🎙️Show Notes for Episode 039 - 3 Steps to Become a Strategic Thinker (an IC Business Owner Success Habit)Dec 08, 2021
Strategic thinking is the ability to innovate, approach a goal from the bigger picture, and/or problem-solve more creatively. It’s the unlocking of ideas, solutions, concepts, frameworks, methodologies, and approaches that you can be leveraging to take yourself or a client from point A to point B and to overcome, avoid and minimize the obstacles that invariably happen along the way.
Spending the time to think strategically and purposefully is a critical component to the success of your consulting business. When you’re not making strategic thinking part of our success habits you're basically acting like an employee would and waiting on your client to tell you what to do. The result is other people are managing your priorities and ultimately the strategy of your business as a result.
And so in this episode, we're going to dive into strategic thinking, which is one of the most, if not the most important success habits you could have as a business owner, to make sure that you are incorporating it effectively as you're running your business.
Listen in as I discuss the three steps to developing the success habit of becoming a strategic thinker:
[01:16] Why this habit
[03:56] What is strategic thinking
[05:14] Why strategic thinking is so important
[07:14] Why aren't we practicing the habit of strategic thinking
The three-part formula to put strategic thinking into practice
[15:43] What the habit of strategic thinking looks like
[16:16] Positive, empowering, focused questions to ask yourself:
- How can I solve XYZ?
- How am I going to______?
- How can I _____?
- What are the 10 things I could do to reach this ____?
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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*
Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I'm Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too, listen on to find out how. Welcome back to
the podcast, or if you're new here, welcome to this episode. I'm so excited that you're here. And I'm thrilled to share with you that I'm going to be starting a series on success habits for the independent consultant business owner. And today is the first in that series where we're going to dive into one of the most if not the most important success habit you could have as a business owner, and make sure that you are incorporating it as you're running your business and treating it as one of the top priorities that you've got. So before I tell you what it is, I just want to share with you a little bit about why this topic why is this coming into play this week? And the answer is, this is an area that I see as one of the biggest regrets when I talk to clients or potential clients about their business. It's one of the biggest regrets I hear up and down the spectrum, you know, working with eight figure independent consulting business owners, seven figure business owner, six figure business owners, newer business owners, but especially those that have had their business for a while looking back and asking them the question of what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it over again? And what do you wish you were doing more of and why. And as I asked that question of those clients, and also of myself, the most common themes I will say is I just don't spend enough time thinking, I don't spend enough time thinking about the strategy of my company, the strategy of certain client management, you know, that I need to facilitate. I just don't spend enough time thinking, I know I need to spend the time thinking, but I just don't do it. And days go by and weeks go by. And I know that it's important, but it just isn't happening. And that's one of my biggest regrets. I hear it time and time again, like I said, from every level of the spectrum, in terms of you know, earning amounts, that this is such a critical success factor, the ability to think strategically, and to carve out the time to think strategically. But so many of us just aren't making it happen. And so today, I want to focus this podcast on the success habit of strategic thinking, and the three steps that I will walk you through to become a strategic thinker, and to incorporate that as a non negotiable habit in your business, and why it's so important to do so. So that's what we're focused on today. Let's dive in. I'm going to walk you through a little bit more about why this topic and then we're going to talk about why thinking is so so important, why spending the time thinking strategically and purposefully is such a critical component to the success of your business. And then I'm going to walk you through what that three part formula is how to put this into practice, how to carve out the time for the thinking for the strategic thinking, how to make it effective as you're going through a strategic thinking, exercise, and ultimately how to build it into a habit in your business. So that is our focus for today. Let's talk about what is strategic thinking. And why is it so important? Strategic Thinking, in a nutshell is the ability to think in a bigger picture about a problem or a goal that you have. So it could be relative to your business. It could be you know, strategically thinking about what you want the roadmap for your business to be over the next three to five years. If you know where you're going, you're going to get there if you just kind of let things unfold, who knows where you're going to end up, right? Strategic Thinking is that unlocking of ideas and solutions, and concepts and frameworks and methodologies and approaches that you can be leveraging to take yourself or a client from point A over to point B and to overcome and avoid and minimize the obstacles that invariably happen along the way. When I talk about strategic thinking that's the picture that I'm wanting to paint for you. Having that ability to take a step back and look at the bigger picture from a different angle in order to solve a problem and or to reach a goal, as we're talking about this success habit of strategic thinking, that's the picture that I want to paint for you as to what it actually is. And then the next question becomes why do it? So why is this important? Essentially, in a nutshell, you spending time thinking strategically, is the difference between you being a business owner who's thinking about, you know, where you're headed, how you're going to get there, who you're going to take along with you, why you're going there, what your potential roadblocks are, to anticipate those how to overcome the ones you've hit. All of that is the difference between you being a business owner, and you being an employee who's basically recreated the job they had in corporate, when you're not thinking strategically, when you're not making this part of your success habits of your business routines, you're essentially acting as an employee would, and waiting for people to tell you what to do, right? The client tells you where to be or what needs to be done. And you go and do that. You have other people, basically managing your priorities, and ultimately, the strategy for your business as a result. So hopefully, you'll agree with me that it really is so crucial to have that time to think, to get out of the day to day, get out of the weeds, and to really think at a bigger picture about where it is that you want to be going and how you can get there and put all of those puzzle pieces together for yourself. I'm not sharing rocket science with you here, right? We all know that strategic thinking, at least on the surface of it is important. You probably worked in corporate in some leadership role prior to becoming a consultant and running a business, you've probably had the same types of challenges needing to be able to have that time to think strategically so that you could lead your business unit where it needed to go, right, we all know logically how important it is to spend time thinking strategically and looking at the bigger picture. So then the next question becomes, why aren't we doing it? The bottom line of why I see so many people's skipping this important success habit. And believe me, they are independent consultants are consultants running agencies that are making eight figures, seven figures, six figures, all the way down to newer individuals. The reason why this is such a theme across the board, regardless of revenue level, is because at the heart of it, we think it's a waste of time, something else is more important. We're not sure how to make it effective. And so we create all these stories in our mind about how X, Y or Z is more important right now. And we'll do this later, we'll do this strategic thinking later. We'll do it later, when we don't feel so wrapped up from the day. We'll do it later, when we feel clearer. We'll do it later, when we have a good span of time available to us. Uninterrupted span of time you and I both know all of the excuses that we make to continuously defer the strategic thinking habit that's so critical for you as a business owner, is actually very ironic, because actually, if you sat down and created some space to have strategic thinking time, you could solve the problem of how can I free up the time to spend on strategic thinking, if you see what I'm saying very ironic in that way. But the point here is, the reason why we're not doing it is because we're thinking that we can't make it effective, we're thinking that something else is more important. And we're believing all of those excuses and justifications, and quite frankly, lies that we're telling ourselves about how we don't have enough time to do it. How now isn't the right time to think strategically, later will be better. And then we ended up never doing it. It's like a bad diet. So let's just talk about how to overcome that phenomenon and get you to the place where you have a solid, consistent, effective success habit of strategic thinking. And that's where I want to dive into those three steps. And let me just preface this by saying I just have to share with you, you know, for a long time when I was in corporate, I thought of myself as someone who was not a strategic thinker, like I was missing that gene are some brain cells that other people got. I definitely didn't see myself as a strategic thinker. It felt like a weak point for me. I leaned on thinking about myself as someone who was incredibly good at operationalizing but I'm not very good at the strategy that I would just, you know, really good at taking other people's strategy other people who are more more innovative than I was and making it come to life. life through operationalizing it, that was a story I told myself in corporate. And you might be in a similar boat where it just feels like this isn't even possible. For me, I'm not even someone who can think strategically. And so I'm just gonna focus on what I'm good at, I'm going to focus on delivering, I'm going to focus on client management. And I'm not going to spend so much time on the strategic side of it, because it's not my strength. What I want to share with you is this is a skill you can build. It's a skill that you can build, I assure you, I've come from what I just described to you as thinking, I just literally didn't have that in my DNA to someone who's a very strategic thinker, both for my own business and for my clients, businesses, and making that leap from where I was to where I am now happen because of these three steps that I'm going to give you. And so that's what I want to share with you is even if you think you're great at strategy, and you just haven't carved out the time to prioritize it, or you think you're bad at it, and it's like a hopeless cause you'll focus on what you're really good at, I just want to share with you that these three steps are going to work for you either way. So let's dive into what the three steps are. First of all, the first step of creating a strategic thinking practice or habit for yourself is to carve out the time, pretty obvious. You got to get it in your calendar. You know, a lot of times we defer this type of thing to, you know, when I have time, I'll do that when I you know, when I have a pocket? I don't know where that pocket comes miraculously. But it doesn't, it doesn't, right, we tell ourselves that I know, I've done that for a long time telling myself well, you know, Friday mornings, I'm going to have some space to think. But then I let other things consume it if I don't block off the time. And so the simplest part of this process, step one is block off the time and mean it don't block off the time thinking, well, this is my buffer, I know I'm gonna end up scheduling it over it, but I'll put it here anyway. No, you schedule the time, as if you were meeting with the CEO, which you are, you are the CEO, you're not going to miss a meeting with the CEO. So don't meet it miss a meeting with yourself, like make it that level of a commitment, a non negotiable. This is a success habit that should be non negotiable for you, to help you get where you want to go in your business, and not let other people run your business, which ends up taking you who knows where is the destination. So step one is for you to schedule the time for the strategic thinking in your calendar. And you can start off with half an hour a week, we don't have to make this like a three hour block to start with, you might want to get there over time, or you might not whatever it is, but just start with something that's realistic, that's a non negotiable, that you treat, like you would treat a meeting with a CEO, and you are the CEO in this case, and it takes an emergency in order to move it. That's step one, again, from the place of being committed to this because you know, it's going to reap you the benefits. So we've been talking about the second step of this process is to pre plan what it is you're going to focus on for that strategic thinking time, don't start the time with just a blank piece of paper sack going to be effective at all, think about what is the outcome that you want to accomplish in that period of time. And the way I love to do this is to write out questions for myself, what are the two questions that I want to answer in this 30 minute block? What is the one problem that I want to address in this 30 minute block and get yourself to the place where you've got that pre planned and you're not just sitting down with a piece of paper, you know, when you scheduled it and wondering what you're going to do with the time because then you're just going to go off and do something else. So that's the second part of the formula is to pre plan what it is that you want to be strategically thinking about. And I'll give you some examples here in a minute. The third important component to this is when you start executing your thinking time, your strategic thinking time is to really manage your mind around it. And by that I mean thinking about it as I am a strategic thinker. I can solve these problems this time is valuable. If you go into this with a skeptical attitude or thinking about yourself like I was sharing with you that I did. I'm an operational iser, I'm not a strategic thinker, then you're just downgrading the quality of what's going to come out. So really thinking that third component or the third leg of the stool here is thinking about yourself as a strategic thinker, creating that self concept I am a strategic thinker, I'm committed to strategic thinking, I've got it in my calendar, it's a priority, it's a non negotiable for me, I have a plan of what I'm going to focus on. And I am a strategic thinker, that's going to uplevel, the quality of what comes out for you. So those are the three steps are the three legs of the stool of this success habit. Now, let me give you a couple of examples here as we wrap up of what this would look like. And I want to really focus in on that second leg of the stool, the quality of the questions that you're asking yourself, because this is really an important nuance that you want to make sure that you're incorporating into this practice. So just to remind you, we've got the strategic thinking time planned out in your calendar, and committed to as if you were meeting with the CEO, we've got the plan of what you're going to focus on in the strategic thinking time. And we've got you thinking about yourself as a strategic thinker. As you're executing it. Those are the three legs of the stool. And so as we look at the second leg, what your plan is your agenda with yourself within the strategic thinking time, I want to share with you a concept that's really important. And that is the quality of the questions you're asking yourself. So sitting down and writing yourself a question in advance, like, how can I solve XYZ? How am I going to fill in the blank? How can I fill in the blank? Or what are the 10 things I could do to reach this, fill in the blank goal? Those are very positive, empowering, focused questions, the way I've worded those, we'll put these in the show notes. So you can see them, you do not want to phrase them as asking yourself to confirm why things are a problem. Like, Why is this hard? Why am I so bad at? Why isn't this working? Why won't blank happen? Why can't I fill in the blank? Do you see the difference between those two types of questions, hopefully, is coming through here in an audio format. The difference is, our brain is designed to answer questions in the exact way we asked them. So when you ask your brain, Why is this hard? It goes to, you know, at the beginning of your strategic thinking session, even if you do it in you don't realize you're asking yourself that question, your brain is going to go to work on answering that for you. Why is this so hard? It will find all the reasons why that is not going to help you at any level, finding evidence of why something's hard, there's nothing you can do with that. It just confirms she for you that it's hard and it sucks your energy versus how am I going to blank solve whatever problem that feels hard, right would be the fill in the blank there? How can I overcome this? How am I going to do this? How could I make this easy? How can this be simple? That's the type of question that you want to be asking yourself for that second leg of the stool. The quality of the question, you ask yourself at the beginning of this strategic thinking session is like the make it or break it. And so that part, I want to emphasize for you to sit down. One great strategy for this is to sit down on you know, when you plan out your week was Sunday night or Monday morning, when you plan out your week, you write down those three questions that you want answered this week in your strategic thinking time, what are those three questions and really spend some time crafting them in a way that will get you to the answers, unlock the answers that you want to have that you want to create, I want to leave you with a really good example of how this has happened for one of my clients, she was really struggling with just grinding it out and going through the day to day and felt like there was just no time to have this sort of strategic thinking process. But she was game for it. She was game to start implementing this success habit and implementing those three, those three steps that I shared with you earlier, the three legs of the stool, and so she came to a point where she had a workshop that she was delivering to a group of executives and hadn't planned ahead as much as she had wanted to. And so she was feeling really in a pinch. Like I don't know what I'm going to say to these executives, it's, you know, a half day workshop, it's tomorrow, you know, I've got a really big problem on my hands. And I said to her, I said, look, let's just take a step back. Because you know, it's so common and natural to be fixated on how did I get here or beating ourselves up over why I got here, all of those things that we do as humans, right? And I said to her, let's just look at this from the perspective of being really careful about the kinds of questions you're asking yourself. And she said, You know, I'm going to ask myself, how is what they're asking me to do? The same as something I've done before in the past? I don't even think had dawned on her before? I mean, it seems now looking at it an obvious question, you know, how could I reuse something, but at the time her brain was so locked into the panic of it, it was having a hard time even coming up with a solution. And so she was able to just by shifting the type of question that she asked herself the wording of the question she asked herself, she was able to remember this workshop she had done, I don't know, eight years ago or something like that? Oh, no, most of us can't remember what we did a quarter ago, so eight years ago, pulls out this presentation, makes his edits to it and delivers this, you know, executive level half day workshop to her clients. And it went off seamlessly, all by shifting the way she was wording, the question, she asked herself from a strategic thinking perspective, how can I deliver this workshop? What content could I use that I created before that's close enough that I can leverage to do this flawlessly? And she answered that question for herself and pulled herself out of the ditch as a result of it. So it can help you to solve problems in the real time like that. And the strategic thinking process I shared with you today, it can help you to think at the bigger picture at the bigger level, about your business and where you want ahead, what your revenue stream looks like how you're going to leverage subs or subcontractors, or not all of those big picture items to get you moving into the direction that you want to head and not being mired down by the day to day and feeling like you're at the mercy of your business as a result of it. So I can't tell you and implore upon you enough to put this work into practice. If you've got those regrets already, or you haven't yet, but I promise you, they're going to happen. We don't want you to feel this regret over not spending enough time and dedicating the time to thinking strategically about your business. And so go put those three legs of the stool into practice schedule and commit to the strategic thinking time that you need. Start off with half an hour a week and build up from there, then pre decide what questions you're going to ask and word them in a way that's going to lead you to unlock answers that you might not otherwise. And then thirdly, think about yourself in a way that you see yourself as a strategic thinker. If you go into the session thinking like I did, I'm really great at operations, I'm terrible at this, you're going to muddy the results that you get unnecessarily. So those are the three steps, the three legs of the stool of this really important strategic thinking success habit, go implement these in your business. And I look forward to hearing how it goes for you. If you want some more help implementing these types of strategies, this is what I do as a coach. So I recommend that you sign up for and I see Blueprint Session, we'll put the links in the notes. We'll spend an hour diving into your business and really figuring out what kind of success habits you need to implement, get clarity on where it is that your business is today. And where it is that you want to go and create a roadmap for you to get there. Those are going very well. I've got people going through that process now and I invite you to do the same. And I look forward to seeing you again next week. Take care.
Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like today's episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don't miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find a benefit to and finally to put the ideas from today's episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.