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Many managers express frustration about not being included in strategic planning activities. They want to do more than participate as ancillary tacticians. These managers don’t realize that the reason they’re not called in to strategize is because they don’t demonstrate their ability to do so on a daily basis. To change this, managers must adjust how they view their roles.
Managers often meet their goals within their departments, but they don’t always transfer their strengths to venues involving the entire organizational leadership team. They must elevate their thinking from tactical to strategic at all levels. Here’s how:
Get out of the tactical trenches.
Decision-makers frequently wonder, “How do I get everything done?” The answer is, you don’t—nor should any leader. Don’t get locked into a tactical mentality. You must be strategic in your own role, team, department and organization.
A puzzled executive vice president once said to me, “We carry out the strategic initiatives of the executive team, so why don’t they consider us on par with them?” In a nutshell, it’s because he acts as a tactical executor when he should be presenting decision-makers with strategic options that will benefit the entire organization.
Imagine how others would view him if he were to say, “From the big-picture perspective, I can see that the impending market change is going to require us to allocate employees differently than we do today. Here’s what I suggest.”
Or, “Considering the new products that are in development, we will need to adjust our organizational structure and our logistical alliances to support these changes. Here is my detailed plan that will best facilitate growth.”
In both situations, the individual goes well beyond just throwing out ideas and instead strategizes effectively at a level that is beneficial to the overall organization.
To make the shift, replace the question “How do I get everything done?” with “How do I best address organizational priorities that stretch beyond what matters solely to me?” This new viewpoint pulls you out of the tactical trenches and onto the strategic mountaintop, where your scope of thinking and options expand and where you have the power to make organizationwide contributions.
Step up. Improve your ability to perform at the executive level by expanding your thinking skills in four categories: strategizing, learning, performing and forecasting.
Your greatest leadership or managerial value comes from thinking and being strategic. You weren’t hired or promoted because you’re good at performing tactical activities like serving customers and closing deals. You earned your position because someone recognized your ability to think strategically, thus expanding options, creating opportunities and generating solutions.
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Don’t get stuck in your current role because you are focusing too much on tactical activities. Great leaders and managers who consistently make strategic contributions often reach their goals, find that colleagues seek their advice, and enjoy greater career success and satisfaction. You can become one of those great leaders.
David Goldsmith is president of the Goldsmith Organization in Syracuse, N.Y., and author of Paid to Think (BenBella Books, 2012). He can be reached at
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