategic” – end of sentence.

And while, I am sure, the conversation continued for another 30 minutes all I retained was “you need to be more strategic”. I remember thinking what does that even mean? And how do I achieve that?

Fast forward 15 years and I learned this skill with a lot of help from coaches and mentors along the way – but interestingly enough I still hear it from many leaders I now advise and coach in my own business.

First off this is clearly still a skills gap both for leaders and individual contributors.

A great explanation of ‘being strategic’ from Smartcompany is:

“Being strategic” requires a sense of confidence in one’s decision-making process which cannot be founded on 100% proof of concept. “Being strategic” means being perceptive, future-oriented, open-minded, proactive, working off the front-foot, and making and taking decisions based on evidence and calculated hunches.

Being strategic and the act of strategic thinking is a skill, to be sure. But like any skill, you can cultivate it. It is hard to be strategic when you are running from one meeting to the next, fielding emails nonstop, and executing on tasks all day! So, I would add it is also about allowing yourself THINKING TIME.

Here are 4 ideas to consider starting or applying consistently:

1) Ask more questions
Participating in your daily, weekly or monthly team/leader meetings and asking more questions are a perfect opportunity to showcase your ability to think beyond the current day.

  • Questions that start with, should we consider? what if? Or imagine we could?
  • If you are a note taker, (like me) not a problem per se, but make sure your head is not always buried in your book so you can’t read the room and ask good questions.
2) Invite Stakeholders into the room.
What I mean is, always ensure you are addressing your audience – who is the topic circled around? Your employees, your customers – be the voice of “inviting” their points of view in the room. Think about what and how they will perceive the decisions.

3) Elevate your written communication
By upping your written game, whether by email or more formal mediums will people to recognize your ability to think more critically and systematically – essential with clear purpose. Ultimately it will assist you in having a concise plan.
A super easy framework I have used -asks and answers these questions:

  • What is the purpose for writing? – choose a writing style: Informational, Directive, Persuasive, Reinforcing or Eliciting feedback
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your point overall/ message/ claim?
  • State the 2-3 points & information that goes to support your claim.
  • Reiterate your claim, tying your 2-3 points in a summarized manner.
4) Communicating with Insights
I am confident you have insights. You have seen something in the market, you have read something interesting that may have relevance, you receive data, and information from your team or your teammates that is valuable. Your organization values your contribution so draw on your positive self regard (a valuable emotional competency) which includes voicing your perspective backed by information that you have, in order to move the business forward. You might even want to volunteer to convene a group to build recommendations that you can present back to the executives highlighting your abilities to consider multiple complex scenarios, data and decision making.

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