Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ was written in 1989. But, more than 30 years on, it is still one of the most popular business books. In his blueprint for achieving goals, Covey’s first habit is to “Be Proactive”. That’s how important he thought it was. And here at Reclaro, we all agree.

‘Be more proactive’ has become a mantra trotted out in the business world for decades. But I think if you asked 100 people HOW you become more proactive, 80 of them would struggle to give you a decent answer.

Here are three simple actions you can take right now to become proactive and effective to enhance business performance and really accelerate your results.

1. You’re in control of your own decisions

First and most importantly, recognise that you are in control of yourself. Even if you feel you’re being micromanaged by your business stakeholders or someone in your personal life, the fact is you are 100% free to decide how you respond in each situation.

Covey said, ‘I am not the product of my circumstances. I am the product of my decisions’.

Think of it this way. If you’re proactive, you’re “response-able”. If you’re reactive, you’re shaped by the people around you.

Of course, you can’t control everything and everyone. In fact, reactive people spend too much time worrying about things they can’t control. That makes them frustrated and worried. It’s always best to focus on the things you can influence.

2. Plan your day in more detail

The second aspect of being proactive is to plan better. This might seem obvious. But Reclaro® clients take this to the next level.

During our work with many successful business leaders, we usually recognise a common shortfall in their time spent planning their actions and assessing their key areas of focus. Amid the mass of daily demands faced by CEOs and MDs these days, they can occasionally neglect their business goals and can start to see a dip in business performance. We help them identify where they can make time for more planning and prepare better – for everything ranging from big strategic actions to meetings, phone calls and tasks. It may seem counter-productive, but time spent preparing is never wasted.

For example, before every call and meeting, take just one minute to write, at the top of your notepad, the number one outcome you want to achieve from the conversation. Doing this will help you stay focused on the call and achieve this outcome.

In a pressure situation during a meeting, there’s often a temptation to react quickly to an event. The secret is to pause, reflect, and choose a considered response that will deliver your desired outcome.

For example, you’re in a meeting with a potential supplier. You love their service, and you like the sales consultant. He then reveals the price, and it’s double what you were expecting. Your immediate reaction might be to say no and end the meeting abruptly, grumbling about wasted time. But you’re a proactive buyer. You’ve already predicted this scenario in your meeting prep. You have the desired outcome of working with this supplier, and you’re ready for a negotiation. You get to work agreeing on a mutually acceptable price, and everyone comes away from the meeting with a win.

So, the next time someone throws a curveball at you, pause and think, then choose your response. You’ll begin to get the outcomes you want.

Remember: Event + your considered response (not your quick reaction) = your desired outcome.

3. Think longer-term to avoid firefighting

The third thing you can do to become more proactive is to look further into the future.

Too many business leaders are busy firefighting, spending most of their working day tackling the latest ‘emergency’ in their inbox. In other words, they’re reactive to other people’s problems. This isn’t the hallmark of a successful leader.

Instead of letting things happen to you, a proactive leader learns to anticipate. Think more about what is coming up, and plan for potential scenarios before they become actual emergencies.

Keeping your business goals and objectives top of mind is important, but we can see how they could get lost under an ever-growing to-do list. One way to do this is to make them part of everyday life, introduce habits that support strategic thinking and take time out to reflect on business performance more often.

Being proactive is transformational

Being proactive changes everything. When you take control of your decisions in situations, you’ll be happier and more effective. When you plan more effectively concerning your goals, you can focus on what’s most important and say no to things that aren’t. And when you think longer-term, you can avoid landmines, or at least cope with them better.

When you do all of this, you move towards achieving your goals and becoming a more effective leader. Good luck!

Have you ever considered a strategy execution platform to help cascade your business vision and objectives throughout all teams so they can become more proactive and effective to achieve your business results? Here at Reclaro, we work with the award-winning 1-3-5® business planning methodology to help ambitious CEOs align their teams for high performance and faster business growth.

For more information, check out our How it Works page, or get in touch by emailing We’d love to talk and help you take action, become more proactive and effective to drive results in your business.