As a manager, do you regard yourself as acting reactively or proactively, the majority of the time? Do you pride yourself on your ‘firefighting skills’ or your planning expertise?
Reactive management refers to situations for which you cannot, (or fail to), plan and which then require you to enter into reactive mode in order to deal with them. This usually means that situations arise that you failed to anticipate and which then need ‘firefighting’ to resolve the issues that have arisen. Of course, you may well have become extremely good at doing this. However, have you have ever thought how efficient you really are at such times? You may have convinced yourself that you work better under stress. You may need the ‘adrenaline rush’ to get you moving and you love working late into the early hours of the morning in order to meet a deadline. However, have you considered the knock-on effect to other people around you who will be also be affected?
In a work context, it could be your colleagues or team members, whereas in a domestic situation, it could be your friends or family. However, as good as you may be at firefighting, you should be aware if this pattern of behaviour is tending to become the norm rather than the exception.
The alternative is to plan ahead to pro-actively anticipate challenges that might occur, which can then ensure a much better and more measured response. It is much more efficient to anticipate a problem and plan a solution rather than to have to act always in emergency mode.
Of course, unforeseen crises will inevitably mean we may have to change course or even abandon our plans. That is part of life that necessitates us having to make short-term decisions to cope with fast-developing situations. However, anticipating problems means being pro-active which is far more beneficial both for all concerned.
Steps to becoming proactive
Time is the essential key
Time to think about what could go wrong. Time to think about alternatives and/or opportunities there might be along the way. Time to plan and organise. Stress frequently occurs as a result of lack of time, for instance, in ‘back-to-back’ meeting arrangements where you have insufficient time to properly evaluate discussions and events. You may be on an ‘adrenaline high’ by rushing from meeting to meeting – but how efficient are you, in reality? If we look at the behaviour of any professional, in any field, we will notice that he, or she, thinks and acts methodically. No action is taken before the consequences are evaluated and understood, that they are to the benefit, and not the detriment, of anyone concerned.
Never over commit
If you really cannot keep to a deadline, then you need to make that clear to everyone concerned, including the reasons for your decision. When the person or department is advised of the reality of the situation, they will usually be understanding. This is, of course, provided it is not a regular occurrence.
Focus on planning
Short-term planning is vital but so is long-term preparation. Don’t act unilaterally but bring your team into the discussion. How could they help with the planning of the new project? What ideas do they have? Two heads are better than one – and sometimes maybe six heads may be even more advantageous! Proper discussion, within the team can limit future incidents of crisis management.
Ask for help
Make sure the team know that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for support but is, in fact, a sign of strength. However, this should be encouraged in the early stages, with clear thinking and rationalisation, so that decisions can be made efficiently.
Provide continuous feedback
Look for ‘small wins’. Recognise outcomes and results that will encourage your team to feel valued for their efforts and don’t forget the words of ‘thank you’ that cost nothing but mean so much.
We all have to ensure that we are skilled at crisis management when necessary, however it is important to remember, that as much as you might enjoy the buzz that goes with it – not everyone else does!
‘Pro-active’ is vastly more advantageous than ‘reactive’
Anticipating problems before they arise is an essential skill
Be adept at crisis management, when necessary
Written by Carole Spiers and reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.
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