We all get busy. It is easy to lose perspective and get caught up in the details and minutiae of life and business. Before you know it, another week, another month and even another year has passed. It is not uncommon for people to start to wonder whether they are on the right track, or not…
To be strategic is to think longer term. It involves seeing around corners and anticipating change. It involves sensing and responding to changes in a way that ensures you thrive rather than merely survive.
What we need to be able to do is take a more strategic approach – to the way we lead our lives and manage our concerns. I would like to share with you four of the most important applications of this idea that I have come to appreciate through my 1-1 work with CEOs and Directors.
Fostering Strategic Dialog
How do you get people talking about the big issues, the difficult choices that need to be made, and inevitable trade-offs that need to be struck?
With a lot of focus on execution, getting things done and delivering tangible outcomes, it is easy to get caught up in the “just do it” mantra. However, there is no substitute for the simple adage: doing the right things and doing them right.
Boards, teams, families, couples and individuals alike need to ensure they consistently take time out to discover, and often rediscover, what is most important. This demands a combination of regular meetings, retreats, planning days and weekly reviews – all designed to generate clarity by surfacing our assumptions and recognising patterns inherent in our emerging reality.
Strategy Making = Decision Making
We either progress or regress, depending on the quality of the decisions we make in life. Strategic decisions are those that have long-term, widespread implications. People often resist confronting these choices or get blocked when it comes to gaining a consensus. Leaders get resolutions. However, great leaders bring wisdom and judgement to the decision making process, ensuring there is a shared focus: an implicit understanding and commitment about why we are going to accept Option D over options A, B, C, E & F, for example. Inevitably, strategy making involves trade-offs. We are defined as much by what we say “No” to as what we say “Yes” to.
Strategy as Planning
Strategy involves envisioning the future and then representing those ideals and intentions as symbols on a page – be that a picture / model or paragraphs of text. It is in the planning process that we make a whole range of decisions: about the sequence of things that need to happen, who will be responsible for what and how success will be measured.
Planning = Deciding
Sharing and enrolling others in your plans develops and generates engagement, which creates confidence, as the possible becomes probable.
A Strategic Approach is an Organised Approach
To invest resources (time, money and energy) in important but not urgent activities including planning, you need to be both efficient and effective in how you use resources. To create reserves, you need to have left overs.
Getting everything out of your head and into a single, reliable system for ensuring you are doing the right things, requires both a methodology (consistent approach) and a range of tools for advanced productivity.
I have seen C-level executives, business owners and board members alike reduce their working hours by 10-20% though upgrading their own operating system – MyOS for short. Unless we invest in our own product development (i.e. our own training and development and upgrading our personal and shared productivity systems) we won’t be able to successfully adapt to the levels of success we achieve, ultimately creating our own glass ceilings.
Do Less, Achieve More
Ironically, taking a more strategic approach involves performing less, in order to achieve more. It involves doing less yourself in order to invest more time in discovering, designing and developing – the three high leverage activities that characterise a more strategic approach. Although you will be performing less personally, through leveraging your team/s, you will ultimately be delivering more significant outcomes. This idea lies at the heart of leading more and managing less – a core distinction of leadership development.
Integrating this principle into your approach may feel counterintuitive in the beginning because our modern lives are so focused on doing. However, it is possible to unlearn our “busyness” and embrace a more strategic approach to both life and business.
A consistent investment of one hour per week in accelerated personal and professional development over the course of a year can produce remarkable returns on investment that are both measurable and sustainable.