Better Working Relationships: Proactive > Reactive

In the third, and final, post in this series on working relationships, let’s look at something everyone knows in theory, but few are able to master in application.


Being proactive is greater than being reactive. 

I know. It’s painfully cliché.


But, as much as it is cliché, it’s also:

True. Valid. Real. Important. Necessary. A way to exceed expectations. A way to add real value to your organization. A way to keep clients happy. A way to become valued by your co-workers. A way to make your working relationships better.

Get it? Okay.

The concept of “being proactive” is an overarching task, layered on top of all the more tangible tasks that we deal with on a daily basis. This is why it’s hard for many people to master. So how do we actually become proactive? How does this play out in our busy schedules every day?

As someone who admittedly struggles with this myself, I’ve come up with a few practical tips that i think are worth sharing:

1. Be Intentional. This one is so good I want to type it again. Be intentional. If you want something to change, you have to do something to cause that change. It doesn’t happen magically on it’s own. It’s so obvious to see when you really think about it, but so many people walk through life saying they want to be intentional, but if you were to ask them how they will achieve it, they would stare at you like a deer in the headlights.

So take some time to analyze what you are doing now and make some changes! For example:

2.Understand where your time is going. Business is a powerful foe of proactivity/productivity. When we get busy, we tend to put on tunnel vision and focus only on what’s in front of us. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the lofty goal of proactivity takes a back seat.

Try tracking your own time for a week, and see where you are spending it. You don’t have to get down to the minute, but get detailed enough to see where a 40 hour work week goes. Until you know where your time is really going, you can’t really make changes to climb out of the business trap.

Once you’ve done that, you can do this:

3. Schedule Proactivity. I’ve met people who use their outlook calendar to help with every single aspect of their lives. While it seems overkill to me, the concept of “if you want to get something done, make time for it on your calendar” is about as practical as it gets.

Try scheduling an hour or two each week to go through your client list/task list/whatever you work on and get proactive. Send some emails. Come up with new ideas. Ask a question. Do something beyond the requirement.

4. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. (Or team members, or bosses, or whomever.) Think of a situation in which you are the client. What are you looking for your vendor/partner/agency to provide? Becoming empathetic is a powerful thing, and can often lead to some eye-opening conclusions.

When you do this, get specific. What specifically do you want when you are the client? Figure that out, then figure out how you can provide that same thing right now.

5. Reflect Frequently. This is the older brother of number one above. Whenever change is needed, and a plan is put in place to address it, there needs to be points of critical review to determine how well the plan worked. You can’t just wait and see–remember, we are more intentional than that.

Set a point in time–maybe it’s 2 weeks, maybe it’s a month–to review the results of your actions. Once you’ve done this, rinse and repeat. Adjust your new actions based on results, and keep moving forward.

Mastering the art of proactivity is something that will pay dividends throughout your career. Don’t accept less than mastery, and keep working until you’ve got it!

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T Fortune

Currently serves as the Director of Project Management for CM, he splits his time between managing CM's team of Project Managers and support staff. While supporting business-development team and driving results for the clients he manages directly.