3 Critical Elements to Being Strategic

Are you balancing your strategic and tactical needs?I was recently speaking to someone about trying to get out of the mire of tactical work and find time to be strategic.  This always sounds great, but is often hard to do.  This post is about some of the things which you must do in order to be successful in escaping from those tactical drains, and showing off your strategic skills.

First, some context.  Professionally, I am a pretty lucky guy.  I am the kind of person who can juggle 4 or 5 large active projects and remember all of the discussion and requirements which went into each of them – at any given time.  This skillset is what allowed me to get promoted early, and so I often have a tendency to revert back to that behavior expecting it to be rewarded in some way.  Personally, I am trying to do the same thing right now.  In addition to working 40 hrs a week, I go to school full time, and I am constantly working on some side projects.  Multitasking at its peak.  This is all well and good.

Where I end up often becoming frustrated with myself is expecting some sort of recognition.  This doesnt happen once you hit a certain point in your career.  There is always more to be done, the fact that you are making better progress through your never-ending list does not mean much.  Even if you have sheets and sheets of work completed – if it wasnt the important stuff, it just doesn’t matter.  I learned that lesson 4 years ago and still bump my head into this wall every so often.

So, what are the 3 elements I think are critical to being strategic?

1 Make time to be strategic. This always sounds very common sense, but we just don’t do it.  There are lots of ways to do this, but the one I have found which is most successful is this: Open your Calendar and actually schedule yourself time.  Don’t give yourself an explicit agenda, but make sure that it is time you can spend uninterrupted to focus on those things which you might easily ignore for urgent, less important issues.  If you need to, book yourself some private space so people don’t come find you at your desk.

2 Get feedback. This is hard to do sometimes, especially with our own personal goals.  You need to find someone that you can trust, and share ideas with.  You know best what constructive criticism feels like for you, find someone who can provide that.  Personally, I have thick skin, so I look for people who are very honest with their opinions (and try to remember that I asked them, when I get something a little too honest).  Don’t try to crowdsource this – you are the one who has to believe it and push to make it happen – but it always helps to get a few trust opinions helping validate the direction.

3 Share it. I have seen this one come back to bite so many people, and I have had it happen to me too.  Ever put together an amazing, high-quality roadmap only to have someone else come along and upstage it with something they slapped together in 10 minutes?  Of course you can share yours, but at that point you are just iterating on that 10 minute one which showed up first.  Perception defines reality – If you are being strategic you need to make sure the right people know.  And if you are a Manager, do not assume that sharing the powerpoint slides has relayed your goal.  Do it in person, talk them through it, and make sure your passion and drive is at least recognized (Shared is better!).

If you can do those 3 things, it wont really matter if you do less from the list which never ends.  Do more of the important things, make sure that you are talking to the right people around you, and you’ll see better results.

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