It’s one thing to be a strategic thinker, and another to be seen as strategic.

In fact, even the most strategic thinker can be misconstrued as not being strategic. Like my colleague who sat quietly in the corner, never daring to speak up and share his brilliant insights.

Or the team member who’s too busy working to attend the key meeting where the results of her work are being presented.

The thing is, you’ll find it hard to progress beyond a certain point in your career if your managers don’t see you as strategic.

FREE Cheatsheet:
37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic

How to figure out whether people see you as strategic or not

The easiest way is to start noticing how people describe you. Especially your key stakeholders whose opinions matter most in your career.

For example, what do they say when they compliment you? How do they introduce you in a meeting with new clients or senior managers? What are the most common themes from the feedback in your performance review?

If they’re saying you’re someone who’s insightful, sees the bigger picture, connects the dots, or is a systems thinker, you’re in good shape.

But if you’re primarily hearing the following terms, your strategic thinking capabilities probably aren’t being seen.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these phrases?

“Safe pair of hands”

This is often code for someone you trust to reliably execute on an assigned task or handle a tricky situation. While it sounds like a good thing, it’s a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, you’re trusted. But on the other hand, you can get pigeon-holed into merely “reliable” rather than someone who can be strategic in leading the organization to the next level.

“The go to person” for a specialized topic

It’s great to carve out an area of expertise, but if it’s for something highly specialized that’s not core to the company’s mission, there’s the danger you become seen as a narrow expert… not someone who can grow to contribute in a strategic way.

“Hard worker with a great work ethic

If your distinctive difference is primarily how hard you work, that could signal you’re seen as the person who grinds out the work others assign you rather than being a strategic thinker too.

“Organized” and “Attentive to detail”

Important traits in the workplace but make sure it doesn’t keep you from being seen as a strategic thinker as well.

Early on in my career, these were part of my feedback reviews. At first I was proud to be recognized for these abilities. Then I realized the same could be said of my talented secretary, but I wanted to be a Managing Director one day.

“Gets things done”

Again, a great trait to have, especially when you’re coming up the ranks. Just be careful it doesn’t mean you’re great at executing projects or tasks others assign to you at the expense of being perceived as someone who can also see the bigger picture and set direction.

Of course, these phrases and descriptions are positives. But as they say, our strengths taken to extremes become weaknesses.

The key is to make sure these aren’t the only things you’re known for.

Awareness is the first step to becoming seen as strategic

If the phrases above are ones people use to describe you, don’t worry. Once you’re aware there may be a gap in perception of how strategic you are, you can do something about it.

Those were all labels I’ve had during my career and had to work hard to change (by the way, I ultimately led part of the organization’s strategy team!).

If you want to be seen as strategic, start sharing ideas, making comments and asking questions that show you are strategic.

FREE Cheatsheet:
37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic

It can take time to change perceptions, so the best time to begin is now.

What phrases do people in your organization use to describe you now? And how do you want to be known?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Recommended Resource

How to Become and Be Seen as Strategic

Thinking and acting strategically is a huge opportunity to advance in your career. But there’s a lot of confusing advice out there as to what “being strategic” really means.

In this Career Mastery workshop, I dispel the confusion about what “being strategic” really means so you can take action, start being seen differently at work, and get the recognition and next level opportunities you deserve.

You'll discover:

  • What being strategic looks like in your day-to-day work
  • The difference between being tactical vs strategic and which to focus on to achieve your near-term goals
  • How to master the 4 key elements for being seen as strategic
  • The single most important step you can take to be more strategic
  • And much more

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