3 Points of View: How can leaders pause to focus on long-term strategy?

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3 Points of View: How can leaders pause to focus on long-term strategy?

In a busy world, how can leaders ensure they are setting aside time to focus on creating their strategy? Three Chartered Managers share their thoughts.

 

Jillian Ritherdon CMgr FIMLJillian Cable CMgr FIML

CEO and Company Secretary, Venture Housing Company

 

As someone who survived a close encounter with terrorists; lost a step-son in a preventable incident; and whose mother died of cancer at a young age; I know that life can be both very short and extremely arbitrary. So, above all, do what inspires you. As a very wise mentor once said to me: “If you lead a life of purpose, your job will be an inspirational journey”.

My practical tips are:

  • Delegate day-to-day tasks. This frees up your time for strategic thinking, helps develop your people, and assists succession planning.
  • Slowly handwriting my ‘to do’ lists on paper and prioritising tasks embeds them in my mind and stimulates thoughts in a way that typing does not. I then set up alerts in my electronic diary. Freed from the fear of forgetting an important deadline, my mind can relax and contemplate the ‘helicopter view’.
  • Self-care is important. Some of my best ideas have come during a massage, riding a horse or whilst mowing the lawn! Sometimes the mind needs to be in a non-work zone for the strategy to emerge.

 

Carol Sutton CMgr FIMLCarol Sutton CMgr FIML

Director, On The Business

 

It all starts with preparation and intention. Make sure you understand what your long-term vision and goals are – and be crystal clear on how you will know when you have achieved them. Then be bold and begin. Just as you would never dream of waiting to start a journey until every traffic light en route was green, you should accept that there will never be a time when all the business conditions are perfect. So get started! (See CE Lindblom’s papers on Muddling Through and Still Muddling, Not Yet Through for a useful and enjoyable read on this subject.)

Periodically schedule time to check in on your progress and be smart about when you schedule that. I’m a big advocate for active procrastination. Accept that you won’t always be in the right frame of mind to tackle strategy – and don’t feel bad about that. If you struggle to focus on the written word during the afternoon, try and organise meetings or schedule phone calls during that time. (Eisenhower’s decision matrix offers a great rule of thumb for how to spend your time effectively.)

 

Michael Coe CMgr FIMLMichael Coe CMgr FIML

Support Services Manager, Maritime Saab Australia

 

Taking time for reflection can easily be pushed aside due to day-to-day demands. In my experience timing is the key. Ideas can sometimes come from the most unlikely sources and at random times. Capturing these ideas, whether relevant or not at the time, is key to successful planning. This includes process/organisational changes, business opportunities or any other puzzle pieces that contribute to strategic planning. In this way, the time spent on reflection for strategy has more meaning and content.

It is easy to set high-level plans that remain dormant afterwards because they are prepared for representation rather than genuine change. It is pointless attending planning meetings with a blank sheet because that’s unlikely to achieve productive outcomes.

Big picture planning is easier with content. It can sometimes be more effective using a ‘bottom up’ approach rather than ‘top down’. Laying out the opportunities and ideas can make the strategic pathways more apparent. This makes the eff ort spent on reflection and planning worthwhile – delivering real outcomes – and therefore encouraging us to commit our time to it, either individually or collectively.


This article originally appeared in the June 2019 print edition of Leadership Matters, IML ANZ’s quarterly magazine. For editorial suggestions and enquiries, please contact karyl.estrella@managersandleaders.com.au.

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