Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Staying Proactive vs. Reactive

Yesterday a situation arose with a client. We were talking, and the client was duly upset about a disputed matter. We talked through the issue, and she wanted to talk with the other person involved. I told her to let it sit overnight and we would address it in the morning when cooler heads prevailed. As a manager, the "let-cooler-heads-prevail" philosophy is a good strategy to adopt.

Automatic reactions to situation produce more automatic reactions, and misunderstandings can grow from what could have been a much more manageable issue into a major fallout. I do think there is a difference though between proactive management and "simmering" leadership. Being proactive is working out of Stephen Covey's idea about the 4th quadrant. Simmering on issues is a whole other thing in business we'll call "boiling pot" management. Boiling pots don't react or even behave proactively. Simmering pots boil and boil and boil until the issue spills over and burns everyone.

I am guilty of simmering and boiling over. I am one of these people who under the guise "easygoing" I sometimes allow people to get away with things that make me uncomfortable, but the idea of confrontation is even less appealing. Problem is when you simmer and do not express your ideas, conflicts or viewpoints, it can only stayed stuffed in the pot so long. It eventually comes out -- and it's usually not pretty.

In proactive management, it means being thoughtful but not stuffing it up to mention weeks or months later. You give yourself enough time to come out of your reactive mind, calm down, think it through, and then in a professional manner address the problem. But here is the key: when you address the problem do not roll over just to make it go away. If you roll on an issue you feel is important just to end the conversation, you're right back to the boiling pot analogy. So make sure when you proactively resolve something you fully express your feelings and when you disagree you respectfully disagreement, fully express your opinions and viewpoint, but (and again this is key) be prepared to let it go. Some things are just not worth the stress and heartburn, and you need to identify the true sticking points vs. the trivial matters. And that my friends is a whole different blog.

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