Everyone who owns a business wants to be a great leader. The challenge comes when things aren’t going well. Instead of looking forward, we look backwards. This causes us to be reactive instead of proactive.



Everyone who owns a business wants to be a great leader. The challenge comes when things aren't going well. You know, instead of looking forward, we tend to look backwards. This causes us to be reactive instead of proactive.

So the problem with this activity is when you're being reactive is costing you money. You're fixing problems that prop up and keeps you from looking forward in building on the positive things that are always happening in your company that likely you are not even noticing.

So when you're working reactively you'll end up blaming yourself or worse, blaming others. You'll beat yourself up which is in itself is just a total waste of time.

You know, I think it's just silly that we spend so much time making ourselves feel better about problems, instead of moving forward and working on a solution that keeps those problems from coming back again, and again, and again. Now this type of action requires that you are proactive in how you think and how you act.

Now I know no one likes mistakes, no one likes to have to redo things have gone wrong, but at the same time, that's how life is. You have to know things are going to go wrong. Is learning how to handle the bad things that often allow you to focus on the good things where real value is created.

You know, years and years and years ago, Stephen Covey, popularize a quadrant where he compares proactive to reactive management. The quadrant you wanna live in is the one that he calls important by not urgent.

That means you're doing important things, but it's not especially urgent whether they're done today, tomorrow, or sometimes even next week. That means you have time to work proactively towards an outcome that will bring real value to you. And the fact is you want that real value and you want it brought to you whenever you can have it.

So too often we spend our time working on things that are urgent and important, that's the other quadrant out of the four, but those are the two quadrants we really wanna focus on, is urgent and not important, and urgent and important. When you're doing urgent and important, you're already late, you're already behind the eight ball, you're already being reactive. When you're working from a point of view of being reactive, you're losing money, and the reason you're losing money is because you have to follow through on stuff that you thought was done, wasn't done, and now you have to react to fix a problem that you got.

So let me give you an example from my days in the food service business.

We had an incident where we were catered a picnic. We had a couple pieces of sour chicken. After the picnic, I had to spend lots of times negotiating with our client about how best handle the refund he wanted. There was nothing of any value that came from this, at least nothing immediately. I wasn't being proactive in solving the issue, I didn't call him before he called me, he called me. And because he called me, I was already put into the reactive mode where I had to react to him instead of saying, hey, we had this problem, here's my recommendation for how we handle it. I thought that if I just ignored it, it would go away. Well, guess what? It didn't go away, instead it cost me $5,000 which back in the eighties was a lot of money for a refund.

So let's compare this to the process we used to approve our productivity for our route drivers by over 400%. So here's what we did. We kept asking ourselves the question, what can we do to make our customers happier, and make life easier for a route drivers? Because we had time to work on this, it was an important issue, but it wasn't an immediate, it wasn't something that had to be dealt with right then, but it was an important thing, and it turned out it was a way more valuable issue than anything we ever did that was a reactive.

We found answers over time that have both incredible results for both the drivers and our customers. Our proactive solution made sure we always had the top five items our customers wanted to buy, this made our customers happy. And because we had plenty of merchandise and machines that our customers wanna buy, we cut down how many pieces of things went into the machines, this made our drivers happier.

So we had our customers happier and our drivers happier, but it would never have happened if we weren't being proactive, and taking the time to do this 'cause frankly, this was never going to come up as an issue, it just wasn't, but we made it an issue and as a result, we had a result that had incredible value.

We learned to look at the problem as an opportunity to make both our customers and team members happier. This is called appreciative inquiry. Now, if you'd never heard of the term appreciative inquiry, there's a bunch of books that are on this, I highly encourage you more to learn more about this, it's a great way of running your business.

So simple to stop being reactive, just start being proactive and you do these few things.

  1. Number one, start by making a conscious decision you wanna be proactive in dealing with issues in your company.

  2. Number two, document how often you're being reactive versus proactive in how you handle problems and opportunities in your business.

  3. And number three, work on issues before they become urgent. Once it's urgent you're automatically being reactive. Don't act like I did with my catering job. If you have a problem, bringing it up, you're in the driver's seat when you do that, if you wait for others to bring it to you, you're going to be reactive, it's gonna cost you money, and you're not going to enjoy it.

So I would love to have a conversation with you about proactive versus reactive. So feel free contact me at jpatrick@stage2planning.com, to set up a time to talk. In the meantime, if you're not ready to talk, download our free infographic on our alignment conversation, you'll learn how to put a frame around conversations, that will force you to be proactive in your thoughts. That will lead you to become proactive in your actions. And while you're at it, scroll down and let me know what you think about being proactive in how you handle issues that come up in your life. Hey, this is Josh Patrick. You're at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.


Topics: proactive leadership, proactive versus reactive leadership, proactive leadership style

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