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The Strategy Skills Every Business Leader Needs to Know

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As a leader, you have to undertake many roles to drive your team towards success.

You need to have the communication skills to keep everyone on the same page, and the creative skills to come up with new ideas, but you also need to have a good range of strategic skills if you want your team to stay ahead.

Developing your strategic skills is an important task for anyone who sees themselves managing teams in the future. Strategic planning helps you to plan for the future, come up with attainable goals, and overcome challenges that your business encounters – and as a manager, you’re the one that has to lead on all these things.

What is strategic thinking?

Strategic thinking is a term that encompasses all the skills a manager needs in order to solve problems and plan for the future.

It refers to the skills that will help you overcome obstacles, achieve your business objectives, and address any challenges that come your way.

There are four main parts to strategic thinking that all managers should consider:

  • Analytical skills: The ability to analyze a variety of inputs (like financial data, market information or internal resources) and create a strategy that considers all of these things.
  • Communication skills: Knowing how to communicate complex ideas to your teams, encourage collaboration and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Problem-solving skills: As a manager, you’ll have to deal with a wide range of different problems, but knowing how to solve these in an effective way, with minimal disruption, is a critical skill.
  • Planning and management skills: Knowing the best way to implement your strategies, and how to bring your team and all their ideas together cohesively.

Important strategy execution skills

If you want to take your business to the next level, you’ll need some of these important strategy execution skills.

1.   The ability to manage strategic risk

Every decision that you make as a manager involves some kind of risk, with some courses of action being higher risk than others.

But knowing which risks to take and which aren’t worth it is an important part of your role as a manager, especially when it comes to strategy execution.

In any decision you make, there are three main types of risk that you must consider:

  • Operations risk: a risk that could impact the way your goods and services flow
  • Competitive risk: risks that could affect your ability to remain competitive and differentiate yourselves from your competition
  • Asset impairment risk: risks in which your assets (physical, intellectual property or financial) could lose significant value

When it comes to making decisions and implementing your strategy, you must think about the likelihood of these risks causing an issue.

Any new strategy involves a lot of change, so having the foresight to know what kind of risks you may be coming up against is an important consideration for all leaders.

2.   The ability to delegate effectively

You cannot do everything yourself when you’re implementing a new strategy, you must delegate some of the tasks to other employees.

As a manager of a team, you should already have a good understanding of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You should understand who is best at what and assign people to tasks that are rewarding and aligned with their role.

Managers should aim to give their employees tasks that give them control, influence and accountability – you should always be there to support them if necessary, however.

3.   An understanding of the 4 P’s of strategy

When it comes to strategy, there are four P’s that demonstrate the primary purpose of strategy in a business, which are:

  • Strategy as patterns of action: The ability to identify information so your company can adapt and stay relevant.
  • Strategy as a perspective: Using your strategy to outline your wider goals and encourage employees.
  • Strategy as plans: Specific goals and measures that your strategy outlines.
  • Strategy as position: The competitive position your business takes in its industry.

You should outline every strategy with the use of the four P’s, as this will help you better communicate with employees and execute your strategy effectively across different channels.

4.   Creating value beyond financial performance

Creating value for your business is not all about improving your sales and maximizing your profit, it can be much more than that.

Intangible assets like brand loyalty, customer relationships, research capabilities, employee satisfaction etc. are important measures of value to which all companies can pay attention.

The most successful leaders are those who can create strategies that balance both profitability and non-financial value. It’s often the things that can’t be measured in financial terms that can make or break a company – such as public opinion, customer satisfaction or employee motivation.

How can you improve your strategic thinking skills?

If you’re a manager that’s hoping to improve their strategic thinking skills, here are just a few things that you can do when it comes to generating and implementing your company’s next strategy:

  • Ask strategic questions. For example:
    • How can we strategically position ourselves in a new market?
    • What is the direction of growth for our product?
    • How can we respond to a threat by a disruptive competitor?
  • Consider all sides of the argument
  • Enrolling in formal strategic thinking training
  • Take time out to observe and reflect
  • Keep up to date with all the latest industry trends
  • Adopt a culture of constant learning within your team
  • Be proactive
  • Keep an eye on your competitors at all times

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