Preactive leadership goes beyond seeing a need and acting upon it. Proactive leaders see a need that is already there and act on it, which is good but preactive leaders take it a step further. Practicing preactive leadership means anticipating what’s coming in the future and taking actions so that it’s a non-event when it comes. This is highly desirable skill for leaders and one to add to your talent stack to make yourself unique and valuable.
2 Ways to Start Developing Preactive Leadership Skills Now
- Spend time thinking about the future
- Anticipate outcomes
One – Spend Time Thinking About the Future
You might be thinking to yourself, yeah right, who’s got time for that? There’s no denying that it’s busy out there in the workplace. The reality is you probably spend most of your time responding to questions, dealing with interruptions, and handling what’s right in front of you right now.
It pays to make time to think about the future. One of the most common reasons leaders don’t do this is that are caught up in fire fighting mode. Fire fighting is a reactive time management style which means spending most of your time responding to what’s coming at you. When you are reactive you are dealing with the consequences of something that has already happened. Examples include angry customers, employee performance issues, and resistance to change to name a few. This is an exhausting and stressful way to live. It’s hard to think about the future when you’re dealing with the past.
Focused Action For BIG Results is a workbook that lays out 9 strategies for bridging the gap between strategy and execution. Strategy #7 is Be Single Focused. In a nutshell, being single focused means carving out a 45 – 60 minute period in your day and only doing one thing during that time. In this case, thinking about the future.
An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing. – Dale Carnegie
Two: Anticipate Outcomes
Anticipation is a great word and even better practice. Great leaders anticipate questions, concerns, and impacts. Leading a change initiative is a good time to practice anticipation. Practice anticipation by thinking about the questions and concerns the people who are impacted by the change will have. How will they feel? How might they react? What are their biggest concerns?
Leaders have more time to work through the stages of changes because they have been aware of the change long before the end users are impacted. By the time the change is live, it’s old news to them. However, it isn’t old news to the people who are ultimately impacted. It’s fresh to them.
Whether it’s a major systems change, a simple process change, or an environmental change, people have questions and concerns that must get answered. The preactive leader anticipates and answers questions and addresses concerns before the change is rolled out. This approach drastically improves productivity and efficiency with the new normal because it gives people the chance to work through the exploration phase of the change process in advance.
Oops… A manufacturing company was expanding its facility due to growth (great news!) but failed to communicate the news throughout the company. The blueprints were on the wall so it wasn’t a secret but the lack of formal communication created a disruption because the workers had a lot of questions and no one to ask. This resulted in lower productivity and low morale mainly because the grapevine was going wild with unanswered questions and concerns. The decline in productivity could have easily been avoided with advance and ongoing communication.
Spot On… I was so impressed how one manager at a credit union in Iowa used preactive leadership to stop a chronic stressful situation that kept sneaking up on the branch year after year. A large employer in the town gave its employees bonuses at the same time every year. Every year at the same time, the credit union was flooded with employees coming in to cash their bonus checks. Year after year this put a strain on the branch operationally and caused stress as the credit union employees dealt with the unusually high volume.
After completion of a leadership development program where the idea of preactive leadership was introduced in connection with problem-solving, the manager applied what she learned and took steps to ensure that the influx of activity would be a non-issue.
Are you ready for the future? Do you have preactive leadership in your talent stack?
Liz Uram teaches Essential Leadership Skills for Managers and Supervisors so tomorrow’s leaders can develop a unique and valuable talent stack and get better results for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.