Your Brilliant Career Podcast

The go-to resource for getting the most out of your career

This podcast provides an injection of energy and practical insights to women who are committed to their career. I share tactics, tools and stories that inspire capable women to think bigger and unapologetically achieve the success they deserve.

One of my early realisations was that there are many unwritten rules about career success that no one tells you. Smart women are tired of generic career tips. They want accessible, relevant and practical tips. Each episode includes content that inspires women to step up in their career and experience the energy and reward of being more.

Your Brilliant Career is a podcast that aims to help more women rise and reach new heights in their career.



Do you know how to be strategic at work…. and how to demonstrate your strategic acumen? My experience is that a lot of women are told they are not strategic enough. And this concerns me.

So often I hear through my coaching and programs that capable women are described and seen as operationally excellent – yet they are often seen as lacking the capacity to be strategic.

In this podcast, I am going to talk about why you need to understand the buzzword strategy, how you can develop your strategic acumen and practical ways you can be seen as strategic at work.

Links we talked about on the podcast include:

RISE Accelerate program:

Susan Colantuono's TED Talk - The career advice you probably didn't get: watch it here

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Your transcript

Do you know how to be strategic at work… and how to demonstrate your strategic acumen?  My experience is that a lot of women are told they are not strategic enough. And this concerns me.

So often I hear through my coaching and programs that capable women are described and seen as operationally excellent – yet they are often seen as lacking the capacity to be strategic.  

And how does this play out?

Well, let's take Maria – a talented banking exec – she puts her hand up for promotion. She has been highly valued within the organisation, has had good performance reviews and is well known for her operational excellence.  

But when the decision comes on whether she’s the right business fit for this new and more senior position, the feedback is “she’s not strategic enough” and Maria gets looked over for the job.  

Today, we are going to talk about why you need to understand the buzzword strategy, how you can develop your strategic acumen and practical ways you can be seen as strategic at work. Let's dive in.  

Welcome to another episode of YBC. It is a pleasure to be here with you. I hope you’ve had a good week. I certainly have.  

My husband and son were away all last week and I had the rare opportunity to be alone for the week. It was soo good. Of course, I missed them but probably after 5 days. Or was it 6 – I'm not sure! They don’t listen to the podcast so it's safe to say these things.  

I loved my alone time. It was so replenishing. I got things done at home – tidied draws and boring things like that that still gave me a sense of accomplishment. I caught up with girlfriends. I exercised like a lunatic because I had more time. I thought about things more deeply – the year ahead, my son’s 21st which is around the corner, my business. My mum stayed with me for a few days. I always love spending time with her so that was nourishing too.  

Honestly, the time alone was like therapy. I had no idea it was going to be so good!!! My reflection is pre-pandemic I travelled a lot for work – both locally and overseas – and I do less of that these days – so I don’t have that alone time – and clearly, I missed it.

Maybe you can relate. I plan to do a few mini trips of my own shortly.  

And of course, I will also be encouraging the boys to do another fabulous trip together next year. You never know your luck.

Okay, let's get to work. I have been wanting to do this episode for some time now. How to be strategic and be seen as strategic at work is so important to your career as you progress. It's an expectation that no one tells you about. And because one of my biggest drivers is to see you as successful as you want to be in your career and in your work today – I like the idea of being prepared and learning about this – versus realising it’s too late.

You might agree when I say “strategy’ is one of the most common buzzwords that’s thrown around everywhere in the business world… with little reflection on its actual meaning.

  • It was such a strategic discussion…
  • We need to be more strategic in the way we approach this…
  • Let's have a strategize this idea…

But what does it really mean?

The Oxford Dictionary defines strategy as a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.  

When I’m explaining to someone in a coaching session, I will say…

  • Strategy is a plan to add value. It's about looking forward and planning for the future.
  • It's about helping the organisation or business to succeed going forward.
  • I also flag that to be strategic you need to contribute ideas and take actions that are intentional and aligned with the business objectives.
  • It involves you speaking up, being decisive, having insights and joining the dots.

Yes, there’s a bit to it – and you are capable of all those things – the challenge for most women is defaulting to being too tactical – spending too much being reactive. To be strategic you are not reacting or simply checking things from the ‘to do’ list. You are thinking long-term – you are considering ways for the business to succeed in the future.  

So that’s what it is – it’s a plan of action that is designed to achieve long-term goals that help your organisation be successful. Why is it so important?

Well, I’ve already said in my intro that it is important to be strategic for your career advancement. Remember Maria, the talented banking exec? She didn’t succeed in securing the promotion she wanted because she was not perceived as not “strategic” enough and she was overlooked for the job.  

Part of the problem was that Maria spent so long executing the work, responding to things, and getting stuff done, that it left her flat out. Working incredibly hard with little room. Because of the way she operated and was thinking about things… there was no room to become more strategic.

Think about your own situation for a moment. If you’re doing everything right at work, your performance reviews are good, and you’re taking all the right advice, but you’re just not progressing the way you want… then maybe this episode has landed at the perfect time – and it would be good to consider how you can be more strategic and what can you apply from our conversation today.

You know one of my favourite TED talks is by a woman called Susan Colantuono and it's called The Career Advice You Never Got. It's addressed to women. This TED talk is often on my resource page when I’m delivering in-organisation women’s leadership or sponsorship programs. I want women to hear it and it's really good and easy to digest.

In it, she shares the critical career advice that women often don't receive. And that is to build your financial, strategic, and business acumen. She believes men are more likely to get the opportunity to develop these particular skills than women.  

She also says if a man were to be mentored, he’d be mentored on those things – how to build his strategic acumen - and if a woman were to be mentored it would be on building confidence.

And let me ask you this right now… would you feel more confident if you had the business and strategic skills to progress in your career? I dare say yes.  

So, I love the idea of getting very practical about this and exploring how you can develop your strategic thinking and skills.  

And here are three ways to do that – they will help you be more strategic.

Okay, number one – Understand the business context.

Put simply and quite directly… It's up to you to understand your organisation’s goals You need to know what your organisation is trying to accomplish. Because to be strategic you need to understand how you can help them pull that off.  

This is why I always encourage women to have a good look at the business plan if that’s available to you.  

A lot of organisations have a purpose on a page or ‘our business strategy’ on a page. This generally includes purpose, ambition, business priorities (normally there are 4 to 6) and then business line objectives. It’s a snapshot of what’s important to the organisation – you need to be familiar with this.  

It's rare that this kind of information is NOT made available to you – sometimes you just need to track it down.

And then get curious – chat with your boss – based on the organisation's business goals – what do you see are the three most important strategic imperatives for our division – or our team? Go and ask.  

The task is to understand the business priorities and goals – what’s important.  You need to know what the business and your boss are trying to accomplish.  

If you don’t know that – it's very hard to be strategic.

Now, the upside of putting the effort into this – is that you get to qualify if you are putting your time and attention into the right things at work. It's very easy to get a bit blinkered – still work hard – but not necessarily work on the things that will progress the business and, therefore allow you to shine.  

So, this first tip is about educating yourself about the business environment in which your strategy will be operating.

Other things you can do to help you in this area – to build your knowledge out even further – is to read industry publications, research competitors, learn who the key players are, and study the key developments in your industry.  

I didn’t say this was all going to be super easy. Being strategic does require stepping out of your microcosm at work and expanding your view of the business world.  

Your organisation first and foremost and then the broader business landscape.  

My second tip – stop doing and start delegating.

If you were constantly on the fly like Maria was – busy executing and getting stuff done – you’re going to find it very hard to carve out time for strategic thinking.  

Some signs you're doing too much and need to delegate include:

  • Having a massive to-do list
  • Finding yourself saying yes to too many things
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Wanting to be more strategic but not knowing where to start

If you suspect this is happening to you, learn how to delegate.  

If you don’t, you will be stuck with all tactical assignments that people will be very happy for you to do – because it's not on their plate, they don’t care or even notice.  

The truth is your potential to be a great leader decreases with every initiative you unnecessarily hold on to.  

The goal is to be more selective and less involved. And you can start this process by looking at your workload.  

How much time are you spending troubleshooting or ticking things off your list, versus doing strategic activities? Probably too much if you're listening to this episode… but I love that you're here.

So, you need to determine where you want your contribution to be. And again… It needs to be aligned with the business goals. Not who’s yelling the loudest, or what you love doing. It has to be the work that allows you to demonstrate your contribution to the business.  

You want to be doing bigger but fewer projects so you can hang your hat on those important pieces of work.  

Learning to delegate will help create the time you need to build your strategic acumen – you to be doing less of the minutia and leading more – regardless of title.  

I think one of the biggest challenges women face when it comes to delegating – is making the ask.  

This is where providing clear, concise instructions is going to count. If you are delegating anything… you want to make sure you explain the expectations and the desired outcome.

A simple example is -  

I need your expertise on [briefly describe the task]. Can you take care of it?

Or you could say….

I’m forwarding this email as I believe your team will be able to address these concerns or assist with these issues... It involves [briefly describe the task and its importance].

Could I leave with you? Your expertise in this area would be invaluable.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Super polite – no drama – move on to the next thing.  

Have a play with this. You can do this. You have the skills to do this – so be inspired by the idea of freeing yourself up and delegating so you can be the woman who is going places.    

Tip number three – ask challenging and interesting questions.

Asking great questions helps you develop your thinking. It shows you are interested in solving a business problem and that you want to contribute.

Asking questions, and getting responses creates collaboration. We want this because it is that it is very hard to think strategically in isolation. You need to be curious and engage key stakeholders.  

By doing this you achieve two things – firstly by interacting with these stakeholders, you make yourself more visible and known in the company in a good way… but secondly, it paths the way for future collaboration. Perhaps the discussion will lead to a project or a new stretch opportunity. Maybe it will help you attract a new sponsor.  

Asking a question in the right way can shift the trajectory of a meeting.  

Here are five questions to help you sound more strategic in meetings – why not right? If you're keen you might have to grab a pen and write them down as I go.  

  1. What are the one or two things we have to get right in the next 12 months to be successful?
  2. What do you see as our biggest growth opportunity with this project?
  3. What can we be doing differently to position ourselves better in the year ahead?
  4. How does this project align with the organisation's goals to be (insert goal)??
  5. What is the most important thing for us to accomplish in the next quarter?

So you can play with some of those. I look forward to hearing how you go.  

Okay that is a wrap… I encourage you to apply these insights. Take a moment to decide what you are going to do differently to be more strategic. Small changes in your mindset and approach can lead to significant outcomes.

We have explored three themes  

  1. Understand the business context
  2. Stop doing and start delegating
  3. Ask great questions

Thank you for joining me today. If you found this episode valuable, please subscribe, share it with friends and colleagues, and leave a review. Your feedback fuels OUR journey of continuous improvement.  

Until next time, stay strategic, stay focused, and keep reaching for your goals. Take care, and remember, your strategic thinking can shape a brilliant career.  

See you soon.