Ask an Exec: 3 Components of a Good Strategy

What’s the most challenging career transition for any up-and-coming leader to make? Without a doubt, it is making the leap from doing to leading.

You’ve seen it happen: A high performing employees derails  their career by thinking that they can keep succeeding as a solo star, and as a result, suffers a spectacular, career-limiting, flame-out.

To ease yourself through that transition, one step you can—and should—take now, is to focus less on the tactical aspects of your work, and pay closer attention to  strategy.

In her position as vice president of strategy at Medtronic, Ellie Pidot works closely with the CEO and senior management team to lead the development of corporate strategy and improve the quality of strategic decision-making companywide.

Pidot recommends that any good strategy needs three characteristics: to be forward looking, aspirational and grounded in facts.

Step 1: Focus Forward

Pidot advises that to be truly effective, a strategy must be forward-focused.

“To move from getting caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of the job and become more strategic, you need to be looking ahead,” Pidot advises.

But how? She recommends asking yourself, “What is the world going to look like, five or 10 years from now? How are the dynamics that I am operating in going to change over time? How can I put into place a set of actions to get me to where the world is going to be?”

Being more predictive, versus more reactive, will help us all to focus more on the future and the past, and start thinking ahead rather than looking behind.

Step 2: Keep Your Eyes on the Stars, But Your Feet on the Ground

A good strategy needs to be aspirational, while recognizing your starting point and constraints.

“You need to be bold enough in your aspirations that you can get excited about it because you are going to spend a lot of time working on your strategy,” Pidot stresses. “But at the same time recognize where you are today, and what constraints you might have on the potential actions that are at your disposal.”

Every job has “guardrails,” Pidot warns, but those inevitable limitations can’t define your goals – or career. “It is a careful balance,” she warns. “You can’t get too far ahead of yourself, but at the same time you don’t want to limit yourself.”

Step 3: Be Fact Based

A common misconception about strategy is that it requires thinking at the high level and not digging down into the detail it requires to effectively perform day-to-day tasks.

So, how can we get out of “detail mode” and be more strategic in our thinking?

Pidot advises: “One of the common reasons that strategies fail is that they are not grounded in facts, data and a deep understanding of your customers and business environment. One of the most important elements of strategy is moving away from ‘managing by anecdote’ and developing a much more systematic approach using facts, data and analysis.”

By following Ellie Pidot’s three components of a good strategy, you can move from doing to leading, from tactician to strategist, and become a “go to” person for all things forward focused, aspirational and fact-based.

To hear my conversation with Ellie Pidot watch “Being Strategic” available immediately when you register for the Emerging Women Leaders Webinar Series.

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Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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