Two Levels Up: Strategic Thinking for Success

How to Get Ahead in Business and Impress Your Boss

bridge sloping upward into gold distance
bridge sloping upward into gold distance

I once heard some advice from a Lieutenant colonel: Think two rungs above.

This is what that means.

What are the people thinking about two management levels higher up?

If you’re a young Lieutenant, you take orders from a Captain. They take orders from a Major.

So, if you are a Lieutenant, what is your Major worried about?

If you can make that your jump in your thinking, you understand how to do your own job better. You can also work in closer partnership with your Captain (so to speak) and help the two of you.

I guess it’s a form of constructive empathy.


The same ‘two rungs up’ applies in the business world.

As a result, you might find the strategic planning process beneficial. Even if you’re not in a senior managerial position.


It earns respect

For a junior person, having a good understanding of the strategic situation and options is a good way to earn the respect of the head honcho.

It gives you a good understanding of the big picture

With some strategic research, you can speak intelligently about broader factors affecting your organization. That can also enable you to find gaps in the assumptions of a business.

You can find new potential directions

There are few things sweeter as an employee than finding a lucrative, unexplored place where your company could tap to make a lot of money.

It shows you exploitable flaws in the competition

All competition has flaws. Using a methodical approach, you can find the weaknesses, which shows you the opportunity.

For example, a weakness can be used as an angle of attack.

Bunnings hardware is large with aisles and aisles of confusing items. Most people are not very handy and need help.

When you need it, there’s no one to be seen.

Mitre Ten Hardware exploited this. They still position on ‘We're Here to Help’.

McDonald’s was fast and standardized. But they never (until recently) offered any customizations.

You want a junior burger, you get it with the pickle.

Countless competitors made it a key differentiator to provide ‘made to order’.

These are big, obvious examples but the same is true for all businesses.

Competitor research always reveals a weakness.

It demonstrates you are serious and have a strong work ethic

Bosses like to trust their people. Looking beyond your small work function can indicate you are in it for the long-haul. It demonstrates loyalty.

It lets you share the CEO vision and passion

Looking at the big picture, and ways of moving on the chessboard, indicates a strong work ethic and sense of commitment.

When you see the frustrating blocks and find pockets of opportunity, you get to feel the boss’s spark of energy. This gives you meaningful things to talk about at the kitchen sink.

Your passion can energize others.


Few people step into the heady world of strategy formation, but it’s a thrilling place to be.

In a safe sandpit, you get a feel of the broader market from the perspective of the Chief Operator (the big kahuna).

That helps you make the smaller decisions you need to make each day.

And it shows you are a thinker, committed, and have a knowledgeable opinion that counts.

You might even save or help make a ton of money.


Writes about strategy, storytelling, messaging, and communication…Prone to bouts of fiction.

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