By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 4-12-2010
Takeaways: Networking strategically requires a little planning so you have one or more specific outcomes you want to achieve, such as meeting someone in particular. We hear a lot about strategic thinking, but what does it really mean? What does it mean to think strategically, let alone ACT strategically?
Thinking strategically is thinking with conscious intent. It encompasses a way of thinking that is holistic, involving the world around you, not just focusing on the details of your project or event. Think of it as a state of BEING vs. a state of DOING. Strategic thinking is about what, who and where you want to BE in a given point in the future….what outcome you want to have for a project or issue. It’s not about HOW you Do the work, but rather what the end result FEELS and LOOKS like.
I attend a lot of networking events. For each one, I need to plan ahead what I want to accomplish at each event. What is the purpose of attending the event? Do I have a goal of how many people I want to meet? What will I say when they ask me what I do? What will I ask them and why? And where is the event anyway? I need to plan the most direct route there from wherever I might be.
That’s thinking strategically….looking ahead at some future date or time, identifying the outcomes or expectations that I want to accomplish, setting some metrics so I know how well I did (or didn’t do), and planning my arrival so I can minimize my travel time and accomplish my objectives. I also need to have some key strategies and actions in mind that will help me accomplish my desired outcomes. Who I want to meet, what I intend to say, how I will follow up after the event.
Think about applying this thinking to your business each day. What are your outcomes for today? What measures will you use to identify your level of success in achieving these outcomes? Do you need input from others and if so, who are they and what input or resources do you need? Then list the strategies and actions to achieve these outcomes. At the end of the day, look at your plan. How well did you do? Did you take the actions you had planned or did other things get in the way?
We offer a variety of workshops and webinars on strategic and systems thinking to help leaders at all levels learn to internalize this new way of thinking. It’s new because in North America we’ve been trained to think analytically instead of strategically. We start with where we are today and jump right in to solving problems without any idea of what we’re really trying to achieve.
Many of us attend networking events the same way. We just show up, sometimes late, with no real plan in mind as to who we want to meet and what we want to achieve. At the event, we stand around with a few people we know and never meet anyone else. Then when it’s over we lament about how much of a time waster it was. When in reality, we could have made it much more worthwhile if we just took the time to plan in advance!
It’s like setting sail and pointing the boat out of the harbor with no plan in mind about what destination you’re headed towards, what storms might be brewing that you’ll have to deal with, whether or not you have enough food and fuel for the journey ahead, etc. Not very smart or strategic is it?
Yet that’s how we run our businesses, focusing on the day-to-day, and forgetting about the future we’re trying to create, until we wake up one day and wonder why things aren’t going the way we thought they would. A little more time thinking and planning before acting will make a world of difference in our results.