Strategic Thinking Beyond the C-Suite

Picture of man holding a graph“I need my team members to be more strategic in their thinking.”

It’s a phrase often used by CEOs when seeking ways to advance their leadership teams. However, if you presume that strategic reasoning is reserved solely for senior executives, think again. Strategic thinking must be present at every level as an understood function of each job description. Integrating strategic thinking as a consistent undertaking of on-the-job duties requires a straightforward approach with particular direction. Here’s how to be more strategic in your current role.

Be a trend spotter.

It’s simple to roll up your sleeves and get to the business-as-usual approach of running the credit union, branch, or department. You have loans to fund, accounts to open, and members to serve, after all. But, as you teach your front-line leaders, you can’t be simply an order-taker. You need to always be on the watch for new opportunities.

Subscribe to daily email updates from credit union news providers. Read monthly publications focused on financial services. Look at retail services, too. How are consumer-facing companies selling to, interacting with, and serving their customers? How are the same customers interacting with those companies? Considering what you learn inside and out of the industry, which trends and business drivers affect your credit union? How could your credit union fuse those trends into daily operations?

See the world through others’ eyes.

Take the ideas you’ve established from trend spotting and seek observations from colleagues in your credit union. How might your proposal affect lending, branch operations, or technology? Where might it add to an existing initiative or pose a conflict? Invite challenge to your observations as you work through a “go, no-go” type of internal analysis.

Industry events, conferences, and gatherings can bring insights. Chat about your strategic ideas with impartial credit union leaders. How can they add to your understanding and what can you learn from their views?  Members offer great value, too. As the end users of your products and experiences, what are you learning from members? Others’ eyes can help strengthen and refine your concepts.

Tie decisions to strategy.

Every day, you’re asked to make decisions that aren’t driven by policy or regulation. They’re business decisions and judgment calls. Understanding your credit union’s strategic goals, defined at the deepest level, brings strategic focus to daily decisions. When you recognize your credit union’s long-term outcomes, your daily approaches are more concentrated.

Share your credit union’s strategic objectives and measures with your colleagues. Give examples of how daily decisions drive strategic success (revenue, loans, loyalty, market share, etc.). Then, look to positively affect and celebrate each opportunity to influence strategic issues through your unique point of view.

It’s been said that “structure creates freedom.” Use these defined, key skills to demonstrate your expertise as you go about the daily business of thinking and acting strategically. As leaders, either in the C-Suite or on your way there, you will think, contribute, and participate at a higher level, acting in the strategic interests of your members and their credit union.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.

For more information on Rising Above Enterprises, connect with Kaitlin Ramos at Strategic Link.