What are Strategic Skills? (Definitions and Types)

Updated 23 December 2022

Whether you want to strengthen your leadership style or prepare for a new role, strategic skills may help improve your workplace performance. These skills are goal-oriented and designed to coordinate different types of leadership. Learning more about these skills can help you choose which ones you want to develop to succeed in your career. In this article, we discuss what strategic skills are, why they matter and how you can apply them to improve your work performance.

Related: Master Your Strategic Thinking Skills in 8 Simple Steps

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What are strategic skills?

Strategic skills are abilities you can develop to help you think strategically and innovatively. These skills can help you adapt depending on the situation you're facing. Rather than being specific to an occupation or position, strategic skills focus on the personal and communicative abilities individuals need to thrive in a productive work environment. While you can learn these skills in management workshops and career seminars, you can also foster these techniques through self-reflection and independent instruction. Therefore, it can be beneficial for people in any role at a company to develop these skills, even if they aren't in leadership roles.

Why are strategic skills important in the workplace?

Using these skills in your workplace can yield many benefits. In particular, leaders and managers with good strategic skills can increase business productivity and profit. Here are some of the major benefits of developing your strategic skills:

To establish realistic goals and outcomes

While optimism can be beneficial in leading a team, it's also necessary to set realistic expectations regarding business goals and outcomes. If you're in a management or leadership role, you can use strategic techniques to help ensure that your team members achieve their goals. These skills can help you analyse the business's capacity and implement appropriate strategies.

Related: What are Strategic Plans? Definition, Method and Examples

To create a communication framework

Communication, particularly in large or international companies, can be crucial for business success. Having a strong communication framework where team members use intentional language and plan to communicate their work may limit misunderstandings and improve workplace cohesion. You can use these skills to think creatively to design or refine frameworks within your team.

Related: The Main Components of the Communication Process

To manage resources effectively

When management and other professionals develop strategic organisation skills, businesses can handle and distribute their resources more efficiently and in an organised manner. In a management role, these skills can also help you monitor the resources your team uses and reassess strategies to further improve productivity. If you work on a team, you can develop these skills to help you increase your personal productivity.

Read more: Resource Management: A Definitive Guide With Benefits

To analyse the market

Strategic skills may also be useful for analysing competitors and developing campaigns that suit market conditions. When management professionals are aware of the environment they're operating in, they can improve their campaigns by increasing or decreasing specific purchases or promotions. Using these skills can help employees adapt to changing conditions in a dynamic market environment and encourage them to reevaluate and change goals as required.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Strategic Management

Top strategic skills that can improve performance

Strategic skills are broad-reaching and designed to improve performance in many industries. You may choose to use some of these skills frequently while limiting the use of others or adapting them to suit your needs. The top strategic skills and techniques include:

1. Forward-thinking

Successful goals and outcomes often rely on planning. Developing your forward-thinking abilities may be a useful tool to improve your performance. Forward-thinking, also known as future thinking, refers to envisioning a clear future result that you want to achieve and developing strategies to achieve it.

Being forward-thinking can help you make actionable plans in the short and long term, communicate with coworkers about achieving mutual goals, and determine whether an opportunity can help you reach your career or business goals. By balancing an ideal future with short-term goals and the company's capabilities, you can create realistic strategies that work toward future success and growth.

Related: 6 Examples of Strategic Thinking With Methods to Improve

2. Organisation and planning

Setting objectives with a rational plan and approach can help bring your goals into reality. While it can sometimes feel less productive than working on a goal, having a concrete plan may help you understand what you have to work with and what you need to achieve before you can begin working towards your goal.

Planning can also be useful for communicating your goals and strategies with others. For leaders, having and sharing a detailed goal may help your team understand their role within a broader plan. Having a plan can also help you organise your time and use resources effectively.

Related: Understanding Objectives vs Goals (Including Examples)

3. Communication

Strategic communication involves both written and verbal communication with your coworkers or people outside the business. Having strong communication skills can help you build relationships and expand your professional network. Communicating effectively can impact how people regard you and their receptiveness to your ideas. Strategically adapting your communication style to suit your audience may affect the formality and friendliness of your message and improve the response you receive.

As a leader, you can also use strategic communication to instruct your team or employees. Being able to influence the people you work with can help you get important people to aid in your goals and improve your standing in the company. This can minimise the risk of you becoming isolated as a leader and foster positive relationships with your coworkers.

Read more: Communication Skills for Managers (Including Examples)

4. Prioritisation

Whether you are a leader or an employee, you will likely need to identify the most important tasks at work and prioritise how you work on them. You can focus on the most important tasks by organising your duties according to their importance and due date. While it's important to communicate your task prioritisation strategy with your higher-ups, this is a key part of strategic self-management and might be something you can use discretion on.

If you have employees working under you, prioritisation can also help you allocate tasks depending on who can do them quickest or to the highest quality. This can reduce delays in meeting objectives and ensure that your team completes important tasks first.

Related: Self-Management Skills: Definition and Examples

5. Intentional actions

Being deliberate about what you do and say can be an important part of performing well in the workplace. Acting intentionally refers to understanding what you want to achieve before starting a task or opening communication. This can reduce the risk of wasting time, miscommunication or doing less important tasks. As a leader, acting with intention can help you explain to your team why they're working on a certain project and how their involvement may help you achieve your goal.

How to develop your strategic skills at work

Here are some of the most common ways to develop your skills in the workplace:

1. Reflect on personal goal achievement

By slowing down and reflecting on how you're performing at work, you may get a better perspective on how well you're progressing toward your goals. This can be a daily, weekly or fortnightly practice, and you can reflect mentally or in a journal. If you can make this a regular habit, you may find that your reflective skills improve over time and you get a better idea of how to achieve your goals.

2. Analyse data and past performance

Performance data can come from many places, including verbal feedback from coworkers, a written evaluation or corporate data showing how well you have achieved your objectives. This differs from personal reflection by incorporating external feedback more closely and can help you get a more objective view of your performance and areas for improvement. Analysing data to understand your team's performance can also help you give better feedback to your team members or employees.

3. Discuss ideas with a wide variety of people

Discussions with people whose perspectives differ from your own can help you approach a problem from a new perspective. This can also help improve your intentional communication, as you can improve how you communicate with those who have different views than you do and may need more careful phrasing of messages.

4. Formulate and evaluate new strategies

Creating a new strategy can help you approach your objectives from a different angle. This includes long-term corporate strategies, actionable business strategies and functional strategies that organise the day-to-day operations. By developing and evaluating new strategies, you can expand your critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities and improve your overall workplace performance.

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