Proactive Support Work
At Abilities, we train and use the Seven Habits of Effective Support Work to provide a model for effective support work. The first habit of Highly Effective Support work is to Be A Proactive Support Worker. This habit teaches that support workers need to be responsible for their development and the people around them. Responsibility is based on choice, and one of our choices is to take responsibility for our success or failures. We do this by actively seeking opportunities, taking risks, and reaching out for feedback about how we are doing along the way. Let’s look at a fictitious support worker who adopts Habit 1 – Be a Proactive Support Worker.
Example Of Proactive Support
Nancy is a support worker for people with developmental disabilities. Her job requires her to be proactive and support people with developmental disabilities. As a proactive support worker who attended the Seven Habits of Effective Support Work training, she has learned to choose her response to every situation. Nancy recognizes that proactive support workers focus on the important aspects of their job – she is committed to providing effective support based on her knowledge, skill, and desire to provide the best support. Nancy started her day by getting organized, which helped her make sense of any new information that may affect her job. Next, she takes responsibility for everything that happens around her, even when things get out of her control. With this approach, it becomes easier for Nancy to deal with difficult situations while also proceeding through tasks systematically so as not to waste time. Last, Nancy is proactive in seeking new ways to be effective. She uses her creativity and problem-solving skills to develop solutions for challenging problems that she is facing at work. As a result of utilizing these techniques, Nancy will become more confident and satisfied with her job because she is confident in the choices that she is making.
The first habit in the Seven Habits of Effective Support Work, Being a Proactive Support Worker, is based on the premise that your response to everything that happens around you is your responsibility whether it is within or outside your control. You make the best choice possible given the information you have available at the present moment. I love the way Stephen Covey defines responsibility as “response-able” or the ability to respond to any event or situation. It can mean different things in different contexts, but it always involves a conscious decision to take action. You need to be aware of your actions and their relationship with that particular context to change the situation. To Be Proactive means taking responsibility for yourself, rather than acting based on all of the conditions imposed by other people or circumstances beyond your control. Nancy decided not only to act based on constraints imposed by other people or events beyond her control, but she has learned to take responsibility for herself by focusing on things she has control over.
Another important concept that Abilities teaches is the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. The circles are tools created to help you focus your efforts on those things within your control. The areas in the circle of influence are where we have the power to choose our response and therefore take responsibility for action or change. The circles of concern are where we do not have control or responsibility for the outcome, so it is essential to detach ourselves emotionally from that situation and not worry about it. Suppose we apply this concept to Nancy’s scenario. In that case, we can see that she has a lot of responsibility and many things outside her control. However, through Habit 1 – Be Proactive Support Worker and the Circle of Influence, Nancy can choose how she will respond to those uncontrollable events and limiting conditions that may have held her back from being effective. This allows her to develop a proactive approach and change the way she focuses on work. Nancy realized through this training that she was able to make a difference in people’s lives by taking responsibility for her actions no matter what the outcome may be.
The Only Thing, We Control, Is Our Response
It is simple, yet profound, as Stephen Covey indicates:
“Proactivity is based on the unique human capacity for self-awareness, imagination, and conscience – awareness of our own existence, power to visualize the consequences of our actions ahead of time, and the ability to choose. It’s not a human trait we’re born with but a habit we must develop.”
This is my favourite quote from the book because it explains why you should be proactive and take responsibility for your actions and decisions. First, proactive Support Workers are self-aware of their place in the world, allowing them to be more empathetic towards others. Next, they can use their imagination and conscience to look ahead in the future and think about the consequences of their actions before actually taking action. Lastly, proactive people know that they can choose how to act in any given situation because nobody is entirely in control but themselves.
The only thing we control in any situation is our response.