Home TOC Previous Next

Appendix Three: Proactive Managers

Proactive managers are cautious without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside
of action. They pursue their goals continuously but incrementally,
testing/evaluating progress toward the goal. This approach assures movement
toward the goal without exposing the organization to unnecessary and avoidable
jeopardy. They do not play it safe but do play it cautiously.

Proactive managers focus most of their time and energy on organizational stability
and goal attainment. They minimize time and energy absorbed by worrying about
unlikely contingencies and maintaining the status quo.

Proactive managers make decisions and take action thoughtfully but quickly. They do
not delay or postpone decisions or actions, try to avoid or defer doing what
needs done, and they do not hesitate or proceed reluctantly. Their actions and
reactions are not impulsive or ill-considered. They are, instead, decisive and

Proactive managers do not shirk or avoid responsibility and have little tolerance
for people who do. They are committed to the welfare of the organization and to
its mission.

From the perspective of personal responsibility, they do
everything they have agreed to do to the best of their ability and accept
additional responsibility to the extent necessary to assure the organization’s

They may decide they are unwilling or unable to continue accepting
the responsibilities they have agreed to accept. In that event, they will be
up-front about their decision and in the meantime, they will do what they have
agreed to do at the highest level of which they are capable. The organization
always gets their best effort.

Proactive managers take calculated risks and carefully considered chances with hard
resources such as capital and soft resources such as political support. Before
taking such risks, they first determine the cost to the organization of paying
the hard or soft resource bill if their action is unsuccessful. Next, they
determine the extent of total organizational resource reduction that could
result from having to pay that bill. How much worse off would the organization
be if the bill is paid? That is “X” or the downside cost of action.

“Y” or the upside benefit of action is similarly calculated in
terms of the level of increase in total hard and soft resources if the action
is successful. Action then gambles “X” against the possibility of “Y.”

Two additional factors are then considered: the likelihood of
getting “y,” and how much the value of “Y” exceeds the value of “X.” They do
not gamble a lot to only gain a little.

For the proactive manager, then, taking calculated risks with
organizational resources means the potential value of attaining “Y” justifies
the risk of having to pay the downside bill (X). In either event, contingency
plans are in place to manage the outcome.

Proactive managers have a high tolerance for and acceptance of differing
personalities, traits and characteristics, personal styles, individual values
and beliefs, and for the idiosyncrasies of people. Similarly, they easily
manage fluctuations in people’s moods, points of view, and interests.
Alternatively, they have little tolerance for sub-standard work, less than
complete attention to the task at hand, or lackluster performance. They always
give their best effort and expect others to do the same.

Proactive managers expect others to do things correctly, to give everything they do
their best effort, to succeed. They are surprised when people make mistakes,
give things less than their best effort, do not succeed.

Since they expect success, they assume personal responsibility for
mistakes of others, lackluster effort, non-success. Their first take on the
situation is they haven’t been smart enough or skilled enough to effectuate the
right outcome. They then work with the person to identify the deficiencies, to
modify their (the proactive manager’s) performance so they better facilitate
the person’s success.

Of course, the Proactive manager occasionally determines a specific
person either can’t or won’t perform as expected no matter what is done but
typically, the proactive manager assumes shared responsibility for assuring the
success of others.

Proactive managers accept people as is. Their goal isn’t to change anyone. Rather,
they focus on encouraging and facilitating in ways enabling each person to
achieve optimal performance within the context of their skills, abilities, and
interests. Concurrently, they expect people to expand and improve their
capacities and are ready to help however they can, within the resources and
constraints of the organization. People are not expected to change but are
expected to grow and develop as organizational participants.

Proactive managers are not stingy with praise nor are they lavish with it. They are
quick to recognize and acknowledge the successes and accomplishments of others
but do not confuse praise with simple good manners.

Please and thank you and noting someone did a good job or was
helpful are not examples of praise. They are, rather, merely examples of good
manners and are integral to the proactive manager’s habitual deportment.
Alternatively, praise is an intentional and thoughtful action which privately
or publicly acknowledges and commends excellence. Proactive managers reserve
praise for exceptional or extraordinary performance, never missing an
opportunity to praise when individual or group performance meets that standard.

Proactive managers understand holding people responsible and accountable on the one
hand and blaming and accusing them on the other are not the same. Holding
someone responsible is a performance standard. Holding them accountable is a
performance expectation. Alternatively, blaming and accusing imply negative
opinions and perceptions of the individual.

To blame someone or accuse them represents a pejorative assessment
of them. Blaming and accusing are always subjective and personal while
responsibility and accountability are performance elements that can be
objectively evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted. Since the individual or
group are accountable for their performance, the level of responsibility
extended to them may be increased or decreased, depending on their performance.

To blame or accuse are counterproductive and incompatible with
proactive management. Holding people responsible and accountable are key
elements in the proactive manager’s approach with people. It starts with
holding himself (or herself) responsible and accountable and then simply
extending the principle to everyone else in the organization.

Proactive managers resist the temptation to either focus on what is not going well
or on what is. It may be a function of human nature to attend mostly to the
negative or to the positive, depending on ones personality. Proactive managers
understand this is not a simple matter of choice or personal preference. The
key to success is seeing neither focusing on the positive nor on the negative
is advisable.

At a more fundamental level, the reality is the organization is
continuously transitioning from a past state to a future state. The primary
responsibility of the proactive manager is to affect the transition so as to
actualize the desired future state. To do this, the task is to reduce and
eliminate the disparity between the present and future states, without
redefining or compromising the future state. Focus then needs to be
collectively on the cluster of elements affecting the future state either as
contributors or as Detractors, understanding neither is more or less important
than the other. Focus must be on the gestalt.

Proactive managers demonstrate their respect for and are pleased by the successes
and accomplishments of others. The key here is twofold. They both respect the
achievements of others and actively demonstrate that respect and the pleasure
they experience when others do well. Respect in this context includes holding
the person and the action or accomplishment in high esteem, feeling delighted,
and actively expressing approval.

Home TOC Previous Next