There’s a lot of discussion in companies and among recruiters about the constantly evolving skills gap. A recent research report from Bloomberg News pointed out, there’s a major skills gap when it comes to essential abilities employees need to possess to succeed in a global dynamic workforce. The survey of over 1000 recruiters revealed that one of the most in demand and lacking skills amongst most professionals is strategic thinking. I’ve also seen it in my own recruiting and coaching practice. There’s a glaring difference in levels of achievement between workers who are strong strategic thinkers and those who have not attained this ability yet.
Here are seven reasons you need to be a strategic thinker in order to succeed at work:
Emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationships
The global workforce demands strong interpersonal relationships, and the ability to collaborate with a diverse organisational support structures. Conveying information both verbally and non-verbally, writing, speaking, presentation, communication and management as well as leadership abilities are all a part of interpersonal skills. They hinge, to a great degree, on one’s level of emotional intelligence. Strategic thinking supports your emotional intelligence and strengthens your interpersonal relationships. In a global workforce where there is a melding of diverse cultures and social contexts, strategic thinking is paramount.
Outpacing competitors and adaptation
Strategic thinking is critical to be able to outpace competitors and adapt quickly. In a work environment, businesses today must be able to adapt and change course quickly in order to succeed and maintain a competitive advantage. In today’s fast moving world with rapid technological advancement, the ability to constantly pivot and see oneself in relationship to the larger ecosystem is essential in order to remain relevant.
Creative problem solving
Strategic thinking is about creativity and dropping all assumptions to be able to look at a situation from multiple perspectives. When you are able to effectively see situations from multiple angles and contexts, you can solve problems, innovate and create a dynamic work environment. It’s about being able to see the operational implications and the big picture context of various actions and plans.
Innovation and big break through ideas
Strategic thinking is a muscle that when exercised and practiced become stronger over time. It allows you to clearly evaluate the past, see the context of the present and then design the future. Strategic thinkers make decisions in the present without being defined by the past. Innovation hinges on these abilities. It’s a vital skill for all break through ideas, as well as effectively working within a global environment.
Accurately assessing weaknesses
It’s essential that you can accurately assess not only your personal weaknesses but also those of the department, culture and company in order to make good judgement calls and sound decisions, as well as implement change. Effective strategic thinking guides you through this process.
Goal setting and achievement
Each time you set a goal and work to accomplish it in a systematic way, you engage in strategic thinking. The more effective you become at this skill the better you will be in defining the needed actions, following through and ultimately accomplishing both professional and personal visions.
Systems thinking and context
Strategic thinking relates not just to the internal organizational dynamics and direct competitors, but also being able to see how corporate policies, products and actions impact and disrupt other industries as well. Strategic thinking engages systems thinking to see your self, goals and company in a much wider inter-dependent context.
Summary: Ending the skills gap
When it comes to being prepared to step into senior level roles in corporations, there is often a massive skills gap among today’s digital and technology workers. Talent that takes the time to identify where they are weak and hone the needed soft skills will be at a significant advantage to their competitors and create the edge they need to compete for the best opportunities.
Talent that takes the time to identify where they are weak and hone the needed soft skills will be at a significant advantage to their competitors and create the edge they need to compete for the best opportunities.
Today’s work environment challenges employees to constantly learn and improve hard and soft skills to stay relevant, productive and thriving professionally.
In order to master these skills, and this includes Business School graduates, a coach can help you develop and improve the vital soft skills needed to succeed. And if you aren’t in a position to go back to business school with a leadership module, engaging a coach is an opportunity to work one on one with someone who supports you in strengthening the essential skills needed to succeed in today’s highly competitive global workforce and support you through immediate roadblocks.
Here’s a daily exercise to strengthen your strategic thinking skills:
Instead of assuming you are right in any given situation or conflict, practice stepping back and seeing things from the opposing person’s point of view. Take this consideration one step further by looking for the benefits in the opposing point of view. Make it a part of your daily practice to put yourself in environments and with people who challenge your dominant worldview, and then pause before talking or acting. I invite you to share your thoughts below on your experiences with practicing this exercise.
Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions. FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.