Creating Strategic Opportunities Early in the Leadership Journey
Strategic thinking is commonly listed as a desirable leadership skill, but in an era that rewards speed and change, how do workplaces invest the time in developing this? They do so by starting early.
When meeting with clients to discuss leadership, one thing that often stands out is that new leaders are frequently missed from strategic opportunities within the workplace. While actively supported with leadership training, there appears to be few opportunities created operationally for them to practice strategic thinking.
Here at Personified we are always highlighting the importance of taking a connected approach to people and operations. When it comes to developing strategic thinking, this is an area where the connect is crucial. Even high quality leadership programs are unlikely to gain traction if leaders face operational barriers that block the application of their skills.
Consider your current approach to leadership development and in particular examine what you actively do to support new leaders to think strategically. Along with the formalised leadership training that you may have, what daily experiences do new leaders receive within the workplace that encourage not only the development of this skill, but also the desire to use it?
Here are some simple ideas to create opportunities:
1. Inclusion in Business Planning:
Observing the discussion that occurs in business planning allows new leaders to experience the time and thinking that goes into defining strategy. If leaders only ever see a final version of strategy then the valuable learnings that come from the complexity of the discussion are missed.
2. Scheduled Thinking Time
Entry level leadership roles are often focused on the day-to-day which can quite literally leave little time to think. Encourage staff to schedule suitable time to practise strategic thinking. Provide guidance by coaching them through what this might look like in terms of questions and research.
3. Workplace Prompts
As well as diverting leaders from thinking time, focusing on the day-to-day can make it difficult to take a longer term view. Incorporate some prompts around the workplace to not only help people see what strategic thinking is, but to remind them to do it. Display questions around the office or actively incorporate strategic questioning in your workplace meetings.
4. Humanise the Strategy
Front-line leaders are often responsible for implementing a strategy operationally. Prompting them to discuss how they will communicate this to staff will allow you to observe if they understand the connect to their work and encourage them to think more critically about what the strategy means.
Strategic thinking can be a difficult skill to develop in current work environments. Your workplace can invest in creating an environment where strategic thinking is considered the norm by ensuring regular opportunities and encouragement to practice. These daily experiences are likely to far outweigh leadership training when it comes to enhancing this skill.