Ellen Warden, SPHR
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
Atlanta, GA

Many firm leaders are so busy winging it and putting out fires – being reactive – that there’s little time to sit and plan, a key aspect in being proactive.  Today many managers are expected to do more with less – more pressure with less time, more work with fewer staff members and less tolerance for mistakes.  Yet managing an organization is all about taking charge and leading it to do all it can, which cannot happen in the reactive mode.

Here are 6 steps to becoming a proactive leader:

  • Lead by your example
    • Inspire the people around you with your words and actions to push themselves to greatness.
    • Work to create a positive attitude in the workplace. 
    • Set a proactive, supportive tone rather than a more punitive style.
    • Be open to new ideas and reward those who show initiative.
    • Encourage employees to bring situations to your attention accompanied by possible solutions.
  • Manage the workload
    • Build time into your day to address critical issues and plan in time and resources for new projects and problem-prevention.
    • Don’t change your priorities on the fly. 
  • Put plans in place
    • Keep priority lists written down – not just in your head.
    • Have thirty-day and six-month tactical plans in place to prevent you from merely reacting to whatever comes along.
    • Develop one- to two-year strategic plans. 
  • Prevent fires before they start
    • Take a look at your top three recurring issues and problems and investigate the trends behind them. 
    • Consider several options to eliminate the cause or reduce the frequency of occurrence, and judge the impact of each one.
  • Engage your team
    • Cultivate team spirit, trust, and an atmosphere of openness and creative problem solving. 
    • Brainstorm, solicit and use feedback from your team to learn new ways of accomplishing tasks more effectively and efficiently and to control problems before they become out of control.
  • Set goals to provide a strong focus for team members
    • Clearly articulate the firm’s objectives and plans.
    • Offer incentives to employees to help achieve the goals.
    • Follow up to ensure fulfillment of responsibilities.
    • Provide feedback on performance; coach those whose performance is not up to par.
    • Take any necessary corrective action to avoid a chronic problem from becoming a recurring drain on your time and resources.

Proactive leaders expect some situations to be beyond their control.   But proactive leadership is about maximizing the use of limited resources with creative problem solving, making and evaluating plans, monitoring for and controlling a problem instead of running around trying to solve it based on your gut instinct.

There is certainly a time and place for reactive leadership.  If a plane is about to crash the captain does not gather his/her team and ask what they should do in this situation.  But be wary of your having to save the plane every day.

Ellen Warden consults with business valuation practices on a variety of human resources issues. Read more at www.WorkPlaceSynergy.com

Ellen Warden
Ellen Warden