Be a Light: The Difference Proactive Communication Makes

Portland Head Lighthouse, Fort Williams Park, Portland, Maine, USA

This morning made me think about how important proactive communication is on so many levels.  The example is rather simple, but I think the intent and potential is very powerful.

This morning, my daughter forgot her backpack.  I drive her a short distance from our house to a group bus stop.  The bus then takes all the kids on to her school.  Having lived in the Swedish culture for so long (plus having risk mitigation as a constant personal goal), we are always a bit early to the stop and usually sit and wait until the time she is supposed to board.   I also know from my daughter that there are quite a few people who are late, routinely and habitually, to the stop.

This morning, after we had sat for a minute or two, my daughter started rounding up her things to prepare to board, and noticed she had forgotten her backpack.  While we have extra time, it isn’t enough to get back and forth in time to make the bus.  But fortunately, this morning, my husband was working from home and I knew he wasn’t in meetings yet.  I knew he could make it from our house, past the scheduled time, but well within the time that the latecomers usually arrived.

I called my husband and got him on the road with her backpack.  Then, I hopped out of the car to talk to the bus driver.  I knew that we would probably not be the last people to be able to go, but we would be past the scheduled time.

I greeted him and explained the situation, and that my husband was on the way.  I asked if it would be ok with him to wait an extra couple minutes.  Naturally, he said it was no problem and gave me a big grin.

I returned to the car, and my daughter asked why I talked to him.  That we would certainly not be the last people.


I replied that, yes, it was most likely that we wouldn’t be in the critical path.  But now, because I involved him in our situation, and he chose to support us, if we were the last ones and in the critical path, he would be supportive rather than angry and frustrated with us.  I also emphasised that it showed respect for him, for his metrics and goals, and let him be part of the situation, rather than left as a victim to deal with our actions.

We debated back and forth a bit, but I remain convinced that the more we can involve people in situations that impact them, particularly when it impacts their goals and deliveries, we become a team together who agrees how to solve problems, rather than opposing sides in conflict.

While this morning was a simple example, I challenge you to think about the situations you are in, and could they be approached and solved proactively as a team, rather than leaving victims lying in your wake?

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