Four Behaviours of Effective People: 2. Being Proactive

Four Behaviours of Effective People: 2. Being Proactive

I hope you enjoyed and felt inspired by our first blog on Assertiveness in this series of four blogs looking at Personal Effectiveness.  If you missed the first blog, click on the link below for a quick catch up.

  1. Assertiveness
  2. Learning to be pro-active rather than reactive
  3. Managing your time effectively
  4. Influencing others. Stepping out of your comfort zone and learning how to use different influencing styles to suit different situations

This second blog moves on to the key behaviour of Being Proactive. (Again, it’s a pretty huge subject, so this is intended to give you a flavour and hopefully some motivation to learn more).

When you are behaving proactively you are actively creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.  As such, it is an absolutely key behaviour to learn if we want to be more effective at work.

When do we feel proactive?

Why is it that in some roles, situations and relationships we feel positively raring to go and in others drained of energy, perhaps even a little scared to put our heads above the parapet?

An important step in feeling proactive is to understand the nature of the relationship you have with different stakeholders or in different situations.  How do they make you feel and, therefore, effect your confidence and outward behaviour?  Who do you believe has control?  You or someone or something else?

The Locus of Control (Julian Rotter):

If you look at this model, the Locus of Control, you can see that to be proactive you need to feel both in control of the situation and also highly motivated.  Conversely, if you feel that you have no control and low motivation you may well be feeling very uncomfortable and pretty fed up – rather like a victim.  I have found this model to be a really helpful tool when helping clients to understand and explore why they might be feeling unhappy or frustrated at work.  If you are sitting in the ‘Latent Potential’ quadrant (ie you are not fulfilling your potential or feeling challenged) or, even worse, the ‘Victim’ quadrant you really need to take responsibility for how you are feeling and take some steps to move yourself out of this position.

There are many situations in which it is perfectly fine to be sitting in the ‘Reactive’ quadrant  – someone else is in control, but you are still feeling highly motivated and happy – for example, in a job that you enjoy and are comfortable with a boss giving you clear and proper instructions.  However, if you want to become more personally effective and especially if you want to move into a leadership position, you will need to start to exert more internal control.  You will need to take control of your own destiny, rather than allow it to be dictated by others or events that are beyond your control.  If you would like to understand a little more about the Locus of Control, if you tend towards ‘internal’ or ‘external’ control and why successful leaders are often strongly ‘internal’ please see Appendix 1:        

What stops us from being proactive?

Stephen Covey, in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, used ‘The Circle of Influence’ to demonstrate why some people are proactive and others are reactive:

(Graphic by James Clear)

So, put simply, to become more proactive (and therefore more successful at work), we need to focus much more on the things within our circle of control, and much, much less on the things within our circle of concern.  A quick win in this respect is to stop obsessing with the news and social media and focus on what you are doing, thinking and feeling.  By focusing your energy on the things that you can change, you will find that your circle of control naturally grows – and you will naturally become less reactive and more proactive.

Some easy steps you can take now to become more proactive:

  1. Map out your own circle of concern and circle of control.  Are you more focused on the external? Action plan how you can reduce the size of your circle of concern, and take concrete steps to increase your circle of control.  There is little to be gained in studying the latest celebrity gossip or worrying about world events and politics that you cannot influence (leave the details of Brexit to the UK government for the time being!).  To quickly increase your circle of control, prioritise and build time into your schedule to focus on something important to you, whether it be learning a new skill, reading recommended books, writing articles or perhaps exercising more regularly.
  2. Plan Your Work, Challenge Assumptions and Look Forwards.  Giving up your obsession with the news doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan ahead or make business decisions in the context of what is going on in the world.  Action plan for the future of your business and/or make sure you challenge and question the assumptions and ideas of your colleagues and bosses if you disagree or think there may be better options.
  3. Problem-Solve. Rather than dwell on problems, develop a problem-solving mindset – anticipating and preventing them from occurring as much as you can too.  Define exactly what the problem is. Decide what you need to do to overcome the problem and how you’re going to do it – and just do it!
  4. Focus on What You CAN Do.  Stop making excuses for your failures or lack of action and focus on what you can do or change to help you be successful.  ‘Lack of time’ is a an old favourite in this respect, so..
  5. Prioritise.  Prioritising and doing things better or more efficiently is absolutely key.…so make sure you catch the third blog in this series: Managing Your Time Effectively!  

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