Most of the work that I do in my firm involves leading with a clear understanding of the end goal and developing strategies to get there. Whether its for my client’s business or mine, strategic principles prevail. As a women business leader, I have had to use many of my innate traits to employ original and effective strategies. Drawing upon guiding principles of authenticity, intuition, curiosity and experience, I have enjoyed the notion of being adaptive and nimble.
Here are six things you can do to be adaptively strategic:
Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
- Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
- Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
- Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better
Conventional wisdom opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:
- Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
- Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
- Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions
Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint.
To get good at this, you have to:
- Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
- Encourage others to do the same
- Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously
Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:
- Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
- Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
- Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views
Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge.
To pull that off, you need to:
- Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
- Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
- Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support
As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
- Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
- Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight