Strategy: a plan, method, or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.
We have all thought strategically at some point in our lives since we all desire things in life. "How am I going to get mom to give me another cookie?" "How am I going to save up enough money to go on spring break with my friends?" "What is it going to take for me to retire by 55?" It is connected to almost all aspects of life: day-to-day family tasks, work, careers, budgeting, fitness, and sports.
Most professionals relate the word strategy back to a business strategy. But the most basic traits of the best strategic thinkers can be found anywhere. Paul J. H. Schoemaker, a teacher, author and strategic business consultant for over 20 years, published an article around his findings of the top 6 qualities that all strategic thinkers use to succeed.
Anyone who has ever played a sport in their life knows something about strategy. With the French Open coming to a close recently, watching the elite tear up the red clay in Paris provides a great lesson for intermediate players. The players that end up playing in the finals are those that execute each of the following 6 traits flawlessly.
When a player is in a back and forth rally, they anticipate what the next 1 or 2 shots will be before they occur. Playing to survive the point will eventually put the player out of position to hit a winning shot.
In a profession, anticipating change and having "peripheral vision" can lead to a steadier future. Focusing on short-term and what is directly ahead could place a company in a poor position for future growth.
2. Think Critically
Addressing a match from the viewpoint of your opponent can build better protection in a match. Sticking to one strategy, no matter the circumstance, makes a player one-dimensional and takes away a competitive advantage over time.
Leaders should constantly question "conventional wisdom." Finding the reason why of any circumstance will provide a better understanding and uncover flaws that can be addressed and eventually provide better results.
The number of shots an opponent has missed on his backhand, the amount of times he serves out wide, how often he runs around to hit on a certain side of his body - all details that go through a player’s mind. Interpreting certain actions on the court can help pinpoint a weakness that can be used as an advantage.
As a company, quickly choosing a direction to move in might be the cheapest approach, but taking the time to test, analyze and find patterns in data can build a stronger view point and gain easier buy-in from others.
Decisions on the court are made in a split second. The brain and muscle memory somehow communicate instantly: "forehand topspin cross court" or "slice backhand deep in the court." It is all because players have mastered a process of how to balance their body and racquet to meet the ball on each swing, even if they are not in a perfect position.
Creating and following processes can help place a team in a position to succeed. Nothing is perfect, there will always be a struggle to be dealt with - it is just how you prepare yourself beforehand that will help you make the best decision.
No player makes it to the top without a coach. Constant practice, critiquing, and training cannot happen without a strong support system.
Understanding what drives teammates, how to communicate with each one, and how to build trust can result in a supportive team alignment.
After playing 4 hours and near complete exhaustion, not every shot is made, and not every decision is a good one. That is where analysis and being flexible becomes the most important part of being a tennis player.
Understanding and accepting where a team succeeds and fails provides information that can be used to adjust and become more efficient. Celebrating and having open-dialogue about successes and failures can bring more attention to lessons-learned from each.