You hear the words strategic thinking a lot in business. It’s no secret that to find success, you need a plan, and to implement that plan, you need a strategy. A good leader puts that strategy into action by taking charge, maintaining accountability, and keeping the business on track. But how, exactly, does a strategic leader do that? Here are 6 habits essential to strategic thinking:
It’s important to learn from past mistakes and acknowledge present problems, but if your business is going to move forward, you need a leader that is looking ahead. If you don’t watch where you are going, you’re far more likely to crash and burn. To stay ahead of the competition, strategic thinking requires that you:
- Anticipate changes and opportunities in your field.
- Polish your crystal ball by utilizing your networks and connections to learn about these upcoming opportunities.
- If you lack these resources, go out and get them.
- Follow through. Don’t get so lost in the day-to-day that you fail to look toward the future
Strategic thinking requires that you distinguish what risks are worth taking, what leads worth pursuing, and what resources are better used elsewhere. To make these decisions, you must think critically. Thankfully, critical thinking is as much a skill as it is a talent. Develop a habit of discernment and logic by:
- Identifying the root cause of the problem in order to administer a solution that treats the infection, not the symptoms.
- Challenge assumptions and presumptions, both of your peers and yourself.
- View all angles of the issue, but remain objective in identifying waste, hypocrisy, and other negative qualities which prevent the business from being the best it can be.
Weigh Risk and Reward
It’s hard to plan for a future you can’t predict. It is especially difficult to develop a strategy aimed at a distant goal when so many unknowns threaten to derail it. This uncertainty leads some to choose the safer, more immediate payoff and lose sight of the bigger picture. A wise strategic leader thinks through every decision but does not allow uncertainty to paralyze the business from moving forward. Weigh the risk and reward by:
- Looking to the data. Research multiple, reliable sources to determine patterns that can help you plot your course for success.
- Encourage every member of your team to do their due diligence, as well.
- Expect the unexpected. Have the means and ability in place to adapt the plan as needed as contingencies can and will arise.
Make the Call
As mentioned above, don’t allow worry to block your path. Every decision comes with consequences, but a strategic leader must have the courage to make the call. Assure yourself and your team by outlining the reasons behind your decision:
- Establish the purpose of this step and its role in advancing the business toward its goals.
- Balance timeliness with information. Don’t miss out on a key opportunity because you get lost in overthinking the issue.
- Once you have come to an informed decision, act on it without stalling. Strategic thinking should lead to action, which means striking at the opportune moment.
Consider and Converse, But Don’t Wait for Consensus
While you want your peers and team members to feel valued and heard, leadership often requires you act without a full consensus. Don’t try to please everyone. You cannot and will not. Consider worthwhile comments and concerns raised by your team, but do not let every objection prevent you from acting. Going against the grain is what sets top companies apart from the competition, and a good strategic leader knows this. Align your goals with those you work with to the best of your ability by:
- Addressing tough issues directly. Ignoring them can deepen resentment and break down communication and teamwork.
- Working to understand where others are coming from.
- Assessing these opinions as objectively as possible, again weighing risk and reward. Use strategic thinking to question how each action moves you towards the end goal.
Honesty is the Best Policy
A good strategic leader not only learns from past mistakes, but admits them. Do this by:
- Acknowledging when something goes wrong.
- Outlining what was learned from the mistake.
- Outlining the steps taken to correct the mistake.
- Demonstrating how lessons learned from the failure will benefit the business moving forward. Strategic thinking is a process, not a flawless formula.
No one becomes the perfect strategic leader overnight, but with dedication and determination, you can develop the habits essential to strategic thinking. Multivariable Solutions has the proven experience to help you strategize for success. Give us a call to learn more about taking your business to the next level!