In exploring personal leadership this month, we couldn’t help but refer back to Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We wanted to put together a reminder of these ever-valuable habits for you, with a personal leadership twist, but came to realise that there is so much to say about each habit that we probably need to focus on them individually! The result: a series of seven crib sheets that will be revealed over the next month, giving you insight into each habit and how you can use it to develop your personal leadership.
So let’s kick off with the first of the seven habits (a personal favourite of mine!)
What is Habit One?
Let’s define it
Google defines ‘proactive’ as ‘creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened’.
What does it mean?
The definition above hits the nail on the head with this one! Being proactive is all about focusing on what you can control. It’s about forward thinking behaviour; anticipating the consequences of a situation before they happen.
In being proactive, we can pre-empt potential complications with the aim of reducing impact on ourselves, others, our progress.
From Covey’s perspective, proactive behaviour involves taking responsibility for your life and identifying solutions to problems before they actually manifest themselves.
Why is it important?
Being proactive is an extremely useful commercial skill, hence why you’ll often see ‘proactive’ as a person requirement in a job description. Proactiveness prompts preparation and preparation prompts perfection. It’s no surprise it’s a desirable attribute! When proactive behaviours are encouraged in businesses, companies can save money, reduce risk and avoid potential complications.
It’s also a very strong interpersonal skill and can help us manage challenging conversations. In preparing for conversations, we can ensure we have explored all possible routes which the conversation could take; which difficult questions we could be faced with and how we may approach them. This way, we are less likely to be caught off guard and find ourselves in a position saying something we do not mean or have not thought through.
Develop this habit: Practical tools
Thinking about your ‘Ripple Effect’ can be a good place to start. What impact will your action(s) have? Who will be affected? Why could they be affected? How will it impact people/the situation and when? In asking yourself these questions, before perhaps a meeting with your manager or a when making a decision, you are holistically exploring the impact of your actions and considering all possible reactions/outcomes. This will encourage you to think about how you can minimise negative or unhelpful impact and create the best possible solution for yourself and those around you.
Leading on from this series of questions to ask yourself, another good question to consider is ‘what could go wrong?’ Focus on the possible negative implications for a moment, but remain optimistic! The key is to not allow the negatives to cloud the positives and cause frustration or inactivity. Explore the negatives and learn to either accept them (if they are beyond your control), or overcome them (if you can proactively make the negative a neutral or a positive). This idea stems from Martin Seligman’s ‘learned optimism’ theory – the idea that we can cultivate an optimistic outlook by challenging negative self-talk.
Exploring your Ripple Effect and the notions behind learned optimism essentially invite you to be nosey with yourself! Ask the questions, explore the possibilities, and prevent possible problems: that’s what being proactive is all about.
Enjoyed this? Look out for the next in our ‘seven habits’ series, which focuses on Covey’s second habit of Highly Effective People, ‘Begin with the end in mind’.