Life pushes us to be reactive and we learn it from an early age. When we are young, we stick a fork in a power outlet or touch a hot stove and then we react. That becomes the predominant learning style as we grow. It is how we learn the concept of cause and effect. But later in life we are told that proactive is better but, this goes contrary to what has shaped us up to this point. Why would I want to be proactive? Why should I change? That is not what my past has reinforced.
So lets answer those questions first, and then talk about how we can become a more proactive leader moving forward. While reactivity allowed or ancestors to run from the saber tooth tiger, proactivity would have allowed them to not run into the saber tooth tiger in the first place or at the very least show up with spears for protection. Proactivity lessens the chances of needing reactivity which has been scientifically proven to lower the blood pressure in people like me (Cake loving non-athletes). High blood pressure is mostly bad so, we want that metric to trend down to a point. Why stir up the chemicals and hormones of stress if you can identify the risk early and address them before they attack you like a saber tooth tiger.
So how do we do it? No matter what project or task you want to manage or lead proactively you can get started with three steps.
First, decide what success would look like for the task or project. What are the goals? How do you know you have won? Knowing these elements first helps with the follow on activities.
Second, ask yourself what could go wrong that could jeopardize your goals or success with the task or project. List out each of these risk. Some will involve people. Some will involve resources. Be a real Negative Nancy and list as many as possible (get out you inner project negativity). Once you have the risk listed then prioritize them. I use a simple 1(low risk) -10 (high risk) scale with three categories multiplied together to rank the risk list. The categories are: severity, likelihood of occurrence, and ability to proactively detect. Once this is complete you can move onto step three.
Third, you create a plan to address the high risk items early before they occur. Many of the steps to address the risk will be communication action items that will need to be drafted in advance to explain that an issue is expected and that this is what we are doing about it proactively.
We could spend the rest of the day discussing the intricacies of proactive project and task leadership and management but these are the three overarching steps you should be taking to keep from being eaten by the saber tooth tiger you are trying to manage.