Proactive Workers Know How To Anticipate Needs

“A lot of times people don't know what they want until you show it to them” – Steve Jobs

Proactive employees are self-starters who are inquisitive problem solvers. While it might be aspirational to behave like this, the stark reality is a large percentage of employees find it difficult to do so in a technology-driven world. Instead, it’s easy to get caught up in a reactive loop responding to demands that impede the ability to be being proactive.

Recently, I was talking to a General Manager of a business who was bemoaning his team’s inability to anticipate the needs of himself and the internal and external customers right throughout the supply chain. The General Manager was frustrated he needed to spoon feed his team so much after opportunities had pretty much disappeared.

I was asked to facilitate a session with the Senior Leadership Team to uncover the causes and agree to some remedies. Here’s what we discovered why this was happening and what could be done to improve the situation.

The top 4 causes were:

  • Time poor – there was barely enough time to keep up with responding to emails and new incoming demands

  • Inadequate delegation – handover of work was often done poorly which led to requirements not being understood sufficiently which led to initiative not being shown

  • Insufficient planning – people didn’t plan well for the proactive and reactive tasks they needed to do to be successful in their roles

  • Limited levels of trust – the culture was such where people were too quick to blame others for mistakes

What we know about effective teams are those who work within them need to feel trusted and supported by their manager and the team itself. This is necessary to maximise the potential of everyone in the team but to also get results by increasing productivity and engagement.

To better anticipate what’s needed, the Senior Leadership Team agreed to:

  • Make time management training a priority– the time poor issue had to be addressed

  • Determine delegation protocols – “hospital handpasses” would no longer be tolerated

  • Proactive planning – each individual to get crystal clear clarity on the tasks they had to proactively plan for that make the biggest impact towards being successful in their role

  • Reactive planning – each individual to make an allowance each week for the tasks that can’t be planned but they needed to react to

  • Build trust – no longer tolerate finger-pointing and unsupportive behaviours that destroy trust

Effective workers strike the right balance between proactive and reactive activity. It’s hard to anticipate needs when we’re unable to get these basics right.

What’s your secret to anticipating needs?