This is the introduction to the series: You Need A Strategy! No matter what is going on in your life or your career, creating a strategy is one of the most empowering things that you can do to guarantee success and happiness.
First thing to know: a strategy is not a plan! This is important, because a lot of times we confuse strategy with something called a strategic plan. And that’s just an excuse to jump into action. If you jump straight into action, the chances are really high that you are either going to a) make a mess that you have to untangle or b) run around ineffectively, wasting a lot of time and energy. You can’t get the time back, you know.
In my practice as a coach, I like to create transferable skills, by taking something from the world of business and translating it so that it is useful in our personal world (and vice versa, of course!) So let’s try that trick here; let’s look at strategy in business. There can be different levels of strategy, and they need to be aligned to be successful. The corporate strategy is overarching. The component parts of the organization – business divisions, functional units, teams and individuals – all have strategies and goals that support the corporate strategy.
So to translate from business into life, you might have an overarching life strategy, and supporting strategies that focus on the areas of career, family, health, lifestyle, etc. Chances are you haven’t thought in these terms, and the idea of a “family strategy” seems cold and calculating. It’s just semantics. In reality, you’ve probably had an idea of whether or not you wanted to marry, have children, how many you wanted and when, what kind of home you wanted to live in, etc. You’ve probably had hopes and dreams for all of these things. (Life has probably thrown you a couple of curve balls, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) That’s a strategy. Maybe it’s really well thought out, maybe not. But when you really know what you want, you know what steps to take to make it happen, right? That’s a strategy.
In this series, I’m focusing mostly on career strategy, but it is really important to remember that your career is just one facet of your life, and you want to think of it in context. There is no one-size-fits-all career strategy – no matter what anyone says – your parents, your boss or anyone else who wants to weigh in! Your career strategy is unique to you.
Okay, back to work here. Corporate strategy generally answers the question “what do we need to do to win in our market?” and drives the direction, scope, structure, objectives and decisions for an organization.
Great, let’s translate that. “What do I need to do to have a successful and happy life?” Remember, this is YOUR definition of success, not someone else’s. So your strategy is going to answer
THAT question, and it will help you make decisions, take actions, set goals, identify and build foundations and structure that steer your life in that direction. A strategy helps you to identify your north star, so that you can make sure that the actions you take move you in the right direction. Once you know your overall strategy, your develop a career strategy that supports and enables your life strategy.
Choosing your strategy, your direction, means that there is some risk, because you are really just guessing at what lies ahead. You’ve heard people say “take a SWAG”, right? Well the “s” usually stands for scientific (Wild Assed Guess). We’re going to change it to “strategic”, but it’s still a bit of a guess and a risk. You are choosing something(s), and deciding not to go with something(s) else.
Maybe you’ve had difficulty making decisions in the past, out of fear that you might get it wrong. Or you suffer from analysis paralysis. You take few, if any, actions. (Which, by the way is the passive-aggressive style of making choices!) Or you make an absolutely completely comprehensive plan, which pretty much locks you in. Well, a strategy is a choice, but you can adjust along the way. You’ve probably heard the quotes about planes being off course most of the time, and that piloting is really a series of course corrections. Your life is like that, too, and you will be able to handle what life throws at you – including the career bumps, tailwinds and headwinds – waaay more effectively if you have a navigational strategy.
Conceptually, that makes sense, right? I bet you still want to jump straight into action. Okay, jump into action on creating your strategy!
Here are the steps:
- Take the lead
- Get Clarity (vision, mission and values)
- Curiosity (research, analysis)
- Call Out Your Assumptions
- Craft Your Strategy
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting more on these steps. I’m also publishing a book on the topic September 1. So weigh in with comments if you’d like me to give some attention to a specific topic or question!
So to sum it all up, your strategy is your navigational guide for your life. It allows you to react to the things that life throws at you, and still keep moving in the direction that you want. A career strategy is a part of your overall life strategy. Having a career strategy enables you to take the reins in the next steps of your career journey.
In the midst of a career crisis or transition? Sound like the kind of things you’re thinking about? Want help thinking through your strategy? Request a Strategy Session. Email to set it up: email@example.com.
Maggie Huffman is a best-selling author and Life Coach, specializing in making business skills “transferable” to life skills!0