3 Ways to Think More Strategically in 2021

I don't have an accurate count of the number of books I've read over my three-decade career–but I'm sure it's north of 2,000. Some of my top favorites include:

  • Zoom by Istvan Banyai
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
  • A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer
  • Buck Up, Suck Up and Come Back When You Foul Up by James Carville and Paul Begala
  • This is Marketing by Seth Godin
  • Don't Sweat The Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Finish by Jon Acuff
  • Your Next Five Moves by Patrick Bet-David

Your Next Five Moves haunts me. Mainly it's a book about strategy, thinking strategically about your life and career. For some of us, it’s about building businesses, and for all of us, it’s about building our brand and reputation.

I've always struggled with balancing tactics and strategy. Of the many words we use without much thought is the word strategically. I've heard countless times, "Let's look at this through a strategic lens," "Think strategically for a moment," or "Strategically speaking."

It's sort of insulting to have someone tell you to think strategically as if you're only able to think about breathing and swallowing–which by the way, are involuntary and require no thought.

But beyond my aversion to being told to think more strategically (can't everything in life always be more strategic?), I think there's room for improvement in all of us to become more strategic. Here are three thoughts to consider as we check our egos and look toward improving ourselves in this area:

1. What's the difference between strategy and tactics?

Lots of definitions exist. I like this one: Strategy is why and what. Tactics are how. Being able to differentiate between why and what and how will only help to discipline your thinking and brand. As a creative type, I have no shortage of how. I can offer how all day long. I got more how than anyone. But I often lack a focus of why and what. Not because I'm incapable of thinking of why and what–but candidly, how is more fun. It's more validating. It's putting why and what into action and how I, and many others, receive validation. Because of your impulsivity to rush to how, it may be impacting your brand with others. Slow down. Be patient. Stay focused on the why and what (strategy) to be more disciplined and increase your contribution there, so you can double prove your value on the backend when it's time to discuss how (tactics).

2. Strategists get promoted. Tacticians get praised.

Perhaps harsh, but true. I want praise, but I want a promotion more. Be thoughtful about how your ability to think strategically is impacting your brand and career. It's why my favorite book of all time is the one on the top of my list above. Zoom is the most powerful book I've ever "read." I put read in quotes because it contains no words–only pictures (now you have a fair assessment of my intellect—my favorite book has no words). Buy this book. "Read" it. Revisit it. It's the most powerful book I've ever experienced for building patience, perspective, and appreciation for thinking beyond your own realm. The ability to "zoom" out will directly increase your capability to focus on the why and the what and better marshall your energies to focus on the how at the right time. 

3. Read more to succeed more.

Someone insanely wise once said, "You can only think as deep as your vocabulary is broad." Okay—maybe I slaughtered that, but you get the point. If you want to build your competence (your ability to engage and contribute and think more strategically about your next moves), you must broaden your experiences, your frames of reference, and, yes, your vocabulary. You do this by continually disrupting yourself, challenging your entrenched thinking, and reading. When people ask me what's been the biggest contributor to any success I've achieved—without hesitation, I declare reading. Read more and you will naturally become more valuable to your team and organization. Read more and you will, over time, build more patience and an ability to step back and see a larger picture and broader playing field. Reading not only increases your vocabulary but broadens your understanding of challenges and opportunities, as well as potential solutions. Reading will give you a bigger vocabulary, which will allow you to think more broadly and thus be more strategic. 

Read more in 2021.

80% of your results will come from 20% of your activities—are you focusing on the right ones? Download The 80/20 Activity Analyzer tool to be more strategic in your process and more successful in your results.

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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