Responsive vs. Reactive

For the past five and a half years I have learned a lot about the difference between being responsive and being reactive.

Now, as a more experienced professional, it is easy to spot the wisdom and experience in other employees and contractors based upon this attribute alone. I’m not saying that someone should be selected based upon this factor alone, but it is a very important attribute to assess.

Working an environment where projects, tasks, and personal favors come our way every single day, I’ve realized that knowing how to prioritize is a talent. It is also a leadership skill, though many people in leadership positions do not have it.

Reactive is, in my mind, the “yes” man or woman. Whenever something comes through they’ll jump on it. This could mean a couple of things. They are:
1.) anxious to please
2.) don’t have much to do
3.) motivated by fear or line of authority allegiance and
4.) whatever the other one could be that I cannot remember.

Any way you slice it, being reactive isn’t sustainable. If it is being done to please, there will come a point where you will wear yourself out because more and more requests will come your way. If you don’t have much to do, well …you will start to get bombarded and will fill your time, but it may not be smartly. The 3rd one is interesting. You will be respected at first for being a fast responder. However, if all the responsiveness isn’t thought through, there could be a lot of extra hours put in to something that could have been done simply and faster. It is also a route that may be pleasing the person you are reporting to, but that is just one person. What about all the other people you plan to work for in your life? Or, how would you go out on your own?

I’ve gotten into more day to day trouble being responsive. I’m not reactive. So, at first blush it would appear I’m questioning too much or trying to get out of work. But, I believe if you take a little time to ask more questions about what is being asked, it actually brings to light many other issues that clarify what you should actually spend time doing. Through some of these stepping back and next reacting experiences, I think I may have saved $40,000-50,000 at a time.

Another aspect of this is pushing back on all the incoming expectations. Often people forget what priorities are being worked on before giving more tasks. So, it’s helpful to give a reminder of what is already in the works and asking how the new priority fits into what is already going on. After all, should people keep switching priorities every time a new idea comes in? No, absolutely not. Then none of the projects would get completed.

Anyway, thought I’d capture these thoughts because I know a few people that react too quickly, don’t think through things and appear to be inexperienced at balancing priorities.

Maybe I have a hidden skill that I’m not aware of yet. (-:

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