Ep #112: Things I Suck At Part 2: My Rocky Road To Becoming An Influential Strategic Thinker
My strategic plan for becoming a strategic thinker 🧠👇
You’ll hear me talk about the importance of YOU becoming a strategic thinker in my programs, in my book, and right here on this podcast.
So it may come as a surprise to you that I suck at strategic thinking.
I hate making lists.
I really struggle to let go of tasks.
And it’s super easy for me to get trapped in reaction-mode all. day. long.
And since I’m often focused on the day-to-day, it’s easy for me to let the big picture stuff slip right by.
But a few years ago I made the decision to take a dose of my own medicine.
I started getting intentional about carving out time to think strategically every week.
Fast forward to today, and I can safely say I am waaaay better at strategic thinking than most.
But…it still takes effort to make sure I consistently come back to strategic thinking.
But now I have some pretty amazing tools and tricks that make sticking to strategic thinking sooo much easier.
And I’m sharing all of them with you today.
This is part two of a three-part series I’ve lovingly named: Things I Suck At.
In each episode, I’m focusing on something I am terrible at and sharing practical advice so you can stop sucking at this too.
In this episode of Maximize your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’m getting super raw and vulnerable about the challenges I faced on my path to becoming a better and more influential strategic thinker.
If you want to receive the recognition you deserve, step into a higher leadership position, get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy, then you need to get your hands on a copy of Promotions Made Easy. Get your copy here.
What You'll Learn:
- Why becoming a strategic thinker is non-negotiable for corporate badasses like you
- The techniques I used to become a better, more influential strategic thinker
- How 3xing your vision will help you become a better strategic thinker
- How making lists helped me get out of the weeds and think more clearly
- What strategic thinking looks like in action for me
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Ep #111: Things I Suck At Part 1: Setting Boundaries
- Ep #113: Things I Suck At Part 3: Managing My Emotions
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Join my group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
- Get your copy of my brand new book, Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite
- Photo credit: In Her Image Photography
Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and super excited, as always, to be here with you again this week. Last week, I kicked off my three-part series called Things I Suck At. And I created this series because I really wanted you to be able to understand the journey, the process behind becoming a total corporate badass and how you can step into higher level leadership positions imperfectly.
You don't have to have it all figured out before you raise your hand. You can raise your hand before you're ready and then figure things out. And that has been the example of my entire life. And it's the process that I teach my clients on - is that they always know, they know the next steps, they know what they're capable of, they know what they're ready to do and what they're actually ready not to do. And then they also know that other part of their brain that is just telling them falsely that they're not ready or they shouldn't raise their hand.
And so, I'm hoping that in this series, you can listen to what I've learned, what I'm working on, some of the challenges that I've faced in my career over the past few years and really start to be able to apply that to yourselves so that you can feel confident to start before you're ready. Now, before I get into today's episode, I want to also give you a bonus tip. And so, I'm just going right off the bat. So, if you've been interviewing for jobs, as I know many of my listeners are and many of the corporate badasses inside of Executive Ahead of Time and my advanced executive programs are consistently interviewing for positions either internally or externally.
And by the way, so I'll do it. - an even side note to the side note - is that once you join Executive Ahead of Time, you get immediate access to my entire Interview Mastery Course, which teaches you a step-by-step process to interview at the executive level, so you no longer have to interview at the job that you currently have. You can interview as well as the Executive Ahead of Time. So, I show you everything from actual how to answer the questions at the executive level and also how to present your LinkedIn profile and your resume and all of that amazing stuff. And then inside of Executive Ahead of Time, I'm also teaching you how to actually answer these questions on interviews.
So, one of the questions that comes up a lot from my corporate badasses is 'how do I answer the question about my weaknesses'? So, what is something that you are currently working on and trying to improve at? And it's such a hard question to answer because we immediately go to the things that really just aren't working at all. The things that were really terrible at and as women maybe we'll even embellish that a little bit and make it even worse than what it actually is. And we add all of the emotion behind it, and so often rightfully so, that question feels very hard to answer. And so, then we work on the answer, and we perfect the answer. We figure out exactly what we're going to say, and then what happens is we lose that vulnerability.
So, then we answer the question, but we're not actually answering the question. We're talking about things that were really, really great at because we don't want to be vulnerable. We want to get things perfect. We want to actually impress them. And so, then that doesn't really work in our favor either. And so, the process that I teach is, instead of answering your weaknesses, reframe the question in your head and answer it in terms of - what are you working on? What are your areas of growth? And so, for instance, if you wanted to talk about, like I talked about on last week's podcast, which was this idea of setting boundaries; then the way that I would answer that is, I would say something that has always been quite challenging for me is setting boundaries. I have a habit of trying to do everything myself and not asking for help. And over the years, I realized that as an executive leader, in order to succeed, that boundaries and being forthright about my time and what I'm able to accomplish and what I can truly handle is such a huge part of succeeding at that executive level. And so lately I've been working on my boundary setting in these three ways.
So now you're talking about a challenge that you have - an area of growth - but you're doing it in a way that says, 'I have perspective on this. I understand that it's important and I'm going to share with you why that's important'. So, I want you to, as you're listening to these three podcast episodes, in this Things I Suck At series, I want you to really ask yourself, how can I better answer that question -about things that I'm working on? And even if you're not actively interviewing, just having conversations, your 15-minute ally meetings, you can actually bring this into the conversation. Be humble. Let them know what your areas of growth are and let other people support you and offer feedback and suggestions to help you break out of whatever rut that you're feeling. It doesn't make you look bad.
And if you still don't believe me that it doesn't make you look bad, you can also listen to these episodes and be like, 'Okay, did I listen to these three episodes of Stacey talking about things she sucks at?' And do I think less of her? Do I think she's an awful person? Would I hire her in an executive position based on these weaknesses that she has? And so, you know, genuinely ask yourself that. And the answer is no, I would not hire her, if she doesn't know how to set boundaries, then cool. That's your work. That's fine. And if the answer is, oh no, I listen to these episodes and I'm like, 'Yeah, Stacey's a corporate badass, I would totally want her on my team.' Then also remember the same works for you. So, I just wanted to offer that as a bonus tip as we get into today's episode.
Now last week, I talked about setting boundaries as being my challenge. Next week, I'm going to talk about managing my emotions. That's been my lifelong work. And this week, I told you last week that I was going to talk about writing things down. And I wanted to reflect on this, and I was like, what does that even mean? Why would I even talk about writing things down? And it actually ties in perfectly to the challenge that I have in today's episode, which is strategic thinking. So, I asked myself, and this is an exercise that you can start to do. When you think of something that you're actually really bad at and you have trouble doing, so in my case, the first thing that came to mind was making lists, writing things down. I like to challenge myself in my head, I like to figure things out in my head, but organization in terms of laying out a step-by-step process on paper has always been a little bit challenging for me.
Then I went to 'Why does that even matter?' Why do I need to write things down? Because ultimately my end goal is not to get better at writing things down. I could give two craps about writing things down. I don't want to be good at writing things down. What I want to be good at is strategic thinking; and that in order for me to succeed as the CEO of my business, I have got to get better at strategic thinking. It's just not even negotiable. There is so much evidence. This is not something that would be a 'nice to have'. It's something that needs to happen.
And one of the ways that I've been practicing to get there, is writing things down. So, I'll talk to you a little bit more about that, but I wanted to offer to you this way of thinking about things that you're trying to improve in your life. Ask yourself the bigger why? Why do I even want to improve this thing? Because usually it's not the thing itself. It's not like I want to eat more vegetables. It's like, no, I want to feel healthy and energetic in my body. I could eat vegetables all day long, and if I hated myself and my body, then it doesn't matter if I eat more vegetables or not. Same thing goes for writing things down. I could write things down all the time, but if I don't feel like I'm really able to step into this higher-level role of strategic thinker, then it doesn't matter. I just -I'm just writing a bunch of things down.
So, I want you to first reflect on that when you're thinking about the things that you personally suck at and really apply it into the bigger, why? And going back to how you answer the interview question, that's exactly what you're going to do as well - is you're not just going to say, 'Well, I have trouble doing this. No, I actually have a goal to be able to do more of this, and therefore I need to get better at x y z.' So that is starting to communicate like an executive leader. As an executive leader, you're always communicating to the vision, to the bigger picture, to the bigger why. This is your everyday life. Once you step into this way of being - once you become that Executive Ahead of Time, you are going to find yourself speaking in that way and you're going to notice that the rest of the executive team and your CEO at your organization does that as well.
So strategic thinking - to this week, part two of my Things I Suck At series. I suck at strategic thinking, and I'm so embarrassed to even say this because it is such an integral part of you becoming the executive leader that you want to become.
So how in the world can I possibly teach you to become a better strategic thinker if I suck at strategic thinking? This is how - because I have been focusing on strategic thinking and being a better strategic thinker for years, years; and even though I'm saying I suck at it, I am way better than most. My brain already defaults to the why. I don't spend a lot of time in the weeds. I don't spend a lot of time in the details. Several years ago, I did. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about reacting to every little thing. I'm constantly pulling myself back out and asking myself questions about the bigger why - about the bigger vision.
Now, inside of Executive Ahead of Time, I teach a process called 3X your vision - we look forward to three promotions from now. So, if you're a director, we're not looking at what it's going to take to get you to become senior director or even vice president. We're thinking about what are the steps that you need to take today to become a senior vice president someday - your 3X vision. Now I created the 3X vision process because I needed it. Because I wasn't asking myself where I was headed. Because I wasn't looking at the bigger picture, I wasn't thinking I was making reactionary decisions, so the first thing I did is I asked myself, where do I want to be five years from now? Where do I want to be by the time I retire? Where do I want to be 20 years from now? And then I worked my way backwards.
And you know what? It worked. I asked myself that question. And then I started making decisions today based on where I'm headed, not where I currently am. I've probably shared this example with you because it is the biggest example that I have in my life right now for how I listened and looked and strategically thought about my 3X vision and made decisions accordingly to where I am right now. And the best example I have for you is inside of my Executive Ahead of Time program.
So, at the end of last year, I decided to open up my executive ahead of time program to lifetime enrollment. If you are listening to this podcast and you've been thinking about joining Executive Ahead of Time, you need to join us right now. Because if you join us right now at the beginning of 2022, you are going to get lifetime access to this program. That means lifetime access to weekly coaching calls. Lifetime access to monthly roundtables with amazing corporate badasses, leaders in all various different kinds of industries - amazing, amazing women - and lifetime access to the training modules. So, as you continue to grow in your career, you can revisit those modules and learn them at a different level based on whatever level you're at, at your organization and whatever challenges are coming up for you.
So, I made that decision to transition the program into lifetime enrollment. I did not make that decision based on what was actually happening for me today. So, prior to switching to lifetime enrollment, the course was six weeks long and I would take a group of corporate badasses through a six-week program, and it would have a beginning and an end date. And then that would be it. It's great. They still continue to learn on their own, but they weren't getting weekly coaching from me.
And I wrote my book last year, as you know, and I really am part of that process. I really started asking myself, Am I moving towards my3X vision? And my 3X vision is to double the number of women promoted to the C-suite each year worldwide. And it was so obvious to me that Executive Ahead of Time needed to be lifetime enrollment. It was like - Duh. You cannot double the number of women promoted to the C-suite each year worldwide by working with a woman for six weeks and being like, okay, done.
And so, I challenge that commitment to every single woman that comes into my programs, to everybody who listens to this podcast, to get it. Really. What is it going to take for me to double the number of women promoted into the C-suite each year worldwide? And the first thing is - open up Executive Ahead of Time to lifetime enrollment? It was like a no brainer. I was like, 'No, these women are going to get weekly coaching from me every single week.'.
The community is going to grow and grow and grow so that they can continue to meet other women. I'm so excited. We just had another woman join a couple of weeks ago; and somebody who had joined us last year in June was like, 'Hey, I think we have a bunch of friends in common.' So now there's overlap - they're recognizing people in different industries - 'I think you know this person'. So then that's really helping the network effect, so that they can help each other find opportunities at different organizations or even internally having side conversations.
All of this gets me way closer to my 3X vision than running a six-week program, which is incredibly valuable. I'm not saying that it wasn't valuable. It was very, very valuable. But I am looking for women who want to be on the executive path with me for many, many years. So, they go into Executive Ahead of Time. We master those principles. For some women, they master it in four weeks. They get their promotion right off the bat and they're like, 'Give me more'; and then they transition into my advanced training programs.
And by the way, I have Authentic Power, which is my advanced executive coaching program, opening up for enrollment in April. So, if you're looking to move into that higher level with me, then get into Executive Ahead of Time because that is the first piece of the process. And like I said, many women listen to these concepts. They're like, 'Okay, I get it. I'm ready for more Stacy. I want more guided coaching from you, and I want more direction and executive mastery.' And so, then they quickly transition into these higher-level programs. Or they stay in Executive Ahead of Time for six months, which is also fine because they want to work at a different pace. They want to work at a different level. They're still trying to get themselves out of the weeds. They are still trying to figure out what 15-minute ally meetings would look like at their company. They need a different type of coaching and community. So, it's really making it work for everybody -whatever stage of development and growth that they're in, however far, and quickly and not so quickly, they want to advance their careers. It's all right there for them.
So, I'm sharing this story with you because this is how I was able to be a really good strategic thinker - like really, really good. And I am telling you an episode of Things I Suck At and then I just gave you an example of how I totally kicked butt. So, I really want you to think about that. That happens for you all the time.
So, you might be trying to work on your strategic thinking as well. You might be wishing that you were a better strategic thinker, but I want you to think about your 3X vision and what's a decision that you can start making today that's going to really push that needle and get you towards that goal. And if you're not sure what your 3X vision is, you need to join us in Executive Ahead of Time yesterday. That is module number two. We work on it. I coach you on it in our weekly coaching; we make sure that you understand where you're headed and then we create the steps to get you there.
So that's one way that I have gotten better at strategic thinking. Another way is making lists. So, I am someone who really prides myself on multitasking, having everything in my head, being able to figure everything out. And let's not even go to the fact that I'm getting older, and my children are five and six years old, so my brain is totally clouded and has so many things that I'm trying to keep track of, so it's really actually becoming very difficult to keep track of things in my head. But the other thing that I noticed is that when I started writing things down, I stopped worrying. So next week, we're going to talk about managing our emotions. So, this taps into that a little bit, but it's basically that voice in your head that's constantly thinking about what you need to be doing.
So, when you're thinking about what you need to be doing, you are in the weeds. You're not strategically thinking - you are in the weeds. You're in reactionary mode. This is lower-level executive thinking - this isn't executive thinking that I teach. This isn't communicating that you are ready for those higher-level positions. So, you're reacting to every little problem. And so, in your head, you're trying to always figure things out. You don't even have any space to strategically think. And then let's say that you block it in your calendar and you're like, and actually, this is what I used to do. I used to block in my calendar thinking time, and I would get to that, but I'd be so overwhelmed in my head that I would get to the thinking time and then I would just be in reaction mode as well. I didn't actually use it for strategic thinking time, I actually used it to catch up on my emails and all of the to-do items. So, if you're there, I am with you, my friend. I am so there with you.
There is not a magic pill that all of a sudden says, 'I'm better at strategic thinking.' There's not a person who is inherently better at strategic thinking than you are. It is simply somebody who has applied themselves to become a better strategic thinker. I used to think that I actually just was bad at strategic thinking and that I would never get there. I just thought, 'that's just not me, that's not who I am.' And so, what did I start doing? I started writing everything down. So, if I am making dinner and I have a thought pop in my head, 'oh my gosh, I have to email that person.' I would literally go to the Notes app on my phone, and I would write down - I need to call that person. But I wouldn't actually take the action, and I would stop thinking about it. I noticed that my brain actually had more space. I could focus on chopping the carrots.
So, I did this literally with everything all day long. Just a 'notes' app on the phone. An idea would pop into my head - write it down. Idea pops into my head, write it down. Idea pops into my head, write it down. And now the important thing is I didn't act on it. So, I wasn't working at 10 o'clock at night, I was just writing down the note. And then what started to happen is I had space in my head; because I wasn't just like - what I would normally do is I'm chopping the carrots and I'm thinking, 'Oh, I need to call this person back, I need to call this person back. I need to call this person back'. And so now I'm thinking about it the whole time that I'm making dinner. And then usually what I do is obviously I wouldn't call people in the middle of the night; but let's say if I had to email them and then I would just pull up on my computer at 10 o'clock at night and just email them.
And that felt easier because I really desperately wanted it to get out of my head. That was actually what I was desiring. So, I thought the only way I can get this out of my head is just respond to the email and so send the email. But what I found is when I started writing this stuff down versus actually taking the action, I would get it out of my head and then I could focus on what I was doing.
So now two different things started to happen and clicked into place for me. One was, when I would take the action, it seemed like the action took a lot less time. So, I would just sit down at my computer for 30 minutes, respond to all the emails. I would definitely do all of the actions, but because they were in this beautiful list, I didn't have to think about what I was supposed to be doing. I just kind of went through the list and prioritized and then responded to everything. And then I noticed I had 30 extra minutes, and I was like, 'Oh, you know what I could do?' I could think about my 3X vision and ask myself if I'm taking steps today to get myself closer to my 3X vision. I could go for a walk and clear my head. I could journal for 10 minutes, set my timer, ask a question that I think is a powerful question, something I've been pondering and then just journal about it for ten minutes.
All of these actions get me closer to the ‘strategically think’; but unless I wrote things down, unless I got all of the to-do's out of my head, I wasn't going to be able to strategically think. So, I offer this to you as my example of how I was able to take a skill that I'm not so inherently great at and then turn it into literally an asset. And my default thinking now is really: Why are we doing this? I ask this all the time, so I ask this of myself. I ask this of my clients, I ask this of my team. I start out conversations with a bigger picture.
All of these qualities are what are going to help you not only to get promoted into those executive positions, but they're how you're going to be successful once you get there. You have to start training your brain to think more strategically. You know that - that's the feedback you've been given by the executive team. If you want to get promoted, you're going to have to think more strategically; and you're like, 'Oh, great, but I'm so busy.'.
So, I would love to hear from you what techniques you have to get yourself out of reactionary mode and into a higher-level strategic thinking. Definitely shoot me an email. Yes, I am a corporate badass who still responds to all of my emails directly from me. So, send me a note. Let me know what you're thinking, what you're trying, and I really just also want you to embrace those areas of growth.
I really - I love this podcast series, it's been so freeing for me and so exciting for me to talk about my growth in this way and to really reflect for myself how far I've come. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, like, I could not have recorded this podcast episode five years ago.' I have learned so, so much, and I'm so honored to be able to teach all of the corporate badasses that are on the executive path with me for several, several years; and watch them grow into not only getting those higher level promotions, but to really have that voice to call me up and to say, 'Stacey, oh my God, you're not going to believe it. But my CEO just sent me a note and he wants me to have a one-on-one with him tomorrow because he wants to run a few ideas by me.' That is so amazing, and it can totally happen for you as well. So, I can't wait to see you inside of Executive Ahead of Time - get started on your path towards executive mastery; and otherwise, I will see you on this podcast next week. Bye.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.