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How Failing to Think Strategically can Hold You Back

Source |  | By|Stefanie Mockler


A common challenge I see with new managers (and aspiring leaders) is their struggle to get beyond thinking in the day-to-day. Often, they’ve been rewarded and praised for their tactical, “roll up their sleeves” approach. And over time, their action-oriented style and strong follow-through has benefited them and their organizations.

These behaviors are, without a doubt, valued by organizations and managers alike and can often lead to promotion, new assignments, and career advancement.

However, after a promotion, individuals are expected to quickly expand their mindset beyond execution and action to include strategic planning and bigger picture thinking. Some make the shift more easily than others, but many struggle to get it right. And, importantly, many managers don’t feel adequately prepared to make the transition.

Let me illustrate through telling you a story about a leader I had the pleasure of working with.

I recently worked with a high performing leader who enjoyed great satisfaction from achieving results – gathering a team together, setting goals, and then diving in to take a project from inception to completion. Not only did she feel accomplished, she was also consistently recognized for her ability to get things done. In a 360 review (i.e., collecting feedback from her team, peers, and boss), she was described as “a reliable, steady do-er”; a “trustworthy, valued member of the team”, and a “strong project manager.”

She aspired to be promoted to the next level and thought that, given her positive reputation, reliability, and consistent praise from her boss and colleagues she’d be a shoe-in.

She was wrong.

The role went to a peer who spent less time doing and more time thinking ahead, planning, and anticipating opportunities, roadblocks, and challenges. He was still considered a strong performer who delivered; however, he didn’t have nearly as many projects under his belt and he consistently challenged himself and others to think bigger.

In meetings, for example, while she provided updates on progress toward tactical goals and laid out next steps, he asked questions such as: “what are we trying to accomplish?” and “where will this get us in 1, 2, or 3 years?”

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