How Do We Carve Out Time For Strategic Work?

by | Apr 16, 2024 | Coaching, Coaching Tips Series | 0 comments

We all know that as you move on from being an individual contributor into doing any kind of leadership work, we need to carve out time for the strategic work.

And I remember years ago, when I was a senior demand planner and looking after a team of 3, my manager once told me I should be keeping 1 day a week free for the strategic work.

At the time I thought he was a nutcase, mostly because I had scheduled the meeting because I was overloaded with work and wanted to discuss priorities so I knew what things I could drop. And he had just assigned a new project to me.

*note to self: add this to book on “what not to do as a manager”

So while his timing was terrible, his advice was technically sound.

We had a lot of special requests coming in. Can we ship produce direct from China to our customer warehouse? Can we collaborate with our customers on demand forecasting? Can we do kanban fulfilment on fast selling accessories?

Great supply chain questions, all off them requiring two things: analysis of the request and feasibility, PLUS strategic consideration of supply chain flows.

Taking a step back from the day to day execution activities to look at these from a strategic perspective is essential for staying proactive and delivery what our market needs, while running an efficient supply chain.

I gotta tell you though,20 years ago I was still running the “do all the work and do it excellently” program that had been taught to me by school, university, and every job I’d had up to and including that role.

KPIs and OKRs do this. Pay reviews do this. Most feedback we get does this. We are highly trained in getting things done.

So a lot of my strategic thinking time was late in the evening, talking to one of the colleagues I trusted about all the things on my mind.

And the funny thing is I see it now in senior leaders too. Yes, even the ones who have been in senior positions for years.

Here’s the thing: making that switch from “doing all the things excellently” to “focusing on strategy and enabling others to get things done excellently” is a huge mental shift.

And there’s almost no training on it.

So how do we carve out time for it?

First you’re going to have to do the mental gymnastics to change your view on spending time on strategy versus working on the challenge.

you’ve got to deal with all those “I don’t have time for this” thoughts you have.

Second, you need to schedule it in somewhere (everyone has their own method for this).

Thirdly, you’ve got to keep that promise to yourself by practicing taking the time.

I promise you, once you get step one sorted, 2 and 3 are much easier.

Most people skip step one, and focus on 2 and 3, which is why they fail or struggle.

Do yourself a favour, and start with step one.

It’s the hardest step so ask for help: a great listener, a mentor, a coach.

This post is part of my special Coaching Tips Series. This series was inspired by my clients and the core themes in their challenges. When we can apply these tips, we bring a lot of ease into our lives and step into our leadership. Want to talk it through with me? Call me and let’s make a Game Plan together.

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