Generally, when we envision a strategic thinker, we tend to picture someone who holds an executive or leadership position, someone whose role and success depends on a constant look at the big picture. We seldom expect a strategic thinker to be someone who is in an entry or mid-level position, or even someone who finds themself unemployed. However, there really is no position or situation in which strategic thinking is not useful and important, and where the rewards of such thinking is of great value.
That being said, becoming a strategic thinker can actually be a bit frustrating, particularly if it is a new mindset, one that has not previously been incorporated into our way of reasoning. This is especially true if we depend heavily on routines. Lack of variety in thought and action can lead to narrow thinking and the inability to broaden our scope of activity.
Becoming a strategic thinker will allow us to exponentially develop our professional skillset and be that person who is constantly thinking ahead and outside of the box before making the next move. But how is this accomplished? I am currently working on strengthening this skill, and there are two things I have found extremely helpful in the process: Pausing and Reflecting.
Repetitive routines, while making it easier to get through our everyday workload, leave little room for us to pause what we are doing long enough to reflect on our actions and outcomes. Yet, taking those small steps is so important. Pausing provides us with the chance to reflect and question what we are doing and why we are doing it. As a result of this break in our routine, we have the opportunity to think ahead and analyze our actions to determine if they are in fact moving us in the right direction and thus, closer to our target. Through reflection, we can gauge the efficiency of our activity, ponder alternatives and assess whether the routine work is actually serving its intended purpose. Still, even when these measures are taken and we’ve carefully decided our next action, it doesn’t mean that our decision will be time proof. True strategic thinking constantly re-evaluates the decisions and actions to verify we are on track.
Taking the time to pause and reflect can set us apart from the competition and, at the same time, fuel our own professional growth. This skill, highly desired by employers, allows us to be proactive, creative and intentional when it comes to making decisions. It’s the same kind of mentality used to win a chess game. So, if your professional development was a game of chess, pause and reflect. Then tell me, what is your next move?