It’s not enough to just show up to the office on time. To contribute in a meaningful way in today’s complex and ever-changing business environment you need to think more like a trusted advisor and strategic partner for your business — no matter what level you’re at.
Organizations of every industry and size need people who can add value when they are facing challenging circumstances. This applies to team members at all levels, but as employees take on more responsibility, competencies such as broad business perspective and strategic insight also become critical skills that should not be overlooked.
If you want to be seen as someone who has high potential and positively affects the organization, make sure you focus on cultivating the skills most valued by company leaders. Here are six key areas to work on to be a stronger strategic contributor at your organization and to maximize your career development.
Cultivate Broad Business Perspective
In the most basic sense, broad business perspective means understanding how the business works. In reality this skill encompasses much more than that. An employee who cultivates this valuable perspective keeps up with best practices, future trends, technology and competition that may affect the business, the organization and the wider industry.
For example, spend time to better understand how the budget and key financial indicators drive the business, while also grasping and respecting how various departments work together to further the overall business goals.
To cultivate this skill, seek guidance from experts, join a professional association or set up informational interviews with key individuals to learn more about different aspects of the business. Other effective ways to gain a greater understanding of the business are to take a temporary or rotation assignment in another department, which has the added benefit of helping you learn new skills.
Once you’ve gathered this new insight on the business, perform a competitive analysis or SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of the organization’s products or services. You can share this report with key stakeholders as appropriate.
Develop Greater Strategic Insight
An employee with strategic insight uses knowledge, experience and awareness to create plans and strategies that help the organization remain competitive now and in the future. You should consider how new ideas, trends and technology will impact the business or industry — and also be able to clearly communicate future directions and drive strategy. Take it a step further by considering existing and potential social, economic and political events – like upcoming elections or the launch of a new tech product.
The first step to cultivating a more strategic approach to your organization is to entertain multiple business scenarios, including how each could affect the business. It also helps to spend some time researching trends and participating in outside activities that promote broader thinking, such as field trips to other departments or companies, industry conferences or cross-functional team experiences.
Focus on Problem Solving
Problem solvers are hyper-valuable members of any organization, combining experience, creativity and analysis to tackle challenges that could hold the company back. They use reason, logic and often a structured method to work through complex problems facing the organization.
To be an effective problem solver you need to seek out and discover root causes of difficult problems by collecting and considering relevant information in an objective manner.
Problem-solving ability isn’t necessarily an innate quality; it can be intentionally developed with the right approach. When trying to solve complex problems, seek outside perspectives from friends, focus groups or subject-matter experts. It also helps to create a system that gathers feedback regularly from either the team or customers to identify potential problems (and their solutions) before minor issues become major roadblocks. When creating this system or team of advisors, consider including those different backgrounds, expertise and skills. Diversity of thought can be your biggest ally – while simultaneously cultivating a true collaborative environment of problem solving.
Developing effective communication skills is an absolute necessity for anyone looking to become a stronger strategic contributor. The employee well-versed in this competency communicates thoughts, ideas and information in a clear, compelling and concise manner — both in written and verbal modes.
You should take steps to learn to deliver information professionally and with influence across a variety of situations and audiences, while thoughtfully adjusting content and style to ensure they are effective with a diverse set of stakeholders. It’s also important to keep stakeholders informed while balancing listening and contributing in a way that fosters open communication.
When faced with new or difficult situations, the strategic contributor uses resources in a flexible manner to accommodate changing needs and demands. This person organizes and directs human, financial and material resources to accomplish goals.
To cultivate this competency, start by taking steps and supporting policies that fully utilize the talents of team members, understanding that each person has different strengths and weaknesses and that their roles will evolve individually. It’s also valuable to practice being creative when facing ambiguous, uncertain or unfamiliar situations. Researching innovative trends inside and outside the your industry and employing some of those new approaches can help you develop resourcefulness as well.
Display Political Savvy
Often I hear leaders say “political savvy” is being “fake” or a “plotter” who only looks out for themselves. There is a kernel of truth in this reaction; when political savvy is used for personal gain rather than the good of a team or organization, it quickly turns into toxic “office politics” or outright manipulation.
But a healthy approach to political savvy merely reflects your ability to understand the environment you’re working in. People who have a well-developed sense of political savvy are able to read the people and personalities they need to interact with, and they learn how to successfully navigate that environment with integrity.
To develop this competency, seek to adapt your communication style to be more effective with different personalities, proactively building relationships in the organization and being accountable for your own responsibilities and mistakes.
Why It Matters
To make a meaningful contribution, employees at every level must position themselves more like a trusted advisor with a wide range of knowledge and skills that help the company thrive. Cultivating these skills will help you grow into a stronger strategic team member and put you on the path for long-term career success.
Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.