Do You Act or React To Your Business?

By Doris Lowell

If you are a reactive manager you can adjust your tactics when new situations, complications, and issues arise. However, being reactive means taking action only after the event has happened, while being proactive means being responsive before the event. Proactive and reactive are both valid responses, however when a person is in a reactive state they are forever defensive and anticipating.

A reactive strategy follows the old maxim, "if it ain't broke - don't fix it!" whereas the proactive strategy takes the line that "prevention is better than cure!" Both arguments have merit and both arguments have their followers and their detractors.

When we consider HR and other staffing decisions, a reactive strategy is definitely not the way to proceed for the simple fact the costs and damages associated with a badly - or mishandled - employee matter, can run into the tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars. A ounce of prevention in this case would definitely be worth a pound of cure!

Proactive people wisely use the room between stimuli and responses, whereas reactive people do not. Brian Tracy states, “Those who don’t set goals for themselves are forever doomed to work to achieve the goals of others.” Proactive people look into the future, set goals and use their ability to choose their response to any given situation.

Leadership is supposed to be about achieving the long-term goals of the organization and yet the overwhelming pressure on most managers is to handle day-to-day tasks efficiently. The main barrier to turning ambitions into achievements is the reactive nature of much of what we have to do - this is especially true with HR.

Reactive systems are, generally, highly successful for dynamic uncertain domains - let's be clear here: hiring staff "might" appear on the surface uncertain, but to a professional it's a very predictable process. This predictability makes HR one of the business functions where pre-planning is a valid investment in time and energy.

Fail to plan and you are "managing" (or rather, juggling) your way through your day. React to this, react to that. How can you be effective when you are continuously fighting fires instead of building campfires?

Remember that those who fail to plan, plan to fail... Asking ‘what if’ questions and proactively putting stop measures in place minimizes reactive solutions and reduces organizational risk. Take a moment and consult with an HR professional and avoid the inevitable 'gotchas' that statistically arrive when you can least afford them!

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