Being ‘strategic’ is a good thing – provided that you can also execute your strategy to achieve the outcomes you want. But we may mistakenly believe that labelling the titles of our projects and the work in our appraisals as ‘strategic’ will position us for greater things, when they aren’t much different from what we used to do or be. So what does it actually mean?

To illustrate things simply: To impress your boss, you state that you ‘strategically drove a Brand X car down Road Y’. Yes, it sounds a little odd, but you can adapt this example to work that you’ve actually done.

That alone does not show whether you achieved the desired outcome, nor whether the means you took was the most suitable.

Instead, you should state that you reached Point Z (which ideally, should be an important organisational goal) or at least did something that brought you closer towards it. This was done by pursuing the shortest and easiest route, using the most effective means of transport – which may or may not have been a Brand X car – or even a car. In fact, did you even need to drive?

Depending on your organisation’s mission and culture, you may also be judged on how you actually went about achieving your goal. Did you take the fastest car – which may also have wasted the most gas and caused the most pollution? Did you stop to pick up people along the way or did you ignore them, damaging relationships? Did you take a detour, which may have caused some delays, but discovered an even better route which has opened up new opportunities?

So, while being ‘strategic’ is very much about achieving your desired outcome, it’s also about doing it in a way that is deemed acceptable by industry standards and organisational values.

You can show you’re being strategic without having to use that word. Conversely, you can throw the word around everywhere but end up looking anything but it.