Strategic thinkers have been found to be among the most highly effective leaders. They take a broad, long-term approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involves objective analysis, looking far ahead, and planning every step of the way.
In a recent Harvard Business Review study, 97 percent of 10,000 senior executive listed strategic thinking as the most critical leadership skill for organizational success – ahead of innovation, persuasion, communication and results orientation.
Strategic thinking is based on the ability to see, predict and plan ahead. It also means thinking in multiple time frames and identifying what needs to be done both right now and over time.
How to Instill Critical Thinking Skills
Strategic thinking is more a mindset than a list of techniques. If senior management places a high priority on it, this reinforces its importance. Use these tips to successfully carry out the process:
- Empower your managers. Provide them with information on your company’s market, industry, customers, competitors and emerging technologies. People need the full business picture so they can elevate their thinking beyond the day to day.
- Provide mentors. One of the best ways to develop strategic skills is to learn from someone who naturally possesses them. The ideal mentor is a person who is known for their strength in keeping others focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.
- Communicate your philosophy. Have a robust plan to communicate your philosophy, mission statement and goals throughout your company. Every employee, constituent, and stakeholder should understand the broader organizational strategy in order to incorporate it into their own behavior.
- Promote foresight and long-term thinking. Reward team members for being quick to generate solutions that have the greatest long-term benefit for your company.
- Make strategic planning a routine practice. Create think time. Encourage your managers to schedule strategic planning, both alone and in groups. Consider regular one-hour or monthly half-day brainstorming sessions. Make this part of everyone’s job descriptions and performance evaluation metrics.
- Share information across boundaries. Cross-functional teams can and should work on strategic organizational issues. Publish and share the results of their efforts.
- Connect people with what matters. Only by linking employees’ personal goals with those of your organization will you fully unleash your team’s strategic capacity. If you don’t know your people and their passions, make that Step One.
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