There is a lot of cache in the corporate world around thinking and working “strategically” – formulating, implementing, and evaluating a forward-looking plan that incorporates short-term initiatives and long-term objectives. This is particularly the case in comparison to thinking and working “tactically” – taking the short-term steps needed to operate day-to-day. I thought we could spend a little time addressing what these two concepts mean in the business world.
Now this exercise has the potential to ruffle some of you. You have already succeeded in the corporate world and so you think, by definition, you are strategic and this is remedial work. But I raise this because I have seen mastery of tactical performance be easily confused with being strategic and it has caused a lot a consternation and frustration in many a career. In other words, being highly skilled at accomplishing strategic objectives that were set for you doesn’t always translate into being highly skilled at setting your own strategic objectives.
Why does this matter?
In a sentence: when you think in terms of strategically setting your own objectives, you are taking control over the course of your career. You are no longer drifting where the current takes you or randomly taking on responsibilities because someone hands them to you. In contrast, you are taking a long view of your career and where you would like it to go and you are charting the course to get there.
This part can be a little overwhelming because it requires thinking big and broad. And most of us aren’t used to that. Or we think we are thinking big and broad and a decade later, we’re doing the same kinds of things we were doing ten years ago – just more of them, at a faster pace with perhaps a few direct reports. So I’m going to challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and think a little differently than you might have in the past. [
There is no test at the end and this is not an exercise you submit for review (I do not grade homework) so treat yourself to pushing your own boundaries. I would also suggest you let some of these exercises sit with you for a couple of days so they can develop and do not be afraid of refining your thoughts or changing your mind. If you meditate, these are good exercises to meditate on. If you have never meditated and would like to use these as a launch point for trying meditation, by all means do so.
Find a quiet place, pick an exercise to think about and keep an open mind as to what comes. Journaling on these can also be quite helpful. Or talk them over with a friend. And finally, consider some strategic personal goals along with strategic professional goals as you go through this exercise. Your personal life is just as, if not more important than, your professional one.
So here we go. Fill in the blanks and I’ve put some suggested language in to get you started.
Pick things that excite you and you will know you are on the right track. And write it down. It’s important for you to be able to see it, work with your language and pay attention to your revision process.
I want to [be a leader in] [pioneer] [be part of a world-class team that] [run a world-class team that] [launch a new product that] [invent a] [be the CEO of] [be the CFO of] [have more free time to] [spend more time with my family so] [not do the current job I’m doing any more and instead] _____________________________________.
I want to do this because ______________________________________________.
This time next year, I want to [be managing a team that] [be earning $X] [have X hours of free time per week] [have earned that promotion and have the title of] [be appointed to the board of directors of] [run my own company that] ______________.
Now let’s reflect a little, particularly on the bracket in number 1 that says [not do the current job I’m doing any more and instead]. This is an important one even if you are not sure what the “and instead” is yet. I could cite statistics on overall job satisfaction levels for women, but that really doesn’t matter.
What matters is how you feel about your career and what you want to do about it. If you are not satisfied in your current job, or not satisfied enough in your current job, start thinking about what excites you and put it down on paper so you can start making your way toward whatever that is.
Resist filling in the action steps to get to your goals. Get yourself comfortable with sitting with them for a while and letting them be part of you. We will get to the action steps soon. In the meantime, think big and bold.
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