How to move from reactive to proactive in 6 simple steps


Often those that end up in business partnering roles are those people who have a strong desire to help others achieve their goals and outcomes - financial or otherwise. This is frequently described as being ‘in service’.

The challenge that we can face is one that has been distilled in our mindset from a very young age: the concept that being in service is about relinquishing control and letting someone else call the shots. After all, we’re here to give them what we want, aren’t we? Those who blindly answer yes, are at risk of becoming ‘yes people’. This is a sure-fire way to disappoint.

When we let someone else call the shots, we allow ourselves to operate purely in a reactive state. We find ourselves responding to their requests, and when the pressure increases, that transcends into firefighting. Firefighting is rushing from one issue to another, expending a huge amount of energy but achieving very little, because the minute you put one fire out, another starts. It’s exhausting and we have very little impact. ‘But it’s okay’, we say. ‘We’re doing this to help them.’

Reality check: being responsive is good, but being reactive helps no one

Finance business partners: more than just face value, they can add serious value

The business doesn’t need to be told what has happened. They know what happened - they did it! They want to know what they don’t know! They want to know what opportunities are available to them that they should be exploring. What might be around the corner that they need to care about?

Our ability to answer these questions means we need to be fiercely proactive. About everything. And it starts with you.

6 steps to being proactive

  • Step 1: Make the decision. You have made the decision to be proactive. You have ‘killed off’ the idea that you will operate in a reactive state. #noexcuses

  • Step 2: Set up accountability to your decision. You have initiated and co-created an operating rhythm with your stakeholder that meets both of your needs.

  • Step 3: Enable your decision. You have spoken to everyone within Finance that supports your business unit and have explained what that means for them. You have co-created a way of working that will ensure you have the support of the Finance Operations or Control team.

  • Step 4: Increase your ability. You have created non-Finance networks that will help you with the skills and knowledge you need.

  • Step 5: Share your skills. You have shared your approach with your peers and Finance leaders, so that everyone can benefit. Together you can all move forward in alignment, lift the game and ultimately make all your jobs more fulfilling.

  • Step 6: Leverage your capabilities. You have set up systems and structures around you that enable you to be proactive. Your calendar is your friend and adviser.

Notice how the focus of the steps changes from ‘me’ (Steps 1 - 4) to ‘we’ (Steps 5 and 6). These can be the hardest steps to implement, but are the most important to take so that your work is scalable. So that when the pressure heats up, you have the collective bandwidth and capability to continue to take proactive action.

Be sure about this. This is not just calendar Tetris (my clients will know that I love a bit of calendar Tetris). This is about setting yourself up in a way that you deliver to the business the best way you can. If you aren’t proactive about your time, your skills, your knowledge, your relationships and even your health, you cannot partner effectively. You’ll be seen as servant and stay in reactive-land.

Love to hear about the steps you take to stay proactive, especially when times get tough

About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on alena@alenabennett.com.au https://www.alenabennett.com

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