HOW TO: Become a more strategic thinker
You’ve got a big vision. You have a dream to see your church, non-profit or business truly make a difference in the world. Like many leaders though, maybe you’re struggling with bringing that vision to life. Or, maybe somewhere along the way things have gotten off track from the original vision of your organization.
Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad; if you are the leader, whether it’s over the entire organization or a smaller department, YOU have to take responsibility for where you are. The good news? YOU can absolutely do something about it! And the number one thing you can do is to develop the skill of becoming a more strategic thinker.
Now I know what you may be thinking, that’s just not my skill set. But let me give you a word of encouragement; while there are those who are naturally more gifted in strategic thinking, you can absolutely grow in this area and become a leader who thrives in it. Today, I want to give you a crash course on five things that strategic thinkers do in their organizations that will help you achieve that big vision in your heart.
Here we go. Strategic thinkers…
OBSESS OVER MISSION, VISION AND CULTURE
This is the most important thing you will do as a leader. Your mission, vision and culture values drive everything you do.
Make it simple so you can make it stick. Your people won’t latch onto a mission, vision or culture that isn’t “sticky” enough to remember.
Your mission, vision and culture will be the filter through which all organizational decisions are made. It keeps your organization laser focused and makes sure you keep the main thing the main thing.
A quick definition of what your mission, vision and values are;
Your mission is "why you exist"
Your vision is "how the world will be different because our organization exists"
Your culture is "what you value"
DEVELOP AND UNLEASH LEADERS
The number one thing that will hold an organization back is a leader who doesn’t develop leaders around them. Period. If you want to grow you can’t do it all yourself.
Pro tip; do ONLY what you can do and DELEGATE the rest.
Here’s an example of what that could look like;
I’m a pastor so my big three are; Preaching, Vision Planning/Casting, Leadership Development.
I want to spend 80-90% of my time doing those three things and delegate everything else.
This will require trust. You can't be a control freak and be a great leadership developer. If you’re going to do the “unleashing” part you have to trust them to do what you’ve developed them to do.
This will also require great communication. Too many leaders don’t develop leaders well before they unleash them. Others fail to continue communicating and encouraging after they unleash them. Both are critical.
Finally, the most important thing you'll equip leaders to do is know and live the mission, vision and values of your organization.
SET GOALS THAT MATCH THE VISION
You have a big vision, but a big vision without goals is just a dream.
The goals you set need to be specific, measurable and have a deadline. The truth is that most people aren't specific enough, don't measure enough, and don't set hard deadlines.
Pro tip; set 1, 3 and 5 year goals with milestones within each year. Your five year goal needs to be BIG. It should be captivating and compelling to your people. Your 1 and 3 year goals should be stepping stones to helping you get to the 5 year goal.
CREATE REPEATABLE SYSTEMS
James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits says, “You don't rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” You'll never achieve your goals without good systems.
We must recognize that systems and processes are what make organizations CONSISTENTLY excellent. Lots of organizations can do something important or mission critical once or occasionally, great organizations do the most important things consistently.
Take some time to really think about the most important, mission critical areas of your organization and ask the question, “do we have the right systems in place to ensure consistency across the entire organization?”
One of the biggest traps we fall into as leaders is to get comfortable when things are going well. But a great leader is constantly evaluating even when things are going well. Why? If you don’t know why it’s working when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” - Andy Stanley
Remember that evaluating across the entire organization is key. Is there organizational alignment around your goals and systems?
Make sure you are seeking regular feedback from multiple levels within your organization, not just your primary leadership team. This creates buy in and ownership across the organization. And, some of the best ideas and feedback often come from the people you least expect.
Remember, evaluation is not about striving for perfection but continuous improvement.
Finally, celebrate “wins” publicly. Nothing will get your people more fired up to keep driving towards your mission and vision than seeing your organization knock it out of the park.
The best leaders know they haven’t arrived and are always looking for ways they can lead better. I pray this encourages you to do just that. Rooting and praying for you as you strive to lead well and leave a lasting impact!
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