How to Demonstrate Your Strategic Thinking Skills

In this class: vocabulary regarding career / strategy.

Vocabulary list:

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Original source: Harvard Business Review | Author: Nina A. Bowman

How to Demonstrate Your Strategic Thinking Skills

We all know that developing strategic thinking skills is important, but many don’t realize how critical it is to your career advancement to show these skills to your boss and other senior leaders. Showing strategic thinking skills tells your bosses that you’re able to think for yourself and make decisions that position the organization for the future. It assures them that you aren’t making decisions in a vacuum but are considering how other departments might be affected or how the outside world will respond.

When I’m helping my coaching clients learn to think more strategically, I emphasize that developing and demonstrating these skills are very different challenges.

  • Developing great strategic thinking skills requires you to gain exposure to strategic roles, synthesize broad information, participate in a culture of curiosity, and gather experiences that allow you to identify patterns and connect the dots in novel ways. That’s why high-potential and leadership development programs often include job rotations, cross-functional projects, and face time with senior leadership — these all accelerate the development of strategic thinking.

  • Demonstrating strategic thinking, on the other hand, requires that you are simultaneously a marketer, a salesperson, and a change agent. Proactive and widespread communication of your strategic efforts combined with the courage to challenge others and initiate and drive your strategic ideas are what make your boss and peers take notice.

The case of one of my coaching clients illustrates the steps you need to take to show off your strategic thinking skills. Tim Waters (not his real name), vice president of the U.S. supply chain for a growing medical products company, hoped to be named global senior vice president of supply chain but sensed that his promotion discussions were stalled.

Tim had a good reputation for responding to business unit leads, and he worked tirelessly and effectively to keep the supply chain functioning well. He was therefore surprised to receive informal feedback from the head of HR, a longtime colleague and friend, who said that a few influential executives had voiced concern that Tim “wasn’t strategic enough.”

These executives felt Tim was good at keeping the trains running, but he had not driven proactive change in the organization or set a strategic vision for supply chain. Tim was a strong strategic thinker, but he wasn’t doing it in a way his bosses could see it. He decided to engage an executive coach to help him learn how to demonstrate these skills.

Bring a point of view to the table

Your leaders want to know what you think, and they view your worthiness for promotion through the lens of how ready you are to make bigger decisions. By asking yourself, “Do people know where I stand?” you can sharpen your ability to demonstrate this skill.

Tim made efforts to update his understanding of trends and to refresh his network but realized that he wasn’t putting the knowledge learned to good use. 

One of the first changes he made was to instruct his assistant to block out 30 minutes on his calendar before important meetings. He knew that barely having time to collect his thoughts before going into meetings made him unprepared, less vocal, and less capable of synthesizing and sharing his knowledge. Just a half hour, once or twice a week, would allow him to shape his point of view on important issues.

Tim’s efforts began to pay off over time, and he was able to shift his contributions in senior executive meetings from operational input to strategic input. 

He took time to package his ideas into a vision for the organization and engaged his peers in new discussions about how the vision could impact their areas.

Having greater clarity of vision also enhanced Tim’s effectiveness as a supervisor. Tim was able to see how his team was missing the specific skills needed to support the vision. Now, instead of having reactive discussions with his HR business partner, he was able to engage in forward-looking discussions about strategic hiring and leadership development opportunities for his team. Demonstrating that you think strategically about hiring and talent development is a surefire way to make your leaders notice you.

Show that you can initiate innovation and bring strategic change

To be viewed as a strategic thinker, you must also demonstrate that you can use your knowledge to put new ideas into action. No matter your level, you can demonstrate strategic thinking by executing an innovative project that shows that your understanding extends beyond your current function.

Tim channeled the new energy and vision he had gained into a strategic planning process that culminated in formal recommendations for the supply chain group. Tim communicated the project and its milestones across the organization, allowing the executive team to see that he could lead a strategic initiative; previously, Tim would have kept it behind the scenes. Boldly suggesting value-added changes was a welcome shift to both Tim and his colleagues. Tim felt he had greater control, projecting greater confidence because he was no longer just reacting to others’ suggestions and issues, and 

Tim’s colleagues also appreciated that he was initiating improvements without their prodding.

Tim’s journey to demonstrating strategic thinking took him longer than he had expected, but over time, his boss, peers, and team noticed the changes and viewed them positively. Tim was promoted to the global role a year later and was ultimately better equipped to navigate the role.

Practice Your Writing

Do you have strategic thinking skills? Do you know how to demonstrate them at work? Give us some examples. 

25 respostas para “How to Demonstrate Your Strategic Thinking Skills”

  1. Recently i had an opportunity to join in a Coaching process like Mr Tim Watters and one of skills that i worked together my coach to develop was my strategic thinking and mainly how could i demonstrate it in senior management.
    We put energy in three different ways described bellow:

    1) Understand different profiles – Identify what board member will join the session and understand profile of each one. How they think? What kind of motivation each one respond better? What words sounds better to each one?

    2) Prepare myself – Take time to study, think and create powerfull questions related to the topic. Good questions use to be more important than an answer.

    3) Be confident – When you are invited to participate or defend some idea in a board meeting, you can be the lower in the hierarchy, nevertheless probably you are the expert in the topic and they will be interested in listen you.

    1. Hi everyone. How are you?
      This article give an idea about my strategic thinking because I am not strategic person. I should be more attentive with that because it is important my boss to see my work and how is hard sometimes.
      In my current job is more operational then strategic thinking and because it is a construction they have more men and it is hard to show off the women job.

      1. Hello, Nancy
        Thanks for sharing your view.

        – this article gives
        – a strategic person
        – it is important that my boss sees
        – how hard it is
        – My current job is more operational than strategic (“thinking” is not necessary)

  2. Hello, Emerson!
    WOW!! It’s amazing that you had the opportunity to go through a similar coaching process.

    And I really love the 3 pillars that you mentioned. They make total sense!!

    Just some points:
    – one of the skills
    – together with my coach
    – how I could demonstrate it to the senior management
    – understand the profile
    – How do they think?
    – What’s the motivation of each one?
    – powerful
    – some ideas OR an idea
    – you can be lower (“the” is not necessary)
    – interested in listening to you

  3. Dear all,

    Depending on the case I think that am able to be strategic in my position, for example, as I knew a lot of things related to my activities day to day I can suggest many things, improvements and the other things than can be useful for the process and for the accounting process, no mention that I noticed a few months that I need to aim in my E-mails with the Indians, because they are very rude and they don´t like to speak a lot, it is my point of view, so, I try to be specific in my requests and in my communication, in my head, we need to be strategic all the time and this skills is something that we will acquire during the time, if we are overseeing our activities and pay attention in the new trends related to our area, that´s it.

    Nice Thursday for all.

    1. Dear Matheus,
      Thanks for your comment.
      It’s a great thing that you observe the communication style of your counterparts and adjust to their style!

      – as I know a lot of things
      – not to mention that
      – I need to be objective
      – this skill
      – over time (com o passar do tempo – and not “during the time”)
      – pay attention to

  4. In the past few months I have been working on how to demonstrate my strategic skills. It’s a good way to show the company that you can take on bigger challenges and deliver more value to the clients.
    Learning how to do that it’s not easy, but I’m working with my leader, he has helped me by giving some examples and guiding me in some activities, as he has more experience than me.

    1. That’s excellent, Rafael.
      And you are right, it’s a very important skill for career growth.

      – Learning how to do that is not easy (“it” is not necessary here, as “Learning how to do that” is already the subject of the sentence!)

  5. Hi all,

    I think the best important of have, and shows our strategic skill, it’s to have a great focus and done the difference. Because, if we just done the common and the same from the other we just be good… But if we make de difference, and the best to grow up an get focus, it’s is a good strategic skills. I try to done always this in my job, be good in the common things and be difference and demonstrate this day by day, studding and try to thinking different from others . Work tirelessly and gather goods advancements to show for my boss.

    1. Hello, Amanda!
      Great points. Thanks for your comment.

      – the most important skill to have and show our strategic skill is to have a great focus and make the difference
      – if we just do the usual things and the same as the others, we’ll just be good
      – the best to grow and (we use “grow up” for people – when a child becomes an adult)
      – it’s just good strategic skills (we don’t use “a” for plural nouns)
      – I always try to do this in my job
      – be different (not difference)
      – studying
      – try to think differently
      – good advancements (adjectives never take the plural form)
      – show my boss

  6. I believe that demonstrating strategic skills is harder than having them.
    For me, being a marketer, a salesperson, and a change agent at the same time is not an easy task, because the balance between honestly showing your skills and potential and appearing arrogant is so fragile.

    1. Hello, Kátia
      Great point.
      It’s almost like an art, right?
      But we have to master this art if we want to thrive in the business world.

  7. Hello Ho,

    I found this article very interesting. Sometimes, we spend much time getting knowledge, but we usually forget to demonstrate it to our bosses or other influential people in our company. I have listened to a podcast ” Never stand still”, that the interviewee, a great CEO by the way, said we needed to improve our communication skill, if we wanted to be successful in our career. I totally agree with him, don’t you?

    To climb in our company, we need to perform well and to strenghten our internal network. Do the influential people know me? Unfortunately, this is the real life. Another point, many managers focus on operational tasks and goals in their departments and don’t focus on the company future. It’s a management focused on short term (myopia).

    By the way, let’s practice the vocabulary:
    1 – I realized I made a mistake to say that in the last meeting. Sorry !
    2 – I have just five minutes, Could you synthesize to me the report?
    3 – We need to gather information to better understand the situation.
    4 – If you have a systemic thinking, you will be able to connect the dots.
    5 – I can’t be a marketer, therefore I struggle to sell myself for influential people in my company.
    6 – A change agent takes risks all the time.
    7 – We need to have a widespread communication about our purpose and values at all company’s levels.
    8 – I am not able to show off my skills in a board meeting.
    9 – The head of HR stalled the hiring process improvements for a long time.
    10 – I’ve been working tirelessly to be promoted to a global role this year.
    11 – I need to show off my worthiness for promotion bringing strategic ideas over the C-Suite meetings.
    12 – This investment doesn’t pay off for the company. We will waste money.
    13 – It’s important to foster a good relationship with your peers promoting a healthy workplace.
    14 – Many good professionals fail putting new ideas into action. They plan well, but aren’t doers.

  8. Hello, Felipe!
    Excellent points and excellent sentences!!! AMAZING job!
    And yes, I totally agree. Communication skills are probably one of the most important skills for career advancement.

    – communication skills
    – strengthen
    5. sell to (not “for”)
    14. fail to put

  9. I liked a lot of this article. It gave me think more about some news ways to act in certain meetings and general situations.
    I’m working in my improvement of my strategic thinking and how can I contribute better with my ideias.
    This article helped me a lot.

    1. Hello, Ewerton!
      I’m glad you liked this article.
      It’s great that you are working on improving your strategic thinking skills!

      – I liked this article a lot. (we put “a lot”after the object, and in this case, it’s only “a lot”.
      “a lot of”is used with nouns. Please watch for more details: https://businessfluency.com.br/video-classes/diferentes-formas-de-dizer-muito/)

      – It made me think (“made”is more appropriate than “gave” in this context)

      – new ways (adjectives never change! Please watch: https://businessfluency.com.br/video-classes/regras-no-uso-de-adjetivos-em-ingles/)

      – working on improving my strategic thinking (please watch: https://businessfluency.com.br/video-classes/preposicoes-com-work/)

      – how I can contribute… (in this case, we don’t need inversion as this is not a question. Please watch: https://businessfluency.com.br/video-classes/inversoes-em-ingles/)

  10. Hi Everyone!

    I hope you’re fine.

    It’s been a big challenge for me, to learn a new language and put in practice the same time, however, my job doesn’t ask for it. I work in a purshising area, currentely i’m supervisor by the corporative stratic buys, i need to analisy the work them and report for my boss.

    I’m grattifull for meet your method Ho Mien Mien, because i had other stratigic thinking about my plans and you’re helps me a lot

    1. Hello, Melissa!
      Excellent, I’m glad you like my method. 🙂

      – at the same time
      – purchasing
      – I supervise the corporate strategic purchases
      – need to analyse their work (whose?)
      – report to my boss
      – grateful to learn about your method
      – you’re helping

  11. Hello guys! I hope you’re all right. I am writing from Mozambique, Maputo city.

    Before reading this article I had no idea about strategic thinking skills, and now, I realize how important it is to develop and demonstrate these skills if we want to be the best at what we do and communicate effectively.

    Thank You Ho Mien Mien. These marathons have helped me a lot to develop my business English, as well as opening my mind to new ideas.
    From now on I intend to work on my strategic thinking skills and be better day by day.

    1. Hello, Chelsea!
      Wow, nice! It’s great to have people from other countries here. 🙂

      I’m glad that the marathons have helped you develop your Business English skills, as well as other business skills.

  12. Hello guys,

    I saw the Tim’s history with my own professional case. Years ago I was invited to work in a multinational company and three years later I left that big and wonderful company because I coudn’t bring to the strategic meetings my market , knowledge skills and share with them important insights about our market. It’s happened due to my poor bussines English vocabulary skills, and this time I intend to solve it, definitely. I hope this course can help to achive my goal in a few weeks or months. Please Teacher Ho Mien, you are my last frontier.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Marcelo.
      I’m sorry to know that you left this wonderful company because of your poor Business English skills.

      With dedication and the right method, you’ll definitely reach your career goals!
      Count on us to help you improve your Business English skills.

      – I saw Tim’s story (we don’t use “the” before names)
      – couldn’t
      – business
      – achieve

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