Your focus on being tactical has served you well in your career. You deliver results in a predictable manner, in multiple assignments and are consistently rewarded for it. You happen to operate in your comfort zone in an environment that has leveraged your strengths. One of the rewards of being successful is the opportunity to do it again and eventually to test whether you can do it in different circumstances. Now you are being asked to be more STRATEGIC!
A client responded to the challenge of being more strategic by asking “what do you mean?” His manager’s reply: “That’s part of the problem. You have to ask what it even means!” We picked up where the manager side-stepped and began by focusing on behaviors that represent strategic thinking and decision making. The development question was whether this ‘tactical leader’ could demonstrate and be perceived as more strategic. If the question was one of selection for a more inherent strategic thinking capability, the approach would be different and the answer perhaps more obvious.
The first step was to focus on identifying key behaviors that contribute to strategic thinking and decision making. We framed these as PIC: the ability to see, articulate and make decisions based on Patterns, possibilities, and probabilities; Implications, influences, and Impacts; Choices, consequences, and contingencies.
My client typically responded to the brainstorming about possibilities by their team mates and managers by saying “not possible, never work, I can’t see that happening.” The very tactical approach we committed to was to generate a list of questions, conditions, and options rather than leading with declarations and pronouncements. Prompts like: “what if”, “under what circumstances”, “when has something like that worked”, and “what would be the cost/benefit of doing that”, all contributed to rebranding them as someone who constructively challenged your thinking rather than someone as negative and risk-averse.
It was also clear that taking an active approach to gathering information, input, and perspectives would enhance his ability to PIC. Reading more increased his based of information about patterns, possibilities and probabilities. Soliciting input from others provided a better appreciation of implications, influences and impacts. Creating decision trees and cost/benefit tables improved his ability to see choices, consequences and contingencies.
Is he now perceived as a strategic thinker? No, but he is much clearer and more intentional about demonstrating many of the behaviors represented in strategic thinking and decision making.