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Stop Putting Out Fires and Start Leading with Strategy

Stop Putting Out Fires and Start Leading with Strategy

How many of you find yourself regularly putting out daily fires with short-term band-aids that don’t support your long-term goals? 

If this describes you, you’re not alone. 

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as entrepreneurs is positioning ourselves to work reactively versus proactively. Doing this makes our work harder, more stressful, and overwhelming. We create an unhealthy culture when we work reactively.

While we don’t do it intentionally, it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle that keeps us spinning in circles instead of being thoughtful and strategic to ensure our energy is focused on our business goals and growing our business. 

Successful entrepreneurs are generally proactive leaders who focus on the bigger picture. They are 2-3 moves ahead, anticipating issues and actively seeking long-term solutions before those issues happen. 

They plan for and adapt to all aspects of life—positive and negative—no matter how or when they occur. 

Reactive leaders are the exact opposite of proactive leaders. They typically adopt more of a wait-and-see approach. They avoid anticipating problems until they have no choice but to address them because the problem is staring them in the face and causing issues. The reactive approach results in more time, struggling to put out fires with one-off short-term solutions that don’t support the bigger picture or longer-term goals. 

So, what’s the difference between a proactive entrepreneur versus a reactive one? The table below identifies key traits for a proactive versus a reactive style. 

Ask yourself, are you proactively working smarter or reactively working harder? 

Proactive Reactive
You run the business. Your business runs you.
Set boundaries, only saying yes to things you are passionate about, bringing you one step closer to your goals. Lack of boundaries, you often overbook and say yes to too many things that distract you from reaching your goals.
You set SMART goals for yourself (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). You routinely have vague priorities and tasks.
Your to-do list is thoughtful and deliberate. It focuses on a few key priorities. Your to-do list manages you.
You have a system that provides reminders, and designated priorities on your calendar to ensure you stay on track and hit your deadlines. You typically work from memory.
Regularly use a calendar to block time for key tasks to ensure time is allocated for important priorities. Regularly avoid setting deadlines for tasks.
Careful use of time management to focus your time on things that are important but not urgent. Constantly put out fires with short-term solutions that don’t support longer-term goals.
You choose to only check email, voicemail, and social media at designated times to focus on more important priorities. You tend to have too many distractions going on, which keep you from focusing on your priorities and goals.
You give your team autonomy. You trust that they will do the job they were hired to do, and you delegate as much as possible You don’t know how and when to delegate. You often think you are the only one who can do certain tasks.

So, now that you know your style, let’s talk about what a more proactive style can do for you and your business.

When you take a proactive approach to business, you lead from strategy.

Advantages of working proactively

  1. Stability: Instead of responding to things as they happen, you have an eye on the future and a plan to prepare for the unexpected.
  2. Less stress: When you are prepared and anticipate challenges, you’re more flexible and better positioned to adapt, which naturally creates less stress.
  3. Greater control: When you’re proactive, you can take charge of your business and life and forge the path you want for the future.
  4. More prepared: You’re less likely to get caught off guard. When you’re more prepared, you’re better able to navigate risk and turn challenges into opportunities.
  5. Cost and time savings: Finding a solution after the fact is always more costly in terms of resources and time. When you anticipate a problem and put solutions in place proactively, you avoid the excess cost of resources and time. 
  6. Innovation: Forward-thinking positions your organization to lead the way in innovation.
  7. Flexibility. When you’re open to and flexible enough to adapt to change, your business is better positioned to pivot when necessary.
  8. More insight: When you focus on improvement and evolution, you have more data and insight into your strengths and weaknesses and how to improve the weak areas.
  9. Future planning: You’re in control of your destiny and the roadmap to get you there.
  10. Employee engagement: When employees are less stressed and know what to expect and how they fit into the bigger picture, they are happier, more productive, and more engaged.

But, it’s not always easy to move from a reactive to a more proactive mindset.

Tips to proactively lead with strategy

  1. Have a proactive mindset: When you’re focused on the future, you can better identify reactive thinking patterns and replace them with more proactive thinking.
  2. Be accountable for your success: While you can’t control every aspect of your business and life, you can be responsible for the parts that you do. Focus on what you can do versus what others can do for you.
  3. Keep your eye on the big picture: Always know your priorities and have a roadmap to achieve your goals. 
  4. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t: When you focus on what you can control, you free yourself up to look toward the future. Letting go of what you can’t control is also letting go of the stress and overwhelm.
  5. Know your priorities: There is ONLY one of you. Avoid trying to do too many things. Limit yourself to focusing on a few significant priorities at a time that help you achieve your most important goals.
  6. Have a plan AND a backup plan: While you can’t predict the future, you can anticipate how market, industry, technology, or other changes might impact your business. When you consider likely scenarios and have a plan, you’re one step ahead of the competition. 
  7. Be the one that makes it happen: You will get nowhere being a wallflower. Take the initiative. You may fail, but failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, try again and succeed.
  8. Remain flexible and ready: Things that are unexpected and beyond your control happen. When you have a proactive mindset, you automatically position yourself to look at things objectively, identify new opportunities and reposition your brand.
  9. Know when to pivot: When businesses fail to evolve as the market changes, they get left behind. Keep your eye on your competitors, the market, new technologies, and industry trends to stay ahead of the curve.
  10. Work smarter: Streamline your business operations, align your business and brand strategy, and integrate your marketing and communications to directly support you in achieving your business goals.

When you proactively lead with strategy, you automatically begin to work smarter. When you get down to business, you get back to living. The stress and overwhelm is gone; you’re working less, you’re happier, and your business becomes more efficient.

Let’s face it, change can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to know that you DON’T HAVE TO GO IT ALONE.

The Business360 Method® can help. Book a FREE Business360 Strategy Session to get started.

About the Author

Name: Tammy S. Drost

Title: Founder and CEO of The Business360 Method®

Bio: Tammy S. Drost is an award-winning business and brand strategist and Top 10 Business Coach. With 20+ years as a Business and Brand Strategist, Marketing Executive, Creative Director, and Head of Operations in agency, corporate, and non-profit environments, Tammy recognized that regardless of industry and asset size, each organization faced similar challenges.

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