How to be Proactive Professional at Work

In organizational behavior and industrial/organizational psychology, proactivity or proactive behavior by individuals refers to anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior in situations.

Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen. Proactive employees generally do not need to be asked to act, nor do they require detailed instructions.

Proactive behavior can be contrasted with other work-related behaviors, such as proficiency, i.e. the fulfillment of predictable requirements of one’s job, or adaptability, the successful coping with and support of change initiated by others in the organization. In regard to the latter, whereas adaptability is about responding to change, proactivity is about initiating change.

Proactivity is not restricted to extra-role performance behaviors. Employees can be proactive in their prescribed role for example by changing the way they perform a core task to be more efficient.

Likewise, behaviors labeled as organizational citizenship behavior can be carried out proactively or passively. Therefore, we can say that action and result oriented behavior, instead of the one that waits for things to happen and then tries to adjust (react) to them. Proactive behavior aims at identification and exploitation of opportunities and in taking pre-emptive action against potential problems and threats, whereas reactive behavior focuses on fighting a fire or solving a problem after it occurs.

Prof Sharen discussed the following as being proactive is good, right?  Most of the available literature on strategy, leadership, and effectiveness in the workplace supports the idea that leveraging our human capital, by encouraging them to behave in a proactive way can improve performance.  It looks as if we also recruit people and make performance judgments based at least in part on our perceptions of their “assertiveness” or proactivity.  A recent study found that both men and women were more likely to get an interview when their reference letters emphasized activity or proactivity rather than socio-emotional behaviours.

Researchers have been looking at proactive behaviour in the workplace for many years.  They have found that, at least in the West, proactive behaviour consists of the following.

Taking charge.  Includes behaviours such as:

– Try to bring about improved procedures for the work unit

– Try to correct a faulty procedure or practice

– Try to implement solutions to pressing organizational problems

– Voice.  Includes behaviours such as:

– Speak up with ideas for new projects or changes in procedures

– Communicate opinions about work issues to others, even if their opinions differ or others disagree

– Develop and make recommendations concerning issues that affect this store

Upward influence, which includes behaviours such as:

– Discuss production issues with the store leaders

– Discuss work issues with the store leader

For many people, proactive behaviour is second nature. But many struggle with this type of behaviour.  Perhaps due to a set of implicit beliefs about the appropriate behaviour in the workplace, created through culture, family life, educational experience or the cumulative impact of workplaces not receptive to employee proactivity. Proactive people want to be heard, want their contributions acknowledged.  If they feel that their contributions will fall on deaf ears, they will be de-motivated and their productivity will suffer.

What does this mean in practice?  Don’t encourage proactive behaviour or even input, if a decision has already been made, or if the input is not going to be part of the decision-making process. Monitor your own behaviour.  Are you receptive to proactive behaviour?  Do you see proactive behaviour as a threat to your control, authority or status? How do you reward proactive behaviour?  Try to make your implicit expectations of followers and leaders explicit, to help your team understand when to engage in proactive behaviour, and when it might not be welcome.

Proactivity is something that is commonly touted as a route to improved decision-making and performance.  Yet it can be a two-edged sword.  Encouraging a team to behave proactively, but unconsciously being unreceptive to proactive behaviour is a recipe for decreased performance and productivity.

Let us borrow the words of Anne-Marie Cooley which state the following as the steps you can take to become more proactive at work apply to both your formal role and your part of the scope within your team, your department, and your overall organization. Proactivity requires that you be organized. That includes your mindset, your space, and of course, your schedule! Organizing your time helps you approach tasks more efficiently and allows you to be more open to opportunities. This scheduling needs to include ‘downtime’ for those activities that keep your life in balance.

A positive attitude is right up there on any list. Approaching tasks from a positive perspective encourages you to look for the best in every situation. It helps you become the employee who is ‘ready, willing, and able,’ who can always be counted on. A team player who is reliable and available will become the go-to person, the problem solver.

Take stock of your current responsibilities:

•        What are your tasks?

•        What are the priorities?

•        What can be consolidated, eliminated, shortened?

•        What can you do to stay ahead of less urgent tasks?

•        How do you solve problems?

•        Can you prevent them by planning ahead and developing alternative processes in anticipation?

•        What are the things you still need to know?

•        Can you automate any of your tasks to make them more effective and less time consuming?

Communicate | Connect | Network

Find a role model by observing the leaders in your company. When possible, spend time with them to gain insight from their behaviors. Try out their techniques. Some will work for you, others will not. You’ll need to fine tune what you acquire so that you are able to build your own repertoire.

Let others know that you want to be more involved. You’ll need to create your own opportunities. Don’t wait to be asked – present your ideas to your management team.

Goals | Persistence | Excellence

Set goals for yourself. Write them down! List everything that you want to accomplish! Set Deadlines! Once you have the end in mind, you can achieve your desired outcome. A series of small goals leading up to the completion of a large goal keeps tasks from becoming insurmountable.

Stay the course on how you want to accomplish your goals. This may require overcoming your fears and rising above obstacles or setbacks. You’ll need to step outside of your comfort zone and become increasingly resilient.

Strive for excellence from start to finish. Commit yourself to always presenting your best work – your completed project with no loose ends. Be passionate about what you do. Give it your all. No matter what the role you are assigned, you will be more effective when you put your full energy and effort into it.

Celebrate! | Be Flexible!

Celebrate your successes, big and small, as you move along your path to becoming more proactive!

Be Flexible! You can’t plan for every outcome, so being able to react to the unexpected is an important trait for the proactive person. It is about the awareness of the existence of choices, regardless of the situation or the context.

ChrissyScivicque in her book “the Proactive Professional” stated the following 5Ps:

1. Predict

In order to be proactive, you must first develop foresight.

Proactive people are rarely caught by surprise. Learn to anticipate problems and events. Understand how things work; look for patterns; recognize the regular routines, daily practices and natural cycles that exist in your business. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Use your imagination when anticipating future outcomes. Don’t simply expect the past to always be an accurate predictor for the future; use your creativity and logic. Come up with multiple scenarios for how events could unfold. Proactive people are always on their toes.

2. Prevent

Proactive people foresee potential obstacles and exert their power to find ways to overcome them before those obstacles turn into concrete roadblocks.

They prevent problems that others would simply look back on in hindsight and claim unavoidable. Don’t allow yourself to get swept up in a feeling of powerlessness. When challenges approach, take control and confront them head on before they grow into overwhelming problems.

3. Plan

Proactive people plan for the future.Avoid one-step, “here and now” thinking and instead, look ahead and anticipate long-term consequences. Bring the future into the present; what can you do today to ensure success tomorrow? Don’t make decisions in a vacuum; every decision is a link in a chain of events leading to one final conclusion. In order to make the best decision, you have to know where you came from, where you are, and where you want to end up.

4. Participate

Proactive people are not idle observers, they are active participants.

In order to be proactive, you must get involved. You have to take initiative and be a part of the solution. Recognize that you are only a piece of the whole and that you influence—and are influenced by—the actions of others. Don’t simply react to them. Engage with them. Exert your influence and make a contribution.

5. Perform

Being proactive means taking timely, effective action.

You must be decisive and willing to do the work NOW. Procrastination is not an option. Take ownership of your performance and hold yourself accountable. Stand behind your decisions. Being proactive means you have taken careful, thoughtful steps to choose the appropriate path; you’re not just reacting impulsively to your environment, at the end of the day the power is yours.

 

Source: Daniel Adjei | Management Consultant | Spint Consult Limited | dadjei@spintconsult.com |+233-302-915421

Categories: Opinions

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