4 Daily Habits to Stop Fighting Fires and Start Being More Strategic
In our leadership programs, we often ask, “what is your biggest leadership challenge?”
80% of the time it’s something about fire-fighting and not feeling strategic. The transition from tactical leadership to strategic leadership calls on you to ask questions rather than answer them. It means focusing on your highest and best use vs. blocking and tackling to pave a new way rather than executing the status quo. It requires us to shift our mindset and change our habits.
Experiment with these four habits to become more strategic, more often.
Sharpen Your Focus
Starting the day with focus on your strategy helps you make decisions that support your top goals. This means you will need to say “no” to some things today.
Ask yourself, ”will this activity, task, report, meeting, or project support me as I execute the strategy?”
If you can’t answer with a “hell yes,” then it needs to be a “hell no.”
A sharp focus answers the "what" question: What do I need to do today to move the strategy forward?
Growth encompasses all the skills, systems, processes and tools you and your team use to achieve your goals. As you grow, you gain the ability to commit to, measure and hit your targets.
My business partner, Jeff Shannon, and I continually challenge each other to experiment with at least one new thing. It means we’re never too comfortable, and it challenges us to keep growing. When I ask a leader what they are doing to improve their team, they can give me 2 or 3 things quickly. When I ask them how they are improving and growing personally, I am met with crickets or excuses.
Don’t stop growing.
An emphasis on growth answers the "how" question: How will I execute our strategy?
Being intentional about the connections you make each day is essential. Effectively connecting looks different for everyone—it’s important for you to be who you are and nobody else.
I remember a strong, introverted executive I was coaching who was told he needed to get out of his office and be more visible. It wasn’t him. So we created a plan for him to make connections that worked with his style and personality, while still stretching him a bit. We called them “Walk and Talks.” He and I would walk around, stopping to chat with a scientist or two in the lab, the chefs in the kitchen or a few engineers in the pilot plant. He increased visibility, built connections and began to create small and impactful moments with his team.
This is a question I ask myself every day, “What connections did you make happen today?”
Another one I love from a past colleague is, “What routines can I establish to bring others along with me?”
Intentional connections answer the "who" question: Who is helping to execute our strategy?
Time for Reflection
It sounds easy, but it’s not. Leaders need to prioritize time to think and reflect. Without scheduled reflection time, strategic thinking is at risk. Ideally, this happens not only daily but weekly, and quarterly. Here are some suggestions for carving out time for strategic reflection.
Block out 15 minutes at the end of the day to wrap the day's events into the big picture.
Get away from your desk, email and phone, and devote one hour each week to strategic thinking and reflection.
Block out one day each quarter for a personal strategy retreat.
Time for reflection answers the "when" question: When am I executing our strategy?
When we consistently sharpen our focus, invest in our growth, make connections and find time for reflection, we plant the seeds to stay strategic. You might not see tangible results right away, but rest assured, growth is happening under the surface. As you grow and develop, ask yourself the difficult questions to remain strategic (our free infographic can help!) As you stick with it, momentum builds, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of victory.
Stay strategic today and win tomorrow!
Want to be a more strategic leader?
Get the free guide, See the Big Picture: Nine Steps to Being Strategic, to help you see the big picture and strengthen your strategy skills. Get your free copy today.