Being proactive means controlling a situation by inducing something to occur instead of responding to it after the fact. When applied to business, this means that the owner, particularly small business owners, do not wait for success to land at their doorstep. Instead, they face the expected challenges ahead of time. They take the needed precautions to minimize risks but plan business strategies that will help them reach their goals. A proactive management technique can improve all aspects of a business.
In comparison, a reactive manager allows situations to dictate how they should go forward. A reactive manager of a small business would rather wait for an increase in sales before investing more in the company. A proactive manager would invest in a marketing campaign to boost sales.
Which is better?
Both management styles can have negative results. A reactive manager might hesitate to take chances due to being timid. A proactive manager might waste time in unproductive projects instead of waiting for the chance to grab the right opportunity. Overall, it is still preferable to be a proactive manager, because business success requires the company to be willing to take risks, and manage them properly.
A proactive manager exercises deliberate risk management to see to it that a project succeeds. When you’re proactive, you carefully analyze the situation to ascertain the major risks and choose the right steps so that potential damage is minimized. For example, if employees are ignoring safety in the workplace, a proactive manager could enforce strict rules and establish emergency protocols before an accident occurs.
When you exude optimism and confidence, you’ll be an inspiration to your employees. Providing encouragement and showing enthusiasm could stimulate staff to do the same. They can emulate how you encourage and interact with them when they deal with customers.
A proactive manager values and supports the development of employees. A company’s strength depends on the skills of its employees. When you develop your employees’ skills today, you secure their capabilities in the future. At the same time, you are increasing the strength of your company.
On the other hand, a reactive manager would wait for the time when there is a need for employees’ education and training. It might be too late for the company to benefit from the training.
Traits of a proactive manager
You are a proactive manager if you take responsibility for your role as a manager by cooperating with and engaging your team, usually by example. A proactive manager always searches for means to improve the company, his or her department and the individual members of the team.
1. Thinks long term
A proactive manager thinks long term and should have the ability to see the big picture instead of the details of each day. A proactive leader is capable of making company plans and projections long term. A manager who is proactive has a strong vision and uses the long-term plan as guide to achieve short-term projections.
2. Strong communicator and very good listener
To be effective, a proactive leader should have strong communication skills. Employees place more confidence and trust on a leader who hears and evaluates their ideas, feedback and opinions. When clear communication channels are established within the department or the company as a whole, uncertainty will be less and even indecisive employees will feel more confident.
In smaller organizations, it is easier for managers to know staff members on a personal level, which might be difficult to achieve in larger corporations. However, if you’re the head of the department, being proactive means that you are able to talk to your staff about things outside of work. You could build trust and gain appreciation from your team when they feel they know you personally.
3. Highly organized
As it is, managers handle plenty of things and advance planning helps them to stay on top of the things they need to see and do. When a proactive manager stays organized, with the help of productivity tools or executive assistants, they are able to handle all their managerial tasks.
4. Has excellent problem solving skills
Managers handle many tasks as well as problems the entire day. Problem solving is part of a manager’s job description. However, a proactive manager who plans in advance can tackle problems before they happen instead of the problem occurring when least expected. It’s important for managers to widen his/her perspective and think outside the norm, because solutions to many of the problems are solved through the expertise, skill and knowledge of the manager.
5. Not infallible
Managers are human beings too and they can make mistakes. You cannot expect a manager to know everything just because he or she is in a higher position than you are. However, proactive managers know when to request for help and advice. They do not possess arrogance and just barge into areas or projects that they are unfamiliar with. They will seek the help and advice of staff and colleagues who have more knowledge about a project in order to understand it better and later lead them to the completion of the project.
6. Exercises integrity, loyalty and compassion
An ideal office setting is one where everyone works in harmony. It’s difficult to achieve but it is doable. One of the first things to do to achieve this is to build respect and trust between the manager and staff. Staff members earn the trust of the manager by fulfilling their assigned tasks and show initiative when called for.
Leaders on the other hand earn the trust of their subordinates by supporting them when needed and making responsible decisions morally and ethically for the department and the team. Showing compassion and kindness towards all team members is also good practice. Leading by example encourages others to exhibit the qualities that make a leader great.
7. Stays calm during crisis
When the office is beset with problems, many subordinates compound the situation by panicking. A proactive leader remains calm even when there’s trouble. They are required to make rational decisions that are in keeping with the business strategy.
Having a calm demeanor is not an inherent trait. It is a behavioral characteristic that could be learned and nurtured by getting exposed to problematic situations and surviving them. Proactive leaders often deliberate before making a decision instead of responding to trouble emotionally.
8. Harnesses strengths of the team
If you want to be an effective and proactive leader, you must know the weaknesses and strengths of your team members. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll be able to quickly delegate tasks according to an individual’s knowledge and capability.
This does not mean that you’ll leave things as they are. As their leader, it is your responsibility to develop the skills and knowledge of your team members. You should encourage them to learn new skills and try new things. But while they are learning, you have the support of team members who can be trusted to properly and quickly work on a priority project.
9. Accepts criticism
If you want to be an effective and proactive leader, you are always willing to improve your skill set. You are also willing to learn from your mistakes and accept constructive criticisms well. You understand that negative and positive feedbacks are extremely important in improving your future leadership tactics and job performance.
10. Practices predictive management
This means focusing on lowering the incidences of problems. You think and analyze problematic situations. You learn to identify patterns of failure and patterns in data you acquire. For you it is more important to focus on important rather than urgent issues, seeking answers to why a problem occurred instead of finding ways to fix the problem. A proactive manager is one you always has a big picture in mind while concentrating on the details.
Aspiring to be a proactive leader means learning to actively seek new opportunities for your company or department. As Sir Winston Churchill said, being an optimistic leader is being able to see the opportunity within each difficulty. You take the time to build safeguards to protect the business against possible problems and have the foresight to plan decisions way ahead of everyone.
Of course, it does not mean that you should take charge of all the work you can manage, because otherwise you might turn into a reactive leader. You’ve invested in learning to develop the skills and talents and add to the knowledge of your staff or team members. You also know their strengths and weaknesses. This means that you can assign tasks to each of your team members and expect them to deliver, under your expert guidance.
If you think that you are deviating from the path of being a proactive leader, review your processes and look at the ones you may be able to optimize. If you are swamped with work, it’s time to delegate or check which productivity tool you can utilize. Streamlining your own processes will help you maintain your role as a proactive leader.
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