Big-Picture Mentality: How to Develop Strategic Leadership Skills

Get ahead of the game and get winning results from your team

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In this special five-part BlackEnterprise.com series, Lisa Bing, educator, corporate consultant and founder of Bing Consulting Group Inc., talks the keys to dynamic leadership success and how to position yourself to take the helm.

Big picture thinking is a core leadership competency. And yet companies today suffer from a drought of strategic thinkers. Corporate executives lament to me about this as an issue and surveys of executives across industries report similar results.

Thinking big picture. Consider the Steven Covey story about the work group diligently and enthusiastically clearing trees and brush in the forest.  Until someone steps away from the pack, climbs a peak to survey the broader landscape, they don’t realize they are working in the wrong forest.

Big picture or strategic thinkers see implications of their actions and decisions, come up with innovative solutions and new possibilities. Strategic thinkers:

  • Anticipate opportunities and potential problems
  • Build productive relationships
  • Reduce labor intensity
  • Make sense of data
  • Make connections among ideas and people that don’t seem obvious
  • Avoid or reduce conflict
  • Stay ahead of competition

How to develop a strategic mind-set. Get over yourself. Be genuinely curious and interested in others, what they’re doing and why it matters to them. While you do have to be concerned with delivering on your goals, remember that your goals only matter to the extent they serve a broader team or company purpose. The more you help others meet their goals, the more others help you meet yours.

Ask provocative questions:

  • Why is this important?
  • What will be the impact if this happens? What if it doesn’t happen?
  • Who cares the most about this? Who else is affected— both directly and indirectly?
  • When will they expect to know?

Listen more and talk less. It’s hard if not impossible to uncover true purpose and pick up on new opportunities when you’re doing all the talking. Ask “In what ways have the role of the sales manager changed since the new regulations passed” then be quiet.

  1. Stay informed about the world around you. Pay attention to social, economic, demographic and technology trends.
  2. Interact with a wide variety of people. Talk with people in different functions, industries, professions, communities etc. and listen to their opinions and views.
  3. Read beyond your expertise.  Don’t limit your reading to industry or professional material. Indulge your interests in cooking, music, literature, science, nature, design, etc. The goal is not to become an expert but to broaden your horizons.
  4. Travel to someplace new. Visit a new neighborhood, town, city or country. But get out and see how other people live, work and play.
  5. Work another part of your brain. Involve yourself regularly with interests outside of your work. Hobbies, sports, classes, exercise, volunteering are all good options. Not only will you give the “work” side of your brain a rest, but activating the less dominant side of your brain is likely to spur new ideas.

Develop your big picture muscle as a way to quickly stand out as a leader among leaders.

Lisa A. Bing works with leaders and executives to aid them in extending influence and improving workplace performance. Her company, Bing Consulting Group, boasts clients including Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, Verizon, New York City Police Department, and The American Cancer Society. The seasoned consultant has more than 20 years experience in professional executive coaching and skilled corporate team building and has been honored by The Network Journal as one of the “25 Influential Black Women in Business,” among other honors. The Brooklyn, New York native chairs the Concord Christfund Board of Governors, sits on the executive committee of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and has served as president of the American Society For Training and Development–NY.

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  • Katanagatari

    You have to do so many things as an entrepreneur to make it big… and even to make it small is no small task! I think another big problem is that a lot of people these days multitask – almost everyone listens to music while working, and it keeps people isolated and uncollaborative.

    • Lisa A. Bing

      You are right…multi-tasking actually makes people less productive. It also creates a feeling of frenzy so there’s a general feeling that “there’s no time to do anything else.” In reality taking a step back to reflect and think strategically actually leads to sound perpectives and better decisions which ultimately saves time.