Many women in particular are told to be ‘more strategic’. It sounds important (and is a pre-requisite for executives), but what does it actually mean?
Being strategic means leveraging the resources and time you have to achieve the greatest return or make the biggest impact.
You can do this on behalf of yourself (when thinking about how to achieve a particular goal or aspiration) or for your organisation.
In both cases you must understand:
- Your goals: what you or the business want to achieve and by when?
- Priorities: what is most important to you / the business right now?
- What you have to leverage: key strengths, time, resources (money/people)
- Measures of success: how will you know when you’ve succeeded?
- The context – what, who, how?
- What is the political/competitive/economic/social environment you work in?
- Who are the key stakeholders and what drives or most interests them?
- How do people get things done where you are? What are the cultural norms, behaviours and values that you need to adopt to achieve results?
By definition, being strategic is NOT focusing on the detail, or doing everything in your line of sight. It requires you to
- Pay attention: continually scan and sift through competing priorities and identify what is most important right now.
- Make intentional, and adequately informed decisions about how best to use your time and resources to achieve what’s important right now.
- Be pragmatic and recognise when close enough is good enough.
- Be willing to make trade-offs: to focus on the most important thing at any one time means that other things will get less attention.
Being seen to be strategic means you must:
- Demonstrate you know and understand the priorities and concerns of the business and key stakeholders
- Articulate how what you do, or want done, fits in to the bigger picture
- Help your boss/stakeholders leverage his/her resources and time. People with limited time don’t want to sift and sort through detail and data – they expect YOU to do that for them.
- Get to the point quickly – don’t provide too much detail or dilute key messages with excess information.
- Be timely. Give your boss what he/she needs when it’s needed (or even better, before it’s needed).
The more senior you become, the more strategic you must be.
Conversely, the more strategic you are, the more senior you’re likely to become – and the less time it will take.