I was listening to a podcast recently with Seth Godin. I have read some of his books and he always has interesting thoughts. I was driving and not paying as much attention as I should have to what he was talking about, but he said something that I had to write down immediately. He said, “Reacting is easy. Responding is hard. Initiating is harder.” The great thought leaders, like Seth, have a way of explaining complicated issues in simple terms and here was another example of that.
Let’s break that quote down a little bit farther. “Reacting is easy.” In my HR career, I would estimate that 90% of conflict in the workplace is because someone reacted to a situation. Someone doesn’t meet a deadline so someone else reacts by banging out a nasty email to their boss and coworkers. A client demands last minute changes and we react by complaining and becoming frustrated.
This leads to the second part, “Responding is hard.” Take the above examples again. It is hard to have a conversation with that employee that missed a deadline and find out what went wrong. It is hard to sit down with a client and explain why that last-minute change may not be the best idea.
“Initiating is harder.” As difficult as it is to not react and respond, it is even harder to initiate. Again, in the above examples, complaining about the co-worker is easy. Taking the time to respond professionally to that situation is hard. Guess what is harder? “Initiating” the conversation in the first place! Same with the client meeting. Initiating is harder because there is no momentum positively or negatively.
Think about a large rock that you have to roll up a hill. Reacting to having to do that is easy. You can yell and complain about how stupid it is that you have to roll the dumb rock up the dumb hill. Responding is hard. You have to put some real sweat and tears into getting that rock up the hill. But that first push, initiating, is hardest.
The difference between good and great is that first push. Everyone can react. A few “Goods” can respond when tasked. Still fewer “Greats” can initiate.
The next time something doesn’t go the way you think it should, ask yourself if you are reacting to the situation, responding to the situation, or initiating a solution to the situation.
Until next time…we are Advoco, make every minute count.
About Dale: As our Executive Director of Human Resources, Dale is the powerhouse behind helping our team grow. He graduated from USC-Upstate (but considers himself a Dayton Flyer). He has over twelve years of HR experience in a variety of industries, focused primarily on talent acquisition and organizational development. Dale is passionate about challenging himself, and when he’s not in the office, he’s training for his next big race. Each year he picks a different race to compete in. In the past it has been mostly running events, but this year is all about biking, he just completed a 75 mile relay from Asheville, SC to Greenville, SC. Questions? Send Dale an email!