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Best of CoBiz: Top six ways to Improve your strategic thinking

Derek Murphy //March 28, 2013//

Best of CoBiz: Top six ways to Improve your strategic thinking

Derek Murphy //March 28, 2013//

Strategic thinking in its basic sense is an innovative way of thinking about the overall goals of your position, team and company. It provides a framework toward planned outcomes for the future that involves figuring out ways to keep the business growing.

However, we do live in an action-oriented society, and many managers don’t take the time to sit back and evaluate the current state of their business.

Sure, we all get bogged down in day-to-day tasks; but to remain competitive, you need to think about the long-term future. In today’s fast-changing business environment, you have to make a conscious effort to build a skill set that includes creativity, team-building and the ability to work through perceived problems.

Remember, the leaders who oftentimes rise to the top are the ones that are open to new ideas, listen to different viewpoints and do all they can to gain additional knowledge. And when a good idea is brought forward they recognize it, support it and put it to work.

Arguably, the most effective leaders are the strategic thinkers that take calculated risks. This quality goes a long way toward motivating your colleagues to meet the innovative changes you have envisioned. Don’t be the manager that lacks the self-confidence to take risks and have a cautious, risk-averse comfort zone.

If you want to improve your strategic thinking – start now. Here’s a handy checklist to keep in mind:

• Take a look at your style to determine how risk averse you are. What is your level of tolerance for ambiguity? What prevents you from taking risks? A personal preference or personality type inventory will give you some clues.

• Garner support from your manager and others. With their help, determine what constitutes acceptable risks.

• Take risks in stages; set risk milestones. Break down risks to manage them more effectively. Minimize the costs of failure.

• Challenge your team members to find ways of improving business and work processes. Use various forums (e.g., team meetings, private conversations, performance plans) to stimulate and reinforce the need to make continuous improvements.

• When considering a change, think of it as a risk that needs to be assessed and planned for. As with any risk, assess the risk of doing it and not doing it.

• Take up a new hobby, or sign up for a class in a field that is very different from yours. Stretch yourself to take risks in areas that are not crucial to your work. You may find that risk-taking becomes more comfortable and even exciting with practice. Is there something that you have always wanted to try but didn’t because you were afraid to fail? Now is the time.