Thinking Strategically: An Example by Dr Paul Robinson

One of the eight factors in the 360 Leadership Behaviours Profile (LBP) recognises the importance of thinking strategically and then putting those thoughts into action.

To illustrate the power of the LBP as a feedback tool, the following coaching advice was written into Mark’s LBP report. Mark is a subject manager who was looking to improve in this area, having considered the scores and written feedback from seven other colleagues who contributed to his profile.

The following text is presented in the form of giving that manager some specific suggestions.

  • In thinking about where the team will be, say in 3 years, you will need to think about key aspects of that future picture. Mentally take a walk into that future, see what it looks like, and write it down. Imagine yourself driving to work three years from now. What is the scope of the operation, the size, its structure, the key performance indicators? Also what is the image the team has? Then by discussing it with the team a fleshed out vision can be determined.

  • Practise developing models which express issues clearly for yourself and others, e.g. use diagrams, draw pictures, draw an analogy with a familiar situation.

  • Effective leaders are always enthusiastic about the future vision. This acts as a stimulifor others which when coupled with actual progress is a great source of motivation.Others take their mood from you. Even if you feel despondent sometimes make the effort to see opportunities. Be enthusiastic and inspire others to follow your lead.

  • A positive and inspirational quality can evolve by tapping into the team's innovative ideas and showing them their part in this exciting future. When you approach problems, either individually or in a group setting, go through a 'brainstorming' process before you draw conclusions or make decisions. This involves taking the time to think of and jot down as many possibilities as you or the group can think of in a limited period of time. Such possibilities may cover causes, ideas, solutions, steps, processes, or decisions. Do not evaluate or critique these possibilities until you have exhausted all ideas. The purpose of this exercise is to stimulate creative ideas and break out of traditional thinking paths.

  • Set the expectation within your team that creative ideas and innovative solutions are highly valued. Make creativity and innovation a specific, explicit part of your organisational mission, goals and standards. Having achieved an understanding and commitment to the picture the team is trying to create the leader's job has only just started.

  • Constant progressive visioning is necessary. Regular review and update on progress is a great way to keep the momentum going. For example, at say a monthly budget review where shorter term performance is considered, the leader needs to frame progress and trends in the context of the visionary destination. Encourage the team to consider whether short term progress is going to be enough to take them where they want to go. If not then they either need to do something radically different or adapt the end picture.

  • Develop an annual planning approach for your entire entity that establishes major objectives, primary action steps, target and review dates, and expected measurable results. Map these action plans out on an annual calendar and review it monthly with your team members.

  • Use meetings and one on one encounters to emphasise the positive. Discuss new opportunities, positive trends, successful progress and potential targets. This will keep the energy flowing in others.

  • Place emphasis on continuous widespread involvement of all parts of the team in the strategic planning process.

  • Discuss your conceptual thinking and "big picture" planning strengths and weaknesses in detail with someone more senior than you. Ask for suggestions and periodic feedback regarding your efforts to become conceptually broader in your problem solving and planning activities.

  • In your discussions and interactions with others, work at identifying and communicating key themes, advanced concepts and broad issues that are relevant to the problem or topic at hand. You can do the same with your written communications both to your own team members and to your manager and peers in the organisation.

  • Communicate your entity's major objectives and expected measureable results to other key stakeholders. Look at how to integrate with their plans.

  • Take an active role in developing substantive organisation-wide policies. Do some in-depth reading and research on current concepts in the area, in preparation for a written policy recommendation. Ask yourself what new ideas or trends you have recently taken up?

The advice given to Mark, through his LBP feedback report has resulted in him putting together a clear action plan. Improving his Strategic orientation has had significant benefits for himself and his team.

More information on the Leadership Behaviours Profile can be found at

© Copyright TLS 2012

Dr Paul Robinson
CEO Team Leadership Services (