to React, or to Respond

As someone working at the heart of change at various levels of organisations I observe many patterns that allow me to learn and use this knowledge and experience moving forward.

I want to share with you a powerful observation, mindset and approach for helping people who are trying to apply leadership to their every day in order for them to become effective change agents.

So what do I mean by react vs respond?

When we respond to something we are considering various factors. We consider the information we have, the emotional state of the situation and the timing of the situation. Responding to something is considered more of a conscious decision.

When we react to something it is sometimes referred to as a “Knee jerk reaction” or “Shooting from the hip”. A person who is reacting to situation may sense that their contribution was suitable but there are often consequences to their reaction. Their audience may not provide feedback (especially if they are more senior) and an invisible wedge is formed. These wedges are counter productive to creating a collective intent in order to move an organisation forward. Lets take a look at the following diagram…

Logic – This is obviously the data, information and knowledge that we possess in our brains. If we are going to share it to contribute to a situation we need to ensure that the persons who will receive it can receive it clearly and make use of it.
Emotion – I split this into 3 types. Sympathy, Empathy and Apathy. Sympathy considers the emotional state of a person, persons or situation. Empathy places us in the other persons shoes and Apathy is a perspective of choosing to ignore a person’s emotions as it is counter productive to the situation.
Timing – Our “gut feeling” to do something at a moment in time is our timing or priority sensory. For example to discuss a short term bonus scheme in the middle of a cost reduction meeting would be considered poor timing.
When I share the above with people I ask them to consider the following application…

A Great Response > If I have the logic, understand the emotional state of the situation and your gut tells you it is the right timing then you are effectively responding to something in the best way you can.

An Empowered Response > If you have the logic, understand the emotional state but are unclear of the best timing then float your response with a caveat. “Hey team I have been thinking about the following…What do you think?”. Its still your idea but you are inviting people along.

A Reaction > If you only have gut feeling “Timing” then perhaps it is best to keep it to yourself. I have found that a gut response could paint you as being defensive, self serving and out of control. If you are in this state reconsider the Empowered response. There is nothing wrong with deferring! Good leaders see opportunity and converting a reaction into a response is an opportunity.

I have had great success in sharing this with people. Most people in the workforce will not have had exposure to all the frameworks, buzzwords and approaches for leadership. I have shared this with friends, family and colleagues.

I hope this simple approach provides another approach and tool for you.

Martin

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