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How Strategic Thinking Can Boost Your Performance at Work

How Strategic Thinking Can Boost Your Performance at Work

Strategic thinking is the future of discovering the breakout performance you want for yourself on an individual level and what will be required for businesses–small and large–to compete in the future. Strategic thinking is a cognitive process; you cannot allow your life to be driven merely by subconscious thoughts. To perform at your highest and best requires taking the appropriate amount of time to imagine, dream, design and think about your future.

“Performance: the manner in which or the efficiency
with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.”
Source: Dictionary.com

1. Ask questions.

1. Where are we today?
2. Where do we want to be in the future?
3. What obstacles stand in our way?

The result: These three powerful questions will boost your performance at work simply by igniting your imagination.

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    2. Imagine your future.

    Motivation and performance are closely tied together. We crave new challenges and new opportunities. Goals are powerful. Choose to step out of the daily noise, distraction and chaos of your daily work. Schedule time to envision your future.  Paint a vidid image of who you are in five years. What new projects will exist?  When you stop to think, what do you see? How clearly can you see the image of your future self?

    The result: Strategically thinking about where you want to be in the future becomes the internal or self-activating motivation that boosts excitement, enthusiasm and performance.

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      3. Be happy. You choose what you think about.

      When you think about your work, are you happy? Are you finding meaning and value in the work you do? Life is too short to focus your time and attention on negative thoughts. Ernest Nightengale said, “You become what you think about most of the time.” Regardless of the current project you are working on, you can choose to be happy. You are the only person who has the ability to choose what you will think about and whether you will choose to be happy.

      The result: Happy people are much more productive. The are more engaged in the work they do and they accomplish more than an employee who hates his job.

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        4. Be bold. Step away from the logical into the creative and new.

        Strategic thinking and performance thrive on creativity.

        • Be new.
        • Be different.
        • Be very very different.
        • See in pictures
        • Envision
        • Imagine
        • Listen
        • Watch
        • Hear
        • Embrace emotions
        • Think ahead
        • Tell it in a story
        • Intuitive
        • See the big picture
        • Ask, what if…
        • What could you change if you chose to be outrageous

        The result: The last 100 years of innovative productivity has come from improvements in planning, budgeting, automation and the beginning of technology. Many of these concepts can be outsourced, the future of boosting performance will come from inside the heart and souls of individuals. Break throughs can be brought to life through corporate backing, but revolutionary increases in performance will come from break through ideas from individuals who have been given the freedom to think outside the box.

        4. Be inspired. Innovate.

        There is nothing more powerful than excitement about a new concept. Creating something that did not exist until your team thought of the concept. Inspiration is one of the core elements of strategic thinking. Be inspired. Innovate.

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        The result: Being on the ground floor of turning an idea into a finished work is incredibly rewarding. Meaningful and fulfilling work will boost performance, work ethic and self-esteem.

        5. Step away from the project.

        Projects often come to a stand still when unexpected obstacles appear. One of my friends is a judge in Arkansas. When he was practicing law in my hometown I would regularly see him meandering aimlessly down the street. His gaze was always the same–distant and intense. He has always worn his suits at least one size too large so it was easy to spot him. One day we passed on the street and I asked him why he was outside so much, rather than at the desk in his office. He replied, “This sidewalk is my desk. I am paid to think.”

        The result: Sitting at a desk in the midst of clutter and old ideas can stifle your ability to strategically think up new solutions to the obstacles you were facing.

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          6. Prime your brain to think strategically.

          The human brain is bombarded with millions of bits of data every second. You receive data through your five senses–what you see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Isn’t it amazing that your brain acts as a gigantic filter–receiving so much information it cannot possibly focus on every single input? For example, do you remember the color of the last car you passed on the way to work? Do you even feel the shoes on your feet until I remind you of those shoes? If you just bought a new white Honda four-door sedan, you will begin to see white Honda four-door sedans. Why? Because the excitement and emotion tied to the novelty of your new car has subconsciously primed your brain and you begin to see white Hondas everywhere. 

          The result: White Hondas were always there, you just didn’t pay attention to them because they were unimportant to you. When you prime your brain with exciting goals that are deeply tied to your personal emotions, your subconscious will be primed to seek out answers and solutions that have always been right in front of you. You just hadn’t seen them before.

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            7. Be outrageous with the number of ideas you can write on a whiteboard.

            Imagine the shear number of ridiculous ideas that percolate through the minds of advertising agencies and marketing departments all across the world. How many all night thinking sessions have the creatives and executives of various corporations spent collecting as many ideas as the human brain can generate? Get rid of all the filters. Assume the world is level and all opinions carry the same value.

            The result: Taglines and slogans so closely link with our lives that some of these have not been used in twenty years:

            • Got Milk?
            • Where’s the Beef?
            • Absolutely Positively Overnight
            • Just Do It

            8. Accept risk. Encourage failure.

            If you choose to remain the same, your performance will remain the same. In order to boost your performance at work you must be willing to try new things. Break old models. Accept risk. Encourage failure. Innovation comes with a price. Perseverance, effort, the willpower to try not just one more time but thousands of times if it is needed.

            The result: Businesses who want to grow must embrace the concept of strategic thinking and to embrace calculated risk, anticipate failure and encourage constant challenges to the status quo.

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              Steve Jobs – A Strategic Thinker

              10. Study and learn from strategic thinkers who changed the world.

              Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Leonardo Davinci, and Steve Jobs. What did these people have in common?

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              • They had dreams without roadmaps.
              • They had answers without questiions.
              • They had powerful instincts and they were willing to follow their guts.
              • They had perseverance and endurance.
              • They chose a life of continual learning and growth
              • and, Each one of them had a personal willingness to fail.

              What made these men and women so different?

              They didn’t just look foward. They looked inside themselves.

              They believed.

              Featured photo credit: Head Silhouette View Direction Color Diamonds / geralt via pixabay.com

              More by this author

              Allyson Lewis

              Allyson is a nationally acclaimed author, motivator, speaker, time management, productivity strategist, and executive coach.

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              Last Updated on May 28, 2020

              How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

              How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

              Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

              To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

              1. Digital Savviness

              As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

              Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

              Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

              For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

              How to Develop This Skill

              For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

              From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

              Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

              2. Financial Forecasting

              Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

              Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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              However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

              Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

              3. Video Production Skills

              The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

              If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

              In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

              • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
              • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
              • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

              4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

              As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

              Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

              Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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              5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

              Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

              Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

              For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

              Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

              6. Honing Pitches to Investors

              Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

              The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

              You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

              Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

              7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

              In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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              Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

              8. Automating to Your Advantage

              The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

              Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

              9. Managing Millennials

              Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

              In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

              Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

              A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

              Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

              Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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              Offer Constructive Feedback

              Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

              Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

              10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

              Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

              By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

              Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

              How to Develop This Skill

              Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

              As the African proverb goes:

              “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

              Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

              More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

              Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

              Reference

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