When your boss is not a strategic thinker like you

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There are countless occasions when in my strategic thinking classes, participants invariably comment that their boss should also come for the program. Ultimately, the question arises, “What should I do when my boss is not a strategic thinker?” In this post, I shall share five tips on how to handle a boss who is not as strategic a thinker as you.

1. Keep the focus on intent

Your boss will probably go helter-skelter based on the “fires” that are raging at the moment. He might probably ask you to drop what you are doing and do something else. Well, before you drop anything, seek clarity. Get him to articulate what the intent of the activity it. Try to map that against all that you are doing now. By understanding what it is your boss is trying to do, and mapping it out in the whole scheme of things, you can also assess when, and with what resources, you can undertake these instructions. Without intent, it is really difficult.

2. Question assumptions

Invariably, everything is important and urgent, but is it? Question the assumptions feeding the notion of urgency, and rank order the work against all the others that you have in front of you. When your boss is able to see what other urgent and important tasks you are currently undertaking, and having had to articulate why this has to come out tomorrow morning as opposed to two days’ time, you would be able to help him frame the situation and decide on what has to give.

3. Provide more options

Bosses tend to be rather narrow-minded. They are framed by their own assumptions and biases, and they are almost single-minded about a solution. While this might not be a bad solution, the question, is it the best? By reframing your situation, and looking at it through different lenses, taking on several stakeholder perspectives, you might be able to come up with different – and perhaps better – options that can aid in the success of the execution.

4. Try to educate him

Try to educate him subtly. Use whatever trigger points you can get to make him think more strategically, or to use those tools. Write more papers that use these tools to help him learn. Propose new changes that showcase your strategic thinking know-how, deliberately presenting the key centres of gravity of the situation. Balance options with constraints so that you can guide him to make the right decision. By constantly exposing him to strategic thinking tools, you might just make a strategic thinker out of him!

5. Know what battles to fight

Finally – and this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? – even though he is not strategic, he is still your boss. And if you were a strategic thinker, you will know when to fight him and when not to. Sometimes, it is a matter of ego, and if he gets too much of an ego bashing, he will retaliate. Sometimes, it is a matter of him not sharing with you vital information that would have led you to conclude the same thing as he. Whatever the case, know when to stand your ground, and when to relent. That is being strategic.

I hope you find these five tips useful for you. And if you have other ways to influence your boss, why not share it?

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