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Strategic Thinking: Making Yourself More Valuable to Management

jjohnsonBy Jill J. Johnson

The management of your company is facing a wide range of pressures due to the uncertainty and complexity of today’s volatile business climate. Given this complexity, you have many opportunities to make yourself more value to them by the work you do, the ideas you generate, and the insight you can provide them. If you begin to start approaching your work with a strategic mindset, you will not only elevate your own strategic thinking in these areas, but you will also become significantly more valuable to them.

Identify the Strategic Information Management Needs from You

Management is typically evaluated on business growth and profitability. Identify what they base their decisions on in their role. Think about the strategic information they need to confidently make those decisions. Consider the decisions those they report to need to make as well. Then determine what you can do to more effectively link your daily work with their decision-making processes, needs, and concerns.

Do some homework to make sure you understand the important management issues in their leadership roles and their key responsibilities. This will help you to identify where your role intersects or connects with their issues, concerns, and responsibilities. By understanding what these are, you will be better able to maximize what you do and provide information to meet their needs. Your efforts will enable them to become more valuable to the people they report to as well.

Align your thinking with their goals. How can you help them address their concerns? What do they need from you? How can you add value? Can you offer suggestions for improving productivity or profitability? Can you identify new opportunities to expand sales opportunities?

There are many ways for you to make sure you understand the key strategies of your organization. Read articles quoting the top executives from your company. Look at your company’s annual report or review your entire company website to gain more perspective. Read articles in your industry-focused publications. As you better understand the business issues, you will gain clearer insight on how to link those strategic issues directly to your role and responsibilities.

Incorporate this strategic thinking into how you engage in your job responsibilities each day. Be alert to identifying emerging opportunities to improve problem solving, expanding networks, increasing earnings, enhancing job satisfaction or increasing productivity. Look for revenue implications, customer retention or areas of community impact. The opportunities for you to strategically impact are all around you. 

Use Your Knowledge to Provide Strategic Insight

In your role, you likely have access to valuable information that you either currently provide to management or that you could share with them. You might be directly interacting with your customers or are you work in a key area of delivering your company’s services or manufacturing their products. Often those closest to these areas have the best ideas to improve productivity or increase profitability. Taking a more proactive approach to incorporating strategic thinking into your job will help you transform your role into a valuable business resource to them.

Provide management with insight not just information. Information is not enough anymore. You need to incorporate your value-add of interpretation and recommendations to what you provide them. Insight can be a game changer to build your relationship with management. You can provide management with significant value if you focus on how you can help them achieve corporate goals or address challenging business issues. This will position you as a “value” center, not just a “cost” center for your wage or salary.

Identify opportunities for your company to optimize the available assets they have already invested in. These investments could include people, buildings or equipment. Consider how you can optimize the work you do and the assets you are directly responsible for managing or using. Pay close attention to the touch points your role impacts on the key metrics for your company. Where do you impact sales, profit margin, return on investment, return on assets, etc.? If you don’t understand these terms, learn more about them.

To make yourself more valuable to management, you need to know what makes money for your company and how your role fits into making money for the enterprise. This insight will help you tie yourself to the company’s business priorities. Focus on how your role aligns with achieving overall corporate objectives and creates a positive impact on revenue growth or overall bottom-line profit. The better you understand these concepts, the easier it will be for you to position yourself as a strategic resource.

Communicate Your Strategic Value in Their Language

Always position your ideas and recommendations to them in the language they use. If they frequently use the words “return on investment (ROI)” or “profitability” be sure your ideas always include a reference to how it will impact ROI or company profits. If they talk about “target markets” or “employee engagement” then you should do the same.

Communication with your managers should be short, simple and to the point. They will ask you for more details if they are interested or confused. It is critical to have done exceptional preparation on the insight you prepare for them.

Make sure your data and information is accurate. This allows you to be perceived as credible and trustworthy. This is essential if you provide them with ideas requiring the investment of time, money or other resources to complete the implementation. They must be confident they can trust what you provide them with – once burned, you will not have another chance to re-establish their trust.

Final Thoughts:

Thinking strategically is a skillset that you need to actively work at trying to improve. Find resources to help you learn and practice your critical thinking skills. By spending time on thinking strategically, it will become naturally ingrained into how you conduct your work. This will make you exceptionally more valuable to management. Then you will be on the path to becoming a manager or executive yourself!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions series. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, visit www.jcs-usa.com.