The Power Of Proactivity: Why It Matters For Business Owners

Many people believe that the only way to be more successful is to work harder. In fact, this is not true. There is a very simple yet powerful change that you can make to your habits that will be a game-changer your business.

In life, we often find that things don’t always go as planned. The same can be said of business. While you may not be able to control what happens to you, you do have the ability to control its negative impact.

As a leader, being proactive is essential—otherwise, it wouldn’t be top of the list in Stephen R. Covey’s integral book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Here, we’re going to look at how you can harness the power of proactivity to build and strengthen your business.

What it means to be reactive

What exactly does “reactive” mean? Simply put, it’s addressing an issue or a situation as, or after, it occurs. 

But reactive strategies are often misleading. They give the impression that fixing problems as they arise is more efficient and cost-effective. Yet, this is seldom the case for any organization.

What it means to be proactive

A proactive approach to business means keeping your goals front and center – knowing exactly what you need to do to achieve them, and taking all the necessary steps to make it all happen.

Being a proactive leader requires being clear-sighted and focused, and a willingness to seek out new opportunities and take advantage of them, rather than waiting for things to happen to you.

A proactive brainstorming session

Five benefits of being proactive in business

You’re in control. When you take the time to plan for the future, either to find new ways to improve your operations or create solutions for potential issues, you are taking greater charge of your success.

“Our basic nature is to act, and not be acted upon. As well as enabling us to choose our response to particular circumstances, this empowers us to create circumstances.”

Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Instead of being a slave to external factors, proactivity fuels you to take the initiative and do what’s necessary to create the future you want. 

It is less stressful. People who take a proactive attitude to life experience much less stress than those who are more reactive. 

Even though you will occasionally need to use your problem-solving abilities, it will be in a more strategic, forward-planning scenario rather than being caught off-guard and having to urgently put out fires.

While we can’t promise you’ll never be stressed at work again, knowing that you are identifying potential problems and nipping them in the bud before they can develop can significantly reduce your work-related worries.

You save time and money. Preventing problems is always more efficient than trying to solve them. What could cost you dearly in terms of time, energy, budget, and reputation could be avoided with a bit of foresight and proactive planning.

You boost your awareness. Having the fuel to take the necessary steps to achieve success is pretty useless if we don’t have a clear understanding of what we need to improve in the first place.

Author Stephen R. Covey believed that self-awareness and proactivity go hand-in-hand. Both can build the other up to make you more effective.

“Through our human endowments of self-awareness and conscience, we become conscious of areas of weakness, areas for improvement, areas of talent that could be developed, areas that need to be changed or eliminated from our lives. Then, as we recognize and use our imagination and independent will to act on that awareness—making promises, setting goals, and being true to them—we build the strength of character, the being, that makes possible every other positive thing in our lives.”

Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

You make room for innovation. A reactive mindset of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” easily leads to stagnation. 

When all the other components of proactivity come together – strategic planning, greater awareness, less stress, and more time and money available – you’ll find you have more opportunities to drive change and make real progress instead of simply maintaining the status quo.

Employees in a meeting to proactively tackle issues

How to be more proactive today

Prioritize effectively

Many people believe that proactivity is about doing as much as possible all the time, but this isn’t the case. The truth is, you don’t need to try and do everything yourself, or react to everything that comes your way.

Most day-to-day tasks that land on our plates take up more time than they’re truly worth. As a result, we can’t give the full force of our attention to the tasks that will make the biggest difference to our goals.

The Pareto principle—or the 80/20 rule—states that 80% of results come from 20% of actions. For example, 80% of your business revenue comes from 20% of your customers or clients, and vice versa. If you were to look at your entire task list, it’s likely that 20% of those tasks result in 80% of the impact you could realistically generate each day. So instead of spending valuable time and energy on the 80% of our tasks that create a lesser impact, the 20% should be your main focus.

Ask “What if?” 

I’d argue that the whole concept of proactivity boils down to those two words.

Go through all aspects of your operations with a fine-tooth comb. For example:

  • Do you have a single employee that performs key tasks that only they can do? What if they fall sick? Creating standardized instructions or training other employees will help you avoid disruption if this ever occurs.
  • Are you launching a new product in the near future? What if there are issues in manufacturing? What if your shipment is delayed? Giving yourself a few extra weeks of breathing room from your original estimated release date will mitigate the impact of any unexpected delays, and reduce the risk of unhappy customers. If everything goes smoothly, it’s always better to be ahead of schedule than behind.
  • Do you rely on your computer or devices to work? What if there was a power outage? What if your devices stopped working properly, or broke altogether? Investing in spare battery packs (or even a generator if you have the means) and a cell phone plan with lots of data will ensure you’re covered in the event of power or internet issues. Researching local libraries, co-working spaces, or coffee shops with WiFi also means you’ll have a backup if all else fails.
  • Think about your business and your products or services in general. What if you could streamline the process? What if you could offer more solutions to your clients’ pain points? What if you could reach more potential customers?

Taking the time to think of new ways to optimize and improve will help give you a competitive edge and stay ahead of the curve. And when you consider all the potential outcomes of a situation, you’ll be prepared for mostly anything that comes your way. This doesn’t mean that you have to be pessimistic or always expect the worst, but it does mean that you should always be ready for whatever life throws at you.

Avoid reactive language

The words we speak can have a more significant influence on our lives than you might expect. Be conscious of your speech patterns and everyday vocabulary. 

Do you find yourself saying things like, “I have to ___,” “If only ___,” “I can’t do anything about it,” and “Things would be different if ___”? This kind of language undermines your authority, your ability to take control, and your responsibility. Instead, try swapping them with “I get to,” “I will,” “I choose to,” or “I will try”.

“A serious problem with reactive language is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… They feel increasingly victimized and out of control, not in charge of their life or their destiny. They blame outside forces—other people, circumstances, even the stars—for their own situation.”

Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Remember your responsibility

As the head of your business, the buck starts and stops with you. If you want to reach your goals, it’s down to you to put the wheels in motion. Taking a backseat is not an option if you’re to be an effective leader and grow your business.

“Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions…. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. Look at the word responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Put mindfulness to use

Reactionary thought patterns can be difficult to spot. However, with a bit of mindfulness and attention, they can be swapped out for more constructive thoughts. With practice, you can learn to respond calmly and constructively to challenging situations.

Be ready to adapt

No matter how well you try to predict the future or how much you have prepared for every eventuality, there’s always a slim chance that something completely unexpected will happen and throw you off balance.

The important thing is to stay positive and not panic. Prevention is always better than a cure, but don’t let this make you become inflexible or avoid tackling problems head-on when necessary.

Make your moves

One thing that holds many people back from adopting a proactive strategy is stepping out of their comfort zone and taking risks. But being proactive isn’t about perfection and never making mistakes. In the famous words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.

The only way to achieve a goal you have never achieved before is to start doing things you have never done before.

Don’t dwell on past errors

Whether we like it or not, mistakes are unavoidable. Instead of dwelling on previous errors, seize the opportunity to learn from them.  

Examine what went wrong and what you can do better the next time. There is a reason your windshield is larger than your rear-view mirror. While it’s important to be aware of what’s behind us, our main focus should be on the road ahead.

Final thoughts

If you want to reach your full potential as a business owner, being proactive is something that you simply cannot overlook.

Being proactive means you can foster creativity and innovation to take your business to the next level. You can stay ahead of the curve and anticipate problems before they arise. Consider it less of a task and more of an investment in your future.

In today’s competitive world, if you’re not striving to be the best you can be, you may find yourself getting left behind. By taking these steps, you can set yourself up for success no matter what comes your way.

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