'Reactor' bosses need to evaluate their behavior

2013-05-06T00:00:00Z 'Reactor' bosses need to evaluate their behaviorRalph Hershberger Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Are you a reactor? Reactors respond to emergencies and mundane events the same way: They overreact.

Problems are blown out of proportion relative to the magnitude of their potential impact. Arbitrary decisions are made in favor of expediency instead of the long-term benefit.

Reactors make the most difficult bosses because they create a constant state of tension. Although they believe they are effective, their management style limits the growth potential of their business. Either the best people leave or the organization becomes paralyzed because no one will take any initiative.

Can a reactor change? The answer lies in an old joke: Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? A: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

So it is with a reactor. They first must recognize that their management style limits their effectiveness.

The change mechanism requires creation of a context so that an event can be referenced against a constant.

In business, that context is known as the business plan. A business plan outlines the company's goals, strategies, tactics, and defines how resources are allocated. It acts as a baseline for management to evaluate crises and unforeseen opportunities and injects objectivity into an emotional situation.

Behavioral change is exceedingly difficult. A reactor may have a business plan but resists using it due to ego or a desire to remain flexible (or, unaccountable).

The challenge is greater in a small business because there seldom is anyone who can guide the process.

Sometimes change is unavoidable. It is triggered by a major event such as competition, succession or the need for liquidity.

Every manager should constantly ask how their management style affects the future growth of their business.

Ralph Hershberger is president of SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment at several locations. For more information, go to, send email to or call 505-3636.

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