Can You Change a Reactive Culture?

As I continue to write and to talk with leaders, I am struck by the continued bafflement about how to move from being reactive to proactive which is what has inspired today’s post.

I have heard many executives define the culture of their organization as reactive vs. pro-active.  They have expressed a desire for more proactive thinking. In order to have this occur, a simple set of changes across the leadership stream can make a big difference.

In a reactive culture without a focus on effective communication, there can be a lack of focus on projects and a sense of overwhelm. Paying attention to and developing network relationships pays off in less wasted time with misunderstanding and wrong information. These patterns often start at the top executive level, so creating processes for this change from the top down is vital.

Proactive cultures however lead to more effective leadership on all levels. Results have shown that the development of individual leadership behaviors that focus on self- management and on leading others, contributes to a management structure where high performance becomes an integral component.

There are several elements that are part of a pro-active culture. Most importantly, there must be essential communication which sets up a familiarity with other leaders and the building of trust. In large organizations this is the area that is least developed. Many of you have experienced 360 Assessments where you are called upon to pick direct reports, peers and senior leaders to answer questions about you and your leadership, efficiency, communication, etc. I have worked in a global institute for leadership development as a senior coach and team leader. Part of the program consists of the opportunity to take a 360 assessment to determine strengths and areas of development. From the answers in several hundred 360 assessments it appears that in the realm of top leadership, peers know the least about each other.

They often know less about each other than they know about their direct reports or the next level of leadership. Communication is at a premium and generally does not openly take place in executive meetings. Often these meetings do not occur on a regular basis.  Because of the lack of honesty and the inability to use collaborative processes, meetings are often seen as a waste of time.

As we discuss accountability as part of the Collaborative Leadership model, one of the innovative practices is using partnerships and meetings to allow for group accountability, and the sharing of best practices, rather than solitary meandering through problems or concerns.

In my experience, the competitive cultures that have been built, especially on the executive level, tend to cascade down into practice among managers and even individual contributors.  As leadership becomes more of a practice, and includes collaboration as an essential aspect, the partnerships among equals create a context for creative thinking and innovation.

In this information age, is easy to become reactive, so it is important to have certain daily practices that foster productivity and performance to foster a more proactive culture. More information on these daily practices can be found in an article I published in The Linkage Leader, Organizational Development through Creating Cultural Change.

If you have any questions, challenges, or successes you would like to share please be sure to leave a comment. I would enjoy hearing from you! – Patricia