Do you Plan Tactically or Strategically?

We are far better at planning for the short-term than we are for the long-term.

Think about when you get in the car. If you don’t know where you are going, you tap in the details to a sat-nav system to tell you the route. You might have an advanced system that updates itself to find quicker routes if there is traffic.

You probably know what you’re doing this weekend and maybe even the weekend after. You might even have planned your summer holiday.

These are examples of short-term ‘tactical planning’. They’re plans of minor importance in the grand scheme of things. Do you really remember what you did on this weekend two years ago or what the traffic was like during one of your journey’s last year? Probably not.

We are less good at long-term ‘strategic planning’. Ask people, ‘What does a life well-lived look like?’ and they can rarely answer the question. People talk about career plans broadly but ask them to show you their actual ‘career plan’ and they can rarely do it.

I believe that this problem is a serious issue for many people and responsible for a great deal of unhappiness.

A 2015 poll from the London School of Business Finance stated that 55% of people are unhappy in their jobs. That’s a heck of a lot of unhappy people!

But what do most people do when they don’t like their roles, they move companies but remain in the same function or sector expecting things to be different and it turns out to be the same. After a few months, they might realise they’d made a false assumption and life now feels a lot like it did in the organisation that they’ve just left.

This is the path to becoming a victim of your own decision-making.

Every decision WE make has an impact, like taking you down a path where there is a fork in the road. Circumstances and luck will play a part in presenting the ‘forks in the road’ but we always have a choice, a decision to make when faced with the unexpected. The decisions we make every single day affect the outcome of our lives.

Make better decisions, live a better life.

This is why the ‘big questions’ are so important. These are the ones that we avoid because they’re scary and daunting. But if you tackle them, you get a far greater sense of clarity on what you want.

The ‘big questions’ are truly strategic. Questions like these below.

What does a life well-lived look like to you?

What does a great job look like?

Why do you live where you live? Do you like it or would you prefer to live somewhere else?

Answer these and you’ll have a far greater sense of what you want. And knowing what you want is half the battle because once you know what you want, you can set out to get it.

These are some thoughts on how to approach these questions including some resources that you might find useful.

Choose the Right Time

Firstly, don’t try and tackle these in between meetings or after a long day at work. This is the sort of work that you do on a Sunday morning or when your children are in bed. Find some time where you can be alone, some space to think. Cal Newport talks about the concept of ‘deep work’, that uninterrupted space to focus and concentrate that is becoming harder to find in a world filled with distractions. This is ‘deep work’.

What does a life well-lived look like to you?

All good project managers will tell you that you have to start from the end. What do you want to do/achieve? Once you have a clear picture of what that is, you can work backwards to understand the steps and resources you will need. When Richie McCaw confessed to his Uncle that he wanted to be an All Black aged 18, his Uncle said to him, ‘Do you want to be an All Black or do you want to be a Great All Black?’ When Richie replied saying he wanted to be a Great All Black (GAB), his Uncle mapped out the teams that he would need to play for in order to make that happen. They worked back from the end point to clarify the path ahead.

The same approach is applied in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. He advises that you write your obituary from the perspective of a family member, a friend, a colleague and a member of your community. This will clarify what is important to you and shape how you want to be remembered.

Simon Sinek talks about the need for a purpose. He builds on a principle that Nietzsche talked about which states ‘he who has a why can bear any how’. If you have a reason to live, a central focus and purpose, you can survive almost anything. Victor Frankl discovered this during the holocaust and wrote about it in Man’s Search for Meaning. He argues that there is no single meaning for life, it is up to you to find out what life means to you and live in harmony with that.

I am sure that the path to becoming a GAB wasn’t easy for Richie McCaw but he achieved it winning 150 Caps and two World Cups in the process.

What does a great job look like?

Your career should facilitate the life that you want. It’s up to you to define what that looks like which is why you need to plan your life first and then get your career to follow your lifestyle. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of allowing your ambition to control you. Sure, you might lead the business and climb the corporate ladder but you might sacrifice some relationships along the way. For some people, this is a path that makes them happy, for others, it is a path that they stumble down without realising it.

My next article will explain how to plan your career so that it fits in with the above.

These questions are not easy to answer, most people don’t even approach them. They’re philosophical by nature, and philosophy is all about ‘finding out how to life well’.

How does this relate to leadership?

I think helping people to understand what they want out of life is a part of leadership. Challenging people to think about what they really want and supporting them to get it are key leadership characteristics. Align your team goals with someone’s personal goals and you will be surprised how hard they will work in the pursuit of making them happen.

Like all leadership behaviours, this is something that should be led by example.

Don’t follow the advice of anyone that can’t follow it themselves. It means that they don’t value it or don’t understand it and is a mild form of hypocrisy. So in order to help people develop a sense of what they want to do, you have to have a sense of what you want to do first.

Best of luck…