Strategic thinking is thinking ahead with a design and a goal in mind. In other words, your leaders and managers can take control of tomorrow by thinking about it today.
Before taking their people on a journey, however, it would be helpful for your company’s “strategic navigators” to know what strategic leaders do to position themselves and their teams for success. Feel free to share these with your leaders and managers to self-evaluate where they stand:
- Strategic Navigators see the trip ahead. Leroy Eins, author of Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be writes, “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” The larger the organization, the more clearly the leader has to be able to see ahead.
- Strategic Navigators draw on past experience. Every past success and failure can be a source of information and wisdom—if leaders allow it. Success teaches leaders about themselves and what they’re capable of doing with their particular gifts and talents. Failure reveals the wrong assumptions they’ve made and where their methods may be flawed. Those who fail to learn from mistakes will fail again and again.
- Strategic Navigators listen to what others have to say. To build a healthy strategy, top-notch navigators use information from many sources. They get ideas from members of their team and spend time with leaders outside the organization who can mentor them.
- Strategic Navigators examine the conditions before making commitments. Good navigators count the cost before making commitments for themselves and others. If leaders pause to take stock of the situation and think things through, their decisions will better serve and guide the company and its team members.
- Strategic Navigators make sure their conclusions represent both faith and facts. Navigating for others requires a leader to possess a positive attitude. If they can’t confidently make the trip in their minds, they won’t be able to take it in real life. On the other hand, they also have to be able to see the facts realistically. They can’t minimize obstacles or rationalize away challenges.
Warning: Watch Out for These Barriers
Even the most experienced “strategic navigators” will run into obstacles. Jonathan Seitz, has pin-pointed four of the most prevalent barriers to effective strategic thinking. Don’t let these stop your leaders from looking ahead and planning accordingly.
- Over-optimism: trusting that because one’s strategic thinking worked in the past, it will always be successful in the future.
- Under optimism: undervaluing of one’s talent or chance at success; this obstacle causes leaders to limit strategy to minimize losses, avoid mistakes, and eventually see their companies dwindle.
- Confirmation bias: certainty of one’s own decision-making to the point of ignoring all contrary arguments. No one is innocent of confirmation bias.
- Following the herd: imitating others’ ideas and directions instead of building one’s own. Those who follow the herd don’t rise above it. Remind your leaders: be smart. Know what works and what doesn’t work, but find your own path forward.
Leaders who are good navigators are capable of taking their people just about anywhere. If you want your company to experience growth this year, equip your leaders to navigate well the challenges that lie ahead. Encourage them to learn from the mistakes of Robert Falcon Scott and invest the time and energy into thinking strategically—before it’s too late.