Part of our jobs as leaders is to think strategically—to see the big picture and plan accordingly. Many of us include strategic planning on our annual or quarterly calendars to make sure we have focused time to specify our goals and consider the best ways to reach them.
Although these periodic concentrated efforts are necessary and can indeed be effective, leaders tend to encounter blocks that prevent them from operating strategically on a daily basis. We want to help you make the shift from only engaging in strategic planning once a year or once a quarter to incorporating strategic thinking into your day-to-day operations, expanding your perspective, and ultimately accelerating your results.
There are three major things that leaders do that prevent them from thinking more strategically on a daily basis.
1. They are highly reactive.
Many of us are constantly confronted with tasks or problems that need to be addressed right now. When facing a crisis, a challenge, a sudden deadline—when something needs to get done—we feel that we have to react immediately. The problem with this is that we end up in a highly reactive state, putting out fires and responding to emails and requests without giving ourselves time to think strategically. We end up both exhausted and unable to see the bigger picture.
2. They take a project-focused approach.
Similar to the first block, this one is about tackling what’s right in front of you. When you focus too heavily on getting this project finished or that initiative underway, you’re not looking at how what you’re doing fits into the overall strategy of the company. You may be overlooking the interconnectivity among projects—how your work aligns with or influences other teams’ initiatives. In short, you miss the big picture again.
3. They think short-term.
It’s easy to take a short-term approach when you’re working on a quarterly schedule. You focus on what has to get done in the next 90 days. Of course these sorts of deadlines are important and you need to keep your team focused to achieve results. But if that’s all you’re thinking about, you guessed it: you miss the bigger picture.
Being reactive, taking a project-focused approach, and considering the short-term can be useful to solving immediate problems and addressing day-to-day issues. But they are not helpful if you’re looking to build a sustainable team, product, service, or organization. If you can learn to avoid these common behaviors, you will be able to see more broadly, think more thoroughly, anticipate obstacles, achieve more effective results, and create a better future.
If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, check out Uplevel Studio’s Building Strategic Leadership online course.
Weekly Uplevel Practice
Try to recognize which of these blocks is most prevalent for you—or if your particular block is something we didn’t include—and begin to generate a few ideas for how to move beyond it.
For example, if you find yourself being highly reactive to immediate issues, one way to counteract that is to build in non-reactive time. Set aside an hour in your schedule to think strategically, to plan, to consider the big picture. By consciously giving yourself not just time but permission to think strategically, you will begin to operate in a different way—a way that accelerates results.
Photo credit: Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash