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Strategic thinking

Brain Circuits

Checklist: Are you demonstrating strategic thinking to your advantage?

IbyIMD+ Published 6 November 2023 in Brain Circuits • 5 min read

Strategic thinking is key to career advancement – but communicating it to others is just as important. Ask yourself these 10 questions to find more ways to demonstrate your strategic abilities to others.

Want to get ahead in the business world? Then start talking strategy. Careers thrive when good leadership skills are clearly on display. Here is a checklist to raise awareness regarding what you are – and are not yet –communicating.

If your honest answer is “no” to any of these queries, look to the advice that directly follows.

In meetings of strategic importance, do you:

1. … articulate the bigger-picture narrative?

If not, remember to

Elevate your perspective to help shape the context in which details can then be explored.

2. … demonstrate your capacity for long-term thinking?

If not, remember to

Be forward-looking: Make multi-year projections for your organization’s future.

3. … communicate the potential impacts of decisions on the table?

If not, remember to

Show that you can anticipate effectively by bringing up some possible unintended consequences and broader effects of your options.

4. … delve below the surface to explain important interconnections?

If not, remember to

Put your integrative and holistic thought process on display to connect disparate concepts.

5. … break down complex situations to their essence in your explanations?

If not, remember to

Show your understanding by speaking in simple yet powerful terms.

Careers thrive when good leadership skills are clearly on display.
“Careers thrive when good leadership skills are clearly on display.”

6. … translate jargon and make comparisons to paint a clear picture?

If not, remember to

Use analogies and metaphors to make strategies more relatable and vivid for your audience.

7. … encourage dialogue and collaborations?

If not, remember to

Ask questions that prompt discussions to help refine ideas and get others to adopt a strategic mindset.

8. … ground your insights by bringing up the current realities faced?

If not, remember to

Show that you are well-informed by citing relevant research and trends.

9. … demonstrate your ability to listen actively?

If not, remember to

Build on what’s been said already, when relevant, to incorporate disparate views and activate the group’s collective intelligence.

10. … ask for feedback?

If not, remember to

Seek suggestions that demonstrate your commitment to improvement and growth via continuous learning.

Further reading: 

For more ideas and sample language to accompany each of the checklist items, check out 10 Ways to Prove You’re a Strategic Thinker by Brenda Steinberg and Michael D Watkins.

The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking: Leading Your Organization into the Future by Michael D Watkins is available for preorder before its January 2024 publication date. 


Brenda Steinberg

IMD Coach

Brenda Steinberg is an executive coach and leadership consultant with more than 20 years’ experience working with senior leaders. She contributes regularly to executive education programs at IMD and works as a consultant with Genesis Advisers.

Michael Watkins - IMD Professor

Michael D. Watkins

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD

Michael D Watkins is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD, and author of The First 90 Days, Master Your Next Move, Predictable Surprises, and 12 other books on leadership and negotiation. His book, The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking, explores how executives can learn to think strategically and lead their organizations into the future. A Thinkers 50-ranked management influencer and recognized expert in his field, his work features in HBR Guides and HBR’s 10 Must Reads on leadership, teams, strategic initiatives, and new managers. Over the past 20 years, he has used his First 90 Days® methodology to help leaders make successful transitions, both in his teaching at IMD, INSEAD, and Harvard Business School, where he gained his PhD in decision sciences, as well as through his private consultancy practice Genesis Advisers. At IMD, he directs the First 90 Days open program for leaders taking on challenging new roles and co-directs the Transition to Business Leadership (TBL) executive program for future enterprise leaders.


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