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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 July 18, 2019

              How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

              How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

              Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

              However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

              Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

              Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

              There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

              Better Job Offers

              Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

              People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

              Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

              You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

              Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

              A Shot at Entrepreneurship

              Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

              We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

              13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

              1. Update Your Resume

              You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

              Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

              While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

              There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

              2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

              Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

              That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

              To hone this skill:

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              Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

              Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

              This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

              How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

              3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

              Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

              Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

              To hone this skill:

              Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

              4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

              No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

              Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

              To hone this skill:

              Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

              Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

              These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

              The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

              5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

              Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

              How to hone this skill:

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              Practice being resourceful.

              Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

              Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

              No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

              If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

              6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

              6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

              Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

              The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

              Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

              How to hone this skill:

              Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

              Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

              17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

              7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

              Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

              What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

              How to hone this skill:

              Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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              Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

              5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

              8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

              Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

              Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

              How to hone this skill:

              Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

              Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

              What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

              9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

              How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

              Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

              How to hone this skill:

              Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

              Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

              The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

              10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

              Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

              How to hone this skill:

              Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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              Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

              What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

              11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

              Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

              You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

              How to hone this skill:

              All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

              How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

              12. Build Networks and Relationships

              You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

              Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

              How to hone this skill:

              Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

              To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

              How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

              Final Thoughts

              Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

              You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

              Happy career switching!

              More Resources About Career Advancement

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

              Reference

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