For the better part of my career, professional nirvana has been getting a seat at the strategic table (oh, yeah… swimming pools and movie stars!).
Few topics capture our professional imaginations more than joining the organizational in-crowd and gaining a voice in setting strategic direction.
Departmental leaders want in as a way to validate the critical contributions their departments make.
Vendors dream of being invited in the strategic conversation because their participation is a public acknowledgement of their favored-status and allows them to steer future needs of the organization to solutions they’re uniquely prepared to solve.
Individuals want in that room too. Earning a seat at the table as an individual is better than inclusion in any high-potential leader program because you get to be there – visibly doing the job that leaders do – anticipating change, aligning resources and crafting vision.
Here are a few things to consider as you find your way into the strategic conversation:
- Validate that the conversation exists in your, or your customer’s, organization. For some organizations you are more likely to spot a Unicorn than you are to find a formal strategic conversation. If you find yourself in this situation, identify the informal process that drives strategic development and jump in. Chances are you’ll have multiple entry points into the discussion – work it and it could work out nicely for you!
- Create your own table…if you missed out on the big strategic discussion, that’s okay, the organization still has lots of strategy work to do to bring their vision to life… think though what those actions may be and inject yourself into those conversations – in effect, create your own table. Often, the value of your contributions may be greater in helping turn strategic direction into tactical actions.
- Hang with the big dogs… If you want to be a part of the strategic conversation, find some way to be a part of the executive team – and I’m not talking titles here. It is not uncommon that executive assistants, interns and other people find a way to become part of an executive’s day-to-day operations, simply becoming part of the team because they are always around… so, hang out!
- Take your shot… When you do secure a spot in the strategic conversation, be prepared with your best contributions and don’t hesitate to speak up. Quite and polite might make your mom proud but it generally won’t impress top executives.
It’s time to move to the big table… you get better dishes, cushions on the seats and there isn’t a TV-tray in sight!