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What strategic thinking skills are important in helping find agreement for action amid a big, unstructured conversation?

That was the challenge during a nonprofit board call. The call was an opportunity for board members to react and share perspectives for the first time as a group about a critical business topic. The meeting objective involved identifying actions the board supported and would collectively recommend. We found our way to three target recommendations after two hours of conversation.

One board member remarked later how easy it was to get lost in the back-and-forth without identifying anything the group would recommend.

5 Strategic Thinking Skills to Lead Groups to Action

How then did we find three areas for the board to agree to as action items? Here are five strategic thinking skills you can employ in comparable group situations:

  • Listen for verbs. Verbs suggest action. Listen especially for actions you imagined before the call that the group might embrace and advance. Having a list prepared ahead of time helps you focus and piece together answers from snippets of conversation.
  • Figure out who the leaders are historically and on the call (if they are different). Listen for when a group leader voices something that agrees with someone who is less vocal. If you can find agreement there, it’s a powerful combination: the leader picking up on a more marginal player’s strategic thinking.
  • If you can identify a core idea for action, listen for other suggestions that build on, complement, or enhance the original idea. Highlighting other strategic thinking lets you keep returning to the core idea. Doing so grounds the group in hearing the core idea repeatedly and focuses their strategic thinking on that idea vs. pursuing unrelated directions.
  • If you modify an action-oriented idea with different strategic thinking, return to the person with the original idea to see if that makes sense for them. You want to improve the recommendation and build on it, but not at the expense of losing your original supporter.
  • Don’t linger too long if the group reaches some level of agreement. You don’t want to try to work for total agreement and risk seeing what agreement you had unwind through additional discussion.

Employ these five strategic thinking skills when you need to give a group room to talk, but also to move toward action.

It won’t necessarily be easy, but it should speed up getting to agreement. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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