Are You Reactionary or Strategic?

Are You Reactionary or Strategic?

If Forced to Look at the Short-Term, Don’t Forget to Return to a Long-Term View

When driving, we’re told to look at the entire road and not focus on the car right in front of us. Have you ever known someone who only saw the car right before them? Were you terrified to ride with them?

Yes, there are times when the car right in front of us deserves our focus. Yet persisting in this mode keeps us from seeing everything else that’s happening all around. What else might we miss when one car receives our full attention?

Driving a Car Is Like Running an Answering Service
This, of course, is a metaphor about business.

Sometimes you’re faced with an urgent situation, and you must give it your full attention. In these situations, what’s happening right in front of you today is all that matters. Planning for later in the year, next week, or even tomorrow is a luxury you can’t afford.

However, once the present crisis ends—or is at least abating—it’s critical to return your focus to the big picture.

If you stay stuck in the present, you’ll miss opportunities for the future. Living in the here and now, however, is easy to do. An emergency pops up, and you deal with it. You’re living in that moment because that moment is all that matters. But when the moment passes, you sometimes forget to move away from it and return your focus to everything else that’s happening all around you.

Address the Urgent
As an example—which hopefully will never happen to you—imagine that your answering service catches on fire. At that moment, dealing with the danger is the only thing that matters. You move your employees to safety and call 911. Hopefully, there’s time to invoke your disaster recovery plan too. But in the overall scope of things, protecting lives is more important than answering phone calls.

As your building fills with smoke, it’s not the time to work on your strategic plan, conduct annual reviews, or agonize over a rate increase. You don’t want to be like Nero and pull out your fiddle as the city of Rome goes up in flames.

And then, once the fire is under control and your staff is safe, your immediate focus shifts back to resuming the answering of phone calls. Now, returning to normal operations becomes the new focus.

Then Move On
But once the emergency has passed, it’s critical to return to a big picture perspective. Don’t go looking for another metaphorical fire to put out. You’re sure to find something calling for your immediate attention, but it’s a distraction that keeps you from attending to more important matters.

Now is the time to finetune your strategic plan, hold annual merit reviews, and implement that overdue rate increase. If you’re stuck responding to the tyranny of the urgent, however, you’ll never give these more important things their proper attention.

Like many answering services, you may be coming out of a time when you could only focus on what was right ahead of you: how to keep your staff safe and somehow still answer an unexpected deluge of calls.

When the endorphin rush you get from successfully dealing with a near catastrophe begins to fade, don’t look for your next hit. Instead, take a step back and plan how you could better deal with such a situation in the future—because this is an element of history that could repeat itself.

Make sure you’re ready. Plan for tomorrow, starting today.

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