Working Hard and Being Strategic

Working Hard and Being Strategic

Your business success starts with your mindset. At WOTW, we spend a lot of time exploring some of the mindsets that hold women back. One of the most common that we see is the limiting mindset of overvaluing hard work. Women typically expect to be recognized for their hard work, rather than drawing attention to themselves and pointing out how hard they’re working. Men typically do the latter. Working hard is important, but it’s not enough. As women leaders, we must be thoughtful about what we work hard at. In other words, we need to be strategic.  

In addition to believing that if they just work hard enough, they will get promoted, lack of strategy can show up in a number of different ways. Perhaps they are naïve to the internal organization or are demonstrating clumsy judgment. Sometimes women trip up, or make a schoolgirl error in their work relationships. For instance, they inadvertently exclude someone from an important email, or they don’t navigate stakeholders appropriately. In those cases, we have heard feedback such as “It’s difficult to navigate the politics,” and “I never expected that—I was taken by surprise.” These are all examples of not being strategic. These women are too busy trying to work hard and, as a result, not scanning the environment or having the foresight around what could happen. 

Part of being strategic means navigating the system and the conditions in which you operate. 

  1. Where in your life can you make decisions? 
  2. Where are you constrained? 
  3. Are those real constraints, or imagined? 

Be strategic about where you spend your time and use it wisely. You can do this by asking the following questions: 

  1. Is the work high-value? 
  2. Is the work connected to business outcomes that are important for the organization? 
  3. Does the work create an opportunity for visibility? 

Being strategic means, for example, not raising your hand to take the notes in a meeting, instead volunteering for projects that have high impact, high value, and high exposure. If your company is changing their business strategy regarding how they interact with suppliers, then you might want to raise your hand to be part of that project. Or, if your company is trying to figure out a new marketing strategy, you might indicate your suitability to be on that project team.

Strategic clarity is critical, as it acts as the anchor around which to base all design choices, trade-offs, and principles.

  1. Without knowing why you’re exerting effort, you won’t get fire in the belly.
  2. Without knowing where you are trying to go, how do you know where you’ll end up? 
  3. Without knowing how to get there, how can you ensure you’ll arrive? 

When I go to an external event, or any time I go see a speaker, I sit at the front of the room. I prepare for the session in advance by thinking, “What will my two questions be if someone says, ‘Does anyone have any questions?’” I like to raise my hand. I want people to remember that four-foot-eleven woman with the Scottish accent. I may be taking time out of my schedule to go to an event outside of work, but I’m being strategic about what I want to get out of that time investment. 

Gaining strategic clarity about how you operate and work in an organization improves how you navigate the system. Better strategy equates to better navigation, and strategy is all about making choices and trade-offs based on core principles or golden threads.



Join us for a virtual event and complimentary coffee where our Women On Their Way team guides you through an overview of our WOTW Navigator Program and our WOTW Leadership Forum.

This Virtual Coffee is designed to help you gain a cohesive understanding of Women On Their Way principles and programs, and help you determine the right fit for you based on your unique context.

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