WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

Q: I am taking my first management post, which includes strategy development. I am nervous about moving from an operational role to a strategic one. Help!

A: Don't worry, you will be fine. There are plenty of people in management and leadership positions who have but a hazy grasp of the strategic. Your distinct advantage is that you recognise the difference and want to tackle it.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines strategy as "the art of so moving or disposing of troops as to impose upon the enemy the place, the time and conditions for fighting preferred by oneself". An interesting notion for managers!

I suspect that in your current job you have been used to devising plans and strategies to achieve your goals. You are simply moving up a scale.

It will be a challenge to work at a level where you can contribute to strategic development across the organisation.

For me the competence of strategic thinking is core to any leadership or management position. Success in this area will contribute significantly to your career development, so it is worth spending time on it.

In any management position you need to be able to understand the mission of the organisation and its objectives. You then need to be able to plan your activities so as to deliver your part of those objectives. You also need to be able to understand the way in which your activities fit in and contribute to the activities of your colleague managers. But remember, this is not an exact science.

There are a number of courses you can attend to help explore this further.

The Directory of Social Change ( has such courses: Strategic Planning, and Business and Strategic Planning. These courses are designed to help you learn how to make your organisation think, manage and act strategically. I would also suggest that you discuss this issue with your manager and ask for advice. You will probably want to highlight this as a development need and also ensure that you are tackling it through appraisal.

In particular, I would strongly advise seeking out a coach or mentor to help in this area. Think about colleagues in another organisation who have had a longer experience in management positions and who you think may be good at strategic planning. See if they would agree to mentor you and help develop your strategic capabilities.

And mastering a strategic understanding will set you well on the path to your first chief executive post and membership of Acevo!

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