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One of the secrets to practicing outstanding leadership, forming effective initiatives and driving successful results happens to be one of my favorite approaches to business and life: strategic thinking.
I consider this one of the primary responsibilities of my role and something I find to be more a state of mind than anything. Being thoughtful, intentional and deliberate in action and word goes a long way. Here’s how to lead with strategic thinking to create major impact for your team or company.
Understand the problem you are trying to solve
I find that many leaders skip this step, which is possibly the most crucial stage of strategic thought development. Thoroughly understanding the problem at hand, the players involved and potential results and consequences is key to informing solutions that meet the needs of all involved.
Here’s the challenge: This thoughtful work requires thoughtful time. So, slow down and give yourself dedicated time to mapping out the problem, talking to stakeholders and getting your arms around the nuances of the situation.
Zoom out and see the big picture — and then zoom in to see the micro-obstacles within that overarching story. Research, ask questions, put yourself in the shoes of others to see all sides, and arm yourself with the knowledge required to make an informed decision in the future.
Collaborate with others to discuss solutions
Multiple voices are required to make strategic decisions — luckily, you’ve built an incredible team. Leverage the knowledge, expertise and experience of people across the board, including technologists, marketers, agents, clients, trainers, public relations experts and more.
You need their insight to fill in your blind spots, get answers to your pending questions and have a rich conversation that addresses all facets of the problem you are trying to solve. Dive in, connect, and be open to the ideas and opinions of others — they may be your greatest asset in finding an effective solution.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box
Strategic thinking involves creativity — a lot of it. Make a space to brainstorm ideas with your team, and make it one that is open to all ideas, even crazy ones! People’s most creative thinking will only come forth in an environment that feels safe, supportive and positive.
Please don’t say no. Instead, put all ideas up on a whiteboard or shared document as they come up. Then, you can go back and vet the ideas to find one or a few that will work within your constraints.
Time manage your decisions
Here’s the risk of doing in-depth strategic thinking: decision paralysis. Often, this is a result of perfectionism, which can push us to do our best work while simultaneously limiting our creativity. As a leader, you walk the fine line of wanting to take your time to make the most informed decision possible and moving too slowly.
Remember, even if you don’t find the solution the first time around, a solution that alleviates the obstacles is better than nothing. Allow yourself to move forward with an idea and iterate as dynamics come to light. Your team wants to see a change in a positive direction, so make sure to deliver what they need and keep the momentum going.
Measure your success, and learn from the outcome
When you implement a change within your company, learning from it is essential to create better systems, policies and culture in the future. Figure out your KPIs (key performance indicators), and measure them consistently. Regroup with your stakeholders to review the results and determine if or what iterations are needed.
Beyond these steps, embrace a strategic mindset in all things. Your brain is your greatest asset as a leader, so tune it, and use it to its full potential. Great things will unfold.
Rainy Hake Austin is president of The Agency in Los Angeles. Connect with her on Instagram.