This headline is a partial quote from James Lukaszewski’s “Developing a Strategic Mindset” session at the 2009 International PRSA Conference. Continuing he said, “so leaving a meeting and offering recommendations later in the day isn’t valuable to them.” (Krueger, 2009) Lukaszewski is an internationally-recognized author, corporate counselor, and speaker on crisis management, ethics, media relations, public affairs, and reputation preservation and restoration.
The point of this post is to follow Lukaszewski’s line of thinking with some definitions of strategic advising. These definitions are within reach of any employee or consultant. And I have even broken them down into their rudimentary skills, making them handy goals for anyone who has contact with executives, and an interest in their company’s or clients’ success.
Here is what business scholars say are the skills needed for strategic advising (Grover, 2012):
- Believing in the benefits of strategic collaboration
- Knowing your domain
- Comprehending others’ goals
- Volunteering your interests
- Solving problems collaboratively
- Driving toward alignment
In this post we will examine the first three of these skills. Note that my examples come from eCommerce systems development. However, this content applies across industries.
1. Believing in the benefits of strategic collaboration
Whether you call it collaborating, negotiating, or bargaining, you need to believe that strategy is maximized through partnering rather than competing with others. Believing this is particularly significant because the win-lose metaphor, as found in sports and the military, is prevalent in strategic thinking.
Consider the partnering attitude of a Web designer named Bob. Bob realizes that the API manufacturer he works for has a confusing network of landing pages and search engines for different departments’ API catalogs. Furthermore, he believes he has some insights that could meld these competing departments’ Web interfaces into a more unified and streamlined customer experience.
2. Knowing your domain
This constitutes knowledge of 1) general industry trends, 2) how the business makes money, and 3) your functional expertise. For example, Bob, the Web designer, knows about trends in airline entertainment provisioning that could speed the adoption of Internet radio APIs by music app providers, one of the marketing channels of his company. In addition, he knows enough about the complexities of API integration across several channels to contribute pragmatic strategic advice.
3. Comprehending others’ goals
Comprehending others’ goals has a prerequisite skill of Empathizing with the other person. This requires you to both 1) care about the other person and 2) express that you understand their feelings, while not sounding like you agree with their position.
Bob: “I get that you want a re-structuring of the companies catalogs, so API searches are less arduous.”
To comprehend their goals you have to listen to the other person’s points, not just their feelings as in empathizing. Listening is comprised of the following behaviors. These are adapted from Harvard Business Essentials article, “Negotiation” (2003) in their tips on “active listening”: 1) Eye contact, 2) Think only about the other person’s points, 3) Note their points and significant body language, 4) Ask reflective questions (example below), 5) Ask open-ended questions (example below)
Reflective question: “I hear you saying that you want cube-based search for API’s and related collateral. Am I right?”
Open-ended question — “Given that the cube architecture makes a user’s searching easier, what scenarios come to mind where he still could be missing the content he really needs?”
I have introduced the first three skills. I hope to post the last three soon. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Note: The factual parts of this post were taken from the following three sources:
Carrell, Michael R., and Christina Heavrin J.D. “Integrative Bargaining.” Negotiating Essentials : Theory, Skills, and Practices. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. N. pag. Print. <http://www.prenhall.com/behindthebook/0131868667/pdf/CarrellCh04final.pdf>
Grover, Richard A., and Lynn Dahlia. “Impact of Collaborative Leadership Training on Negotiation Skill Development.” Competition Forum. Academic OneFile, 1 June 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2014. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA313344722&v=2.1&u=kcls&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=27a9611dca1764e437e275ed395d1cce>.
Krueger, Al. “Developing a Strategic Mindset: How to Become a Trusted, Strategic Adviser.” ComPRehension. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 06 Dec. 2014. <http://comprehension.prsa.org/?p=1212>