I am writing this blog while we are in the middle of a heatwave. The temperature has been over 30 degrees for a few days and is forecast to continue for a while.
As the Irving Berlin song goes…
We’re having a heatwave a tropical heatwave
While I was opening all the windows and doors this morning to allow the cooler air into the house, and planning what time I would close them again before the outside air became warmer than inside, I thought about this being a proactive approach to the heat – managing what I can do keep the temperature down.
A reactive approach would be waiting until the house and my office get too hot and then finding ways to cool it down with fans and cooling me down with cold drinks and showers.
In my work as a coach I am often asked to help a business leader be more proactive. This request usually comes from the person’s manager or directly from them because they have received some feedback. Being reactive rather than proactive often holds someone back from being the best leader they can be and can be a barrier to their career progression.
When I talk to the person I am coaching, some of the comments I often hear that suggest a reactive approach are:
- “I am good at dealing with problems as and when they arise.”
- “My diary is so full of meetings that I never have time to do any work or to think about how I can improve things. “
- “I always seem to be firefighting.”
What is a proactive leader?
A proactive leader is someone who:
- Anticipates – thinks about what is likely to happen, what the challenges might be and has a plan to deal with them.
- Looks forward rather than back
- Plans ahead
- Is goal-orientated
- Is always looking for ways to improve things and is not happy with the status quo
- Takes initiative and action to create the future.
But don’t we need to be reactive too?
Yes, there is certainly a place for being reactive when unpredictable events happen – such as the current pandemic. We need to be flexible to respond in the moment when needed but we should not be spending all our time doing this.
Even in this pandemic we can be proactive such as making plans to get people back into the workplace, thinking through what will happen if there is a second wave and anticipating what will happen in your marketplace.
At a personal level we are all being encouraged to be proactive by taking measures to avoid getting the virus and spreading it.
How do I become a proactive leader?
Being proactive is an attitude of mind that then causes us to assume certain habits and behaviours.
To be proactive means that we prepare for something before it happens.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” said Stephen R Covey. ‘Be proactive’ is Stephen Covey’s first habit in his best-selling book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
He talks about proactivity being about taking control and being responsible for what happens – in effect leading the way and causing them to happen rather than waiting to respond to events and the actions of others.
Taking the example of the manager whose diary is too full of meetings that they do not have time to do any work, a proactive approach is to take control of their diary. They can block out time in their electronic calendar when they are available for meetings and when they are going to focus on getting their work done. They can also think through what meetings they need to attend and, perhaps, decline some.
It is amazing how this simple step can transform a person’s productivity and give them time to be proactive.
Please get in touch if you want to know more about being a proactive leader and, next time we have a heatwave will you take steps to avoid getting too hot or will you find ways to cool down once you have overheated?