A friend of mine, who I found to be the consummate strategic thinker, was a sales and franchising expert. He spent years consulting with people who had sunk their saving into franchises because they were sold on the promises of making money “in their sleep”. Now they were overworked and in debt.
I’m not saying buying into a franchise is a poor choice. Not at all. If you’re prepared, educated, have the funds and are ready to put it a lot of hours. Practice being a strategic thinker. Think intentionally before you commit. That’s true of any business decision. And strategic thinking doesn’t mean you mull over it endlessly. It means look at the decision from every angle – top, bottom, sides and end to end. In his article Are You A Strategic Thinker? Test Yourself, Peter Walsh lets you answer for yourself.
Let’s just bring it into a smaller scope for the sake of this blog – your individual business.
Rather than constantly reacting to everything that comes up, keep it a list of the regular questions that your customers, clients, friends and contacts are consistently asking you. Do people at networking events ask you the same questions over and over? Then the strategic move would be to answer the questions before they are asked. Be prepared with what you need to say, or do, in order to answer your client’s questions. Anticipate them.
Sometimes the biggest barrier to strategic thinking is simply having the time to think at all. people who allow themselves time to quietly think and reflect upon choices and “the big picture” find ways to connect what would never otherwise have been connected at all and therefore come up with the most brilliant ideas, or comfortably decide which projects to pursue. Like Bill Gates’ famous “Think Weeks”.
Practice being a critical thinker – and not one that’s easily sold on every idea that’s thrown your way. Some people are easy targets for every “shiny object” that’s set before them. Practice saying “no” and giving yourself time to reflect and do research.
The solopreneurs and entrepreneurs I work with nearly always tell me that in one way or another they feel alone, isolated, even “in a silo”. The best way out of that stifling position is to join a mastermind group. There, in the right group that is, you will feel empowered, energized, respected, trusted, and valued. And you will exercise your strategic thinking.
Most successful strategic thinkers are not born that way but they learned to exercise their strategic thinking “mental muscle” and the best place to do that is in a mastermind group. In a mastermind group you can get honest feedback and fresh ideas from other individuals. There you can verbalize your thoughts and gain clarity from others. Leaving you the opportunity to make informed decisions.
“Internal” mastermind groups that are within a single organization, work well to develop and enhance strategic thinking. They are most successful when lead by an outside facilitator who has no bias within the company.
Mastermind groups where not everyone belongs to the same company, or the same industry, are the most beneficial way to do this. In a group of people from different disciplines and different levels of expertise you will get new and fresh ideas in the least homogenized fashion.
There you will also find accountability where your feet are “held to the fire” in the most supportive way so that if you tend towards “analysis paralysis” you’ll be forced to make decisions. That force is what exercises your muscle. It’s a little uncomfortable but over time it helps you think better faster, stronger and more clearly. Before you know it, voila, you’re a strategic thinker.