Why not everyone has to say that they want to be "strategic"

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In almost all the career/development/ coaching conversations I have had with others over the years, they will at some point say that they want to be “strategic”.

It’s like it’s some sort of badge of honour, or expectation they feel others have of them, but oftentimes, people are in fact happy to stay delivering, at the coal face, in the realm of operational demands. So why the dischord?

If we think of “being strategic” as being the need to think long term and make some attempt to see around corners, then there is the argument of course, that says that we all need to be a bit strategic in our work and home lives. But in business, not everyone can set the organisational strategy, not everyone has all of the information to make informed strategic decisions, yet it so frequently seems that people put huge pressure on themselves to be seen to be strategic. Some sort of panacea. An arrival. A sufficient enough level of seniority?

As I said these statements often appear in conversations around coaching, post development centre, or with some sort of psyschometric data to hand. What I see again and again though, is that while people say they want to be strategic, in reality the data that they give up in these psychometrics or development centres, in fact show a passion for being at the operational coal face. And let’s face it - we need these people there, passionate and able to deliver excellence in this operational zone.

So perhaps as organisations, in the cultures we drive, and in the career paths we offer, we need to be more mindful of valuing equally, those that are incredibly effective at operational work. The do-ers who get the jobs done, to a high standard and on time with effective relationships intact, over and over again!

While I would argue that it’s best for all employees to have sight of a wider organisational strategy, it would be perhaps naive to think that most people in the business can effectively inform the particulars of that strategy. Instead as a team, as a group, as a thriving organisation, let’s celebrate all the contributors who play to their strengths and are each an individual integral part of the overall business success.

I think this talk by Mark Zuckerburg tells it so well:

"One of my favorite stories is when John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: 'Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon.'"