Strategy may not be everything you need for success, but without strategy, even the most brilliant ideas will just remain shiny thought-bubbles.
You need strategy, and strategic tactics, to implement your ideas, to push forward your plans and to overtake — and keep ahead of — the competition.
And while not everyone has a natural ability to be strategic (whether in their plans, thoughts and decision-making) that doesn’t mean you will never be able to acquire it as a learnt ability.
It is a different frame of mind to think ahead and consider all the factors (both present and not present) but you can train your brain to do it.
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But first, let’s dispel some of the misconceptions of thinking strategically.
1. Strategy is not manipulation
Being strategic is not being manipulative. It’s putting a value on opportunities and decisions and ensuring they are directly in line with your goals.
Manipulation involves lying, deceit and a disregard for other people in order to achieve one’s agenda. Strategic decision-making, on the other hand, considers everyone involved and makes sure all parties are taken care of.
2. Strategy is not ruthless
Being strategic may require you to be ruthless with your time and in sticking to your boundaries but never in your treatment of other people. Being ruthless with another person is essentially saying you do not care about the consequences of your decisions and their impact on that person.
Mind you, you may be considered or called ruthless because you said no to something or someone — or stood your ground with your values — but this is not a sign of a ruthless person. In fact, it is a sign of a leader.
3. Strategy is not selfish
Actually, being strategic is selfish — but in a good way. That is, you are making sure you are being savvy and smart in your decisions to deliver on your set goals. It isn’t selfish in the way where you take, take, take, without giving. True strategic decisions will ensure all parties are looked after — but that you are looked after first.
What being ‘strategic’ actually entails
Having dispensed with what strategic thinking is not, let’s focus on what it actually is.
It is knowing what you want, designing a plan to get there, and making sure every decision and choice you make will take you one step closer to that goal.
1. Strategic thinking is objective
Strategic thinkers don’t let the current circumstance derail their big picture. Often perceived as detached, they don’t get emotionally attached to or involved in problems and drama. There is always a solution at hand and it is often implemented swiftly because strategic people are also very decisive.
2. It is deliberate and focused
All your choices need to be considered, deliberate and focused — right down to the emails you send, who you associate with, and how you allocate your time. It can be a battle at times when you want to stray or procrastinate (and yes… even rest time still has to be deliberate, not just ad hoc distraction). However, strategic thinkers don’t ever waste the time or opportunities that are right in front of them.
3. It is lonely
This is the one aspect that is rarely discussed when it comes to being strategic. The strategic-thinker works with (and delegates to) the doers and the details-people but doesn’t spend all day just ‘hanging out’ with them.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t be social, but strategic thinkers spend a lot of time alone thinking, planning and making decisions. When they communicate, it is for purpose, not for small talk.
They may be charismatic when dealing with people, but find it difficult to find other people who think the same way they do, so it can be a lonely road.
The majority of people in the business world and on the corporate career ladders largely talk the strategic talk but then don’t actually ‘walk’ the steps to become properly strategic because it takes a great deal of sacrifice and commitment.
However, training yourself to think and act in a properly strategic manner can separate you very quickly from that pack — and set you on the path of groundbreaking change and success.