Whether you are in medical sales, sales management, or in an executive role, being strategic is a core competency. What does it mean to be strategic? How is strategic planning different than strategic thinking?
A strategic leader is one who plans ahead while taking an objective, long-range perspective to both problem solving and decision making.
Strategic planning involves steps the organization takes (with input from key organizational players and stakeholders) to:
- Set specific outcomes and directions for the organization to move forward
- Identify risks and opportunities
- Create a plan to accomplish outcomes and direction
- Specify how to measure success
Consider the contrast between the highly strategic leader and the one on the lower end of the continuum:
- Focus is on the here and now
- Reactive; quick to respond to issues that come up
- Spend little time objectively thinking things through or planning
- Unable to anticipate problems if extremely low in strategic thinking
- Stop and consider the longer-term impact a decision may have (beyond the present)
- Fully aware and thoughtful of the interdependencies throughout the organization
- Focus is often on objective analysis and planning – sometimes so much that is causes them to be slow to action
What Helps or Hinders You From Being More Strategic?
Take a few minutes to consider the following questions:
- What helps you think more strategically in your professional role?
- What gets in the way of thinking strategically?
- How might you create more space to spend more time thinking strategically?
Build Your Strategic Thinking Skills
If you want to increase your strength in this area, consider some of the following suggestions:
- Think like a strategist. When you’re faced with important issues, stop before you act and make sure you take a longer-term perspective.
- Stay aware of and alert to your industry, customers (now and potentially future customers) and competitors.
- Research articles, books, and monthly publications on strategy or futuristic thinking. Stay curious about the future.
- Find others who model strategic thinking. Learn from them. Ask questions. See if there are interdependencies between your parts of the organization
- Talk with your boss about strategy as an area of your yearly development.
- Learn the strategy of your organization. How does your unit fit into the overall strategy?
- Consider meeting with your team to analyze the current state of your unit/department. Work together to determine what’s working, what’s not working and why. What are your current strengths and weaknesses as a team? What are potential threats and opportunities?
Being successful in leadership requires more than just getting your work done. It demands that you look beyond the obvious and status quo.