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In Times of Crisis, You Need Strategic Leaders

Businesses didn’t know what was coming for them at the start of 2020. Companies around the world—some of them well-known—watched as COVID-19 ripped their plans into shreds.

There hasn’t been a better time for immediate action than today.

While CEOs and executives scramble to get their daily operations in order, making sure every one of their clients’ expectations is met, they’re overlooking one crucial aspect: Their long-term plans.

And the fact of the matter is, most c-suite executives think they know what strategic planning and thinking are, but they, in fact, are most likely doing it all wrong.

Strategic planning and thinking focus on the big picture; the company’s long-term goals, main objectives, and business model must all be kept in mind.

Maintaining stakeholder relationships? Keeping tabs on the company assets and resources? Enhancing daily operations by incorporating new tools or improving the ones in-use?

This is all tactics. If all your c-level executives can think about is the company’s financial forecast and only picking the “right” opportunities, then they’re planning tactically, and not strategically.

Why it’s absolutely urgent to make room for strategic thinkers on your team.

We’re living in uncertain times, and with the virus forcing governments to act in a sporadic and unpredictable fashion. Execution and immediate implementation might seem like the only way a company could survive this pandemic.

You might think that the ambiguous situation of our world has made everything in the industry and the fate of your business unclear or undetermined. But if you want to be able to navigate this unknown territory we’ve all been thrown in, you need to develop a clear vision for your company.

Taking tactical measures may be important right now, but it’s time you meet up with your team of executives and think not, “what should we do now?” but, “what do we want our company to look like three years from now?”

Experts in business management are urging company owners to think long-term and to act in the company’s best interest according to those long-term goals now.

As mentioned earlier, immediate action in this day and age is the best kind of action.

Strategic thinkers, in particular, understand that these immediate actions should be taken based on the company’s ultimate long-term goal and vision.

They’re calculating risk-takers who charge full-speed ahead and are completely and utterly blinded by nothing else but the company’s vision and long-term goals.

How do strategic leaders think?

You can think of tactical thinkers as mechanics and strategic thinkers as architects; one is a problem solver, and the other is a visionary.

First, you can tell they are by the language they use.

Strategic thinking is envisioning your company’s future and taking steps towards fulfilling that. A strategist is always thinking in terms of the business model and your company’s values—they have a clear idea of where you want your company to be and will do whatever it takes to get there.

They don’t care as much about the way as they do about the destination, and in times like these, there’s nothing more important than to have a team that is willing to take big risks and a leap of faith. This is the time to break conventions and to let go of rigid, traditional methods.

It’s words like “goals,” ”vision,” “long-term,” and “objectives” they can’t help but use every few minutes in meetings or interviews. Leaders and executives who think in these terms are likely to be more fluid, flexible, and adaptive.

They lay out all of their options in front of them to get to one, single, clear-as-day vision, and that’s the only thing that stays rigid in their book.

Second, they don’t think like you.

Common sense tells us that recruiting people of the same thought patterns as yours will make company processes easier to handle. It also probably makes even more sense to hire higher-ups that think like you.

Everyone will get along with you better, understand you, and maybe even listen to you more. They’ll follow your lead without objection, and they’ll always do things your way.

But here’s the thing about c-level roles: they’re called executives, not executors. And it’s best if you create an environment for your executives where they can do just that, and not simply follow your orders every single time.

You want thought leaders, strategic leaders, who can think on their own two feet and confidently counter your arguments. You want people who think differently, act differently, and set up plans that you couldn’t possibly conceive on your own.

In midst of a crisis, one of the things you and your company need is a fresh, new perspective. A team of diverse, adaptive strategic thinkers will come up with alternative options and plans for the future of your business that show a set of different perspectives, and those plans and perspectives aren’t always going to match up with yours, which is exactly what you need.

Gaining insight and perspective means keeping a listening ear and a keenness to broaden your perspective to create a resilient business during COVID-19.

Third, they prioritize your vision for the company above all else.

C-level executives certainly don’t have to think like you, but they absolutely must understand your company’s vision. They keep that vision in mind whenever they’re making critical decisions or during a recruitment process.

Sometimes, tactical thinkers lose sight of the big picture or “vision” because they’re so busy focusing on urgent day-to-day tasks; to them, your vision isn’t the utmost priority. There are other, more immediate problems to be solved, and thinking long-term just isn’t on their agenda.

The irony is that becoming less fussy about the little technical issues and focusing on the ultimate goal will actually automatically result in a smoother-running company.

After all, when a strategic leader is putting the company’s vision at the forefront of their minds, that means, in order for that to happen, the wellbeing of the business and its staff are taken into serious consideration as well.

The companies that are run by strategic leaders and are thriving despite everything going on are the ones who are assessing the world’s current situation and making that work to their advantage—they cleared the fog by letting their companies’ visions guide them through it.

My CEO is a tactical thinker, where do I go from here?

So what do you do if you realize your c-level executive is a tactical thinker?

Everything is moving at an unpredictable pace and in lightning speed, and so recruiting a new team member to take on a high-stakes role could be a risky move to make.

It’s a hard and lengthy process of introducing the new member to the company’s mission, vision, goals, and so on and so forth. The clock is ticking, and you can’t afford to waste time.

The good news is that there are quick and effective ways to force your executive(s) to start thinking “strategy.” Here are a few ways you can turn corporate around into a team of thought leaders:

Set OKRs

Object Key Results (OKRs) is a tool that homes in on the tactical thinker’s greatest weakness: setting challenging, ambitious goals. This will push your team of executives to think less tactical and more strategic.

Since tactical thinkers can be derailed so easily from their main goals, this tool will help keep them on the straight path to achieving long-term results, while also tracking their progress.

Objectives need to be clear, uncomplicated, concrete, and most importantly, measurable. This makes their progress more easily trackable, and it also adds a psychological advantage of giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Doing this monthly, or better yet weekly, can help to keep your c-suite executives accountable and to work more efficiently.

Mini-MBA courses

Strategic leadership is something that was never taught but is being introduced into college curriculums, and it’s something your tactical leaders would greatly benefit from.

Courses might not be the first thing that would come to a business owner’s or executive’s mind in the age of COVID-19, where the thriving companies are the ones that work quickly and efficiently. The shorter MBA programs take no less than a year to complete. It’s precious time—though well-invested—the company can’t take back.

With mini-MBA courses like the ones we offer at Case in Point, however, your whole team can reap the full benefits of an MBA course in no more than 30 hours—that’s a little over a day.

Workshops

An MBA course might sound intimidating when you consider the timeframe, and if you’re wary, you could always try enrolling your team in a strategic thinking workshop or training program.

Case in Point offers a unique course called “The Exponential Blue Ocean Shift Workshop” that will teach your c-level executives how to create goldmine ideas that will not only create new opportunities for your company, but also allow it to grow beyond what you thought was possible.

Takeaway

We cannot emphasize this enough: Think long-term. Think in terms of your vision. Act now; teach yourself and your team to bite the bullet and take immediate action. Be aggressive in your approach and don’t look back.

There’s zero time for hesitation.

Give your team the tools that will help them build strategic thinking skills that will hopefully grow your company exponentially, both during the pandemic and after.

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