Is Your Organization Proactive or Reactive?

I’d like to share another discussion I had with a client recently who is working with her team to create the strategy of the business for next year. As with many of you, she is envisioning some new business models, as well as new products, which will require something new from the entire team of leaders. However, often these new required behaviors evolve as circumstances arise, instead of proactively creating opportunities for more empowerment of the implementers as the strategic plan unfolds.

My opinion is that over the last decade or so more business leaders have been attentive to bringing more relationship and connection into the business environment which is essential. But some of the important focused and scheduled meeting practices have been given over to spontaneous “drop in” meetings as a result. Unfortunately this way of communicating has not served well in terms of performance or essential collaboration.

That said, a mixture of spontaneous meetings, as well as scheduled ,structured meetings, can still be used. However, it is important to insure the elements of connection are present during the scheduled strategic meetings. These elements allow the brain to sort through ideas, actions and interactions more effectively, leading to mastery. It also results in greater team engagement as projects move forward.

Results show that in a culture where high performance is integrated into the management structure, individual leadership behaviors that relate to self- management and leading others become even more of an important factor.

The following are two important dichotomies that exist in an overall culture that can be influenced by new behaviors practiced on a daily basis:

1. The Proactive vs. Reactive
2. Focus vs. Interruptions and Distractions

I have heard many executives define the culture of their organization as reactive vs. proactive expressing a desire for more strategic thinking and proactive behavior.

The present challenge is that many organizations have developed reactive cultures of interruption which consist of constant checking of e-mail, drop- in meetings, and a sense that every issue must be dealt with immediately. This creates a lack of focus on ongoing projects and a sense of overwhelm. These patterns start at the top executive level and eventually trickle down to every employee undermining the overall productivity of the entire organization. But this can be changed when a clear mandate comes from the top, both in words and actions, to embrace more strategic communication and planning.

As we all know, behavior change is a challenge, which makes creating processes for this change, from the top down, vital. However, in the spirit of empowerment, these processes are not edicts, but simple training opportunities that are practiced and communicated with peers and with teams of direct reports, as well as in individual conversation.

Below are a few elements you, as a leader, can include in your next meeting to create a proactive vs. reactive culture to enhance engagement and future performance of both teams and individuals.

  1. First, schedule meetings with a clear agenda and focus. In team meetings of senior leaders, including the top executives of the organization, the Collaborative Leadership Model encourages attention to the process of the meeting, as well as the content. In other words, focus on the meeting process, and what may be missing from the process, is prioritized at the same level as the elements of the agenda content.
  2. Have a method for keeping to the agenda and for noting items that can be addressed at a later time.
  3. Include an agenda item that asks for contributions from all members of the team, even if it is a stated agreement with what has already been said. (This allows for the connection that occurs when people know where someone stands on a strategy.)
  4. Allow for time on the agenda to discuss implementation once strategic initiatives are agreed upon.
  5. Ask everyone in the meeting to be responsible for a task to complete and to report on. Encourage team members to form partnerships with each other so individual discussion with one other person can take place between team meetings
  6. Have team partnerships create agreements for accountability, and schedule on-going partnership meetings for this purpose.

If you have any questions on the above elements, or would like to share a particular challenge or success, please be sure to leave a comment. I would enjoy hearing from you!