IN my most recent instalment on Why Executive Coaching Is a Critical Part of the CEO Journey, I pointed out that “not all chief executives come to the table with the full set of skills they need to build their companies to last for the next decade”.
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It is from this premise that executive coaching should come up with intervention mechanisms to aid CEs bridge some capacity gaps that might be existing in their endeavours.
One of the skills that executive coaches should inculcate in leadership coaching is that of strategic thinking.
One requisite skill leaders should be endowed with is the ability to think strategically or be what is often referred to as being able to see the big picture or think outside the box.
Competent executive coaches should present their clients (CEs) with tools that develop their strategic thinking skills.
What I have noticed over the years dealing with senior executives is that many of them, when they are moving into a leadership role, worry about being able to be strategic.
They may even wonder what this strategic thinking is. So as a leader, what steps can you take to be a more effective strategic thinker? I will in this instalment present some of the issues for consideration by leaders which help develop their strategic thinking abilities.
The first way in which you can start to think strategically is to aim high. Too often when it comes to strategic thinking, people stay in safe areas and fail to fully exploit the real potential of their creativity. Aiming high requires you to broaden your thinking beyond current boundaries and think the unthinkable.
You know that being successful as a leader requires you to continually develop your leadership capability. That might be developing a particular skill such as presenting some new knowledge like tax laws, a new behaviour like listening more actively or an attribute like overcoming procrastination. Continued development helps boost your self-belief and gives you the confidence to think the unthinkable.
Select risks carefully
Successful leaders take risks. It is important not to confuse risk taking with being reckless. Selecting risks carefully is about looking at the options rigorously and weighing up the options and choosing what on balance look like the best risks based on the information that you have.
Being courageous requires you to consider your mindset. Are you someone who always thinks about what might not work or someone who looks at the possibilities? Those in the possibilities category think the unthinkable and then are bold and courageous enough to make it happen.
When we work on something we get better and better. For example, when we first go to the gym we might struggle to run for any length of time but we keep working on nurturing our technique, stamina building, etc, we start to get even better. Creativity is no different. We need to nurture it. We can do that by reading, learning, listening to podcasts, attending events to name just a few.
We all have barriers or obstacles that get in the way of thinking big. You might have certain messages at home as a child, experiences, setbacks that have shaped your thinking about what is and what is possible. Find out what these barriers are for you and start taking action to address them.
De-clutter your mind
Strategic thinking requires space in your mind to come up with the ideas, the visions, the strategies and goals.
You can only do that if you have the space and capacity in your head to do it. Start thinking about the clutter that is getting in your way when it comes to strategic thinking and start addressing it.
Please note that strategic thinking is not about your academic prowess but more of a common sense thing.
We are in a world of paradoxes where people acquire more degrees but less common sense. Executive coaching should enhance transformative wisdom in leaders.
Here is what Professor Abletor Sedofia from the University of Ghana says: “Academic excellence is overrated! Did I just say that? Oh yes, I said it. Being top of your class does not necessarily guarantee that you will make more money than everybody else. The best graduating law student does not necessarily become the best lawyer. The fact is life requires more than the ability to understand a concept, memorise it and reproduce it in an exam. School rewards people for their memory. Life rewards people for their imagination. School rewards caution, life rewards daring.
School hails those who live by the rules. Life exalts those who break the rules and set new ones.”
I find these remarks by Prof Sedofia quite profound.
At the end of the day, your effectiveness as a strategic thinker requires you not just to do things, but also to get into the right frame of mind.
The current economic challenges require strategic thinkers who can spur their organisations out of the turbulent economic malaise.
In the final analysis, think less of becoming an excellent academic, but think more of becoming an excellent person. Make the world your classroom!
Mandeya is a an executive coach in human capital development and corporate education, a certified life coach in leadership and professional development at the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.