No matter what kind of company you lead, it’s inevitable that problems both large and small will impact your business. Without a proper plan in place to deal with these conflicts, you may find that a small issue could eventually turn into a full-blown crisis.

Being proactive is the key to nipping problems in the bud and keeping your team happy and productive. Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council each detail one thing you can do to prep for internal or external conflict and avoid the dreaded “reactive” panic mode.

1. Be Open To Ideas

Our employees are often our best source of information. They see and deal with all the little things that can get in the way of delivering high-quality goods and services. It’s important for leaders to recognize that the best solutions can come from these folks and that they will see problems brewing before we will. It’s important to keep our finger on the pulse and be open to ideas. – Ed KrowEd Krow, LLC

2. Plan And Prepare With A Playbook

It’s important to mitigate risk within your organization, particularly regarding safety, security, crisis management and compliance-related issues. Prepare a procedural handbook or a guide to problem resolution that is reviewed periodically to ensure your team can handle the unexpected. In the absence of a playbook, ensure you designate a “go-to person” that can take the lead if necessary. – Debbie InceExecutive Talent Finders, Inc

3. Seek Out The Root Of The Problem

Leaders may assume that a small problem does not demand attention. However, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to sniff out the root cause. Asking a simple “Why?” can give an indication of how big or small the problem may actually be, e.g. why is this an issue or why is this coming up now? Getting into a habit of asking questions before dismissing an issue will help prevent issues from blowing up. – Monisha TotejaDynamic Speaking

4. Focus On Relationship Management, Not Crisis Management

Ask yourself three simple questions. How are my needs in this situation not being addressed right now? How are your needs not being met? Then think about the situation you are immersed in and how might those needs not be met? If you can identify the misalignment sooner than later, you may be more successful in diverting and resolving problems more quickly. – Christie CooperCooper Consulting Group

5. Engender And Expect Total Transparency

Leaders can find themselves in crisis mode due to the culture they have created, often unintentionally. If bad news or risk of bad news are not welcomed or perceived as a failure or miss, the leader might be unable to address it proactively. Building a culture with the expectation of “no surprises” versus “no issues without solutions” can make all the difference in the shift to proactivity. – Ann FarrellQuantum Endeavors, Inc.

6. Clear The Air On A Weekly Basis

Small problems that are swept under the table can become a major crisis. Make sure you have set aside time every week to “clear the air” and create a safe place for people to share what is bothering them so you can nip it in the bud before it is a crisis. Ask people to contribute solutions versus dictating only your idea. – John LivesayThe Pitch Whisperer

7. Learn To Trust Yourself First

Leaders don’t always have the necessary visionary qualities to be strategic. They can gain those skills by getting to know and trust their employees. This equates to first being open and trusting themselves. By doing so, the leader might just find employees who have hidden skills that enable the leader to be kept informed of potential issues before they become major problems. – Sandra HillNew Horizen Coaching & Professional Growth Advancement

8. Think About What You Appreciate In Your Team

The best proactive plan, when faced with a small problem, is to create a pause of a few minutes and ask yourself what you appreciate and value in each of the people involved. Then, armed with the appreciation, redefine the problem so it becomes an opportunity consistent with your values, commitments and principles. Using a cooperative approach, construct a plan that will capture the opportunity. – Valerio PascottoIGEOS

9. Plan For The Macro And The Micro

We all know that planning is critical, not only in leadership, but also elsewhere. Another key is to make sure that planning encompasses not only the macro—and often most important—items, but also that micro issues do not then become macro ones. One key way to do this is to keep weekly and/or daily lists of the key items to cover, continuously monitor and then act on, when necessary! – Ash VarmaVarma & Associates

10. Conduct A SWOT Analysis

Business leaders can proactively “swat” problems by repurposing the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis tool. Instead of limiting “SWOTting” to strategic and marketing planning, require its use in all functional areas. Place SWOT results in yearly goal plans. Alternatively, small businesses can employ a risk clause for each business function within their goal plans. Refer to SWOT and risks on a quarterly basis. – Rita CocoRita Coco Consulting

11. Seek To Understand

One of the leadership behaviors I encourage is a proactive culture of discovery. The idea is to practice uncovering growth ideas and risks at all weekly update meetings. I suggest my clients ask three questions at each team meeting: What’s new that is helping us grow? What new threats to our growth have you discovered? How can I help you? Seeking to understand is a daily practice. – Dan MackMack Elevation “Strategist – Executive Coach”

12. Envision The Best Case And The Worst Case

I always encourage leaders to create an action plan when making decisions for best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios. When we are not in the heat of a moment, it is much easier to create action plans. Determine how you will respond to a situation if it goes the best way possible, and also determine how you will respond if it goes the worst way possible. – Brooke SchultzBrooke Schultz LLC

13. Prioritize Which Stakeholders You Will Focus On

When inevitable challenges arise, especially when they have a chance to escalate, act swiftly, yes, but in this manner: Decide which stakeholders you will focus on. Will that be your immediate team? The customer affected? The organization as a whole? When you prioritize the order of the focus, it changes your approach as to how and when to address the people affected. – John HittlerEvoking Genius

14. Run A Pre-Mortem

Make it a best practice to conduct a pre-mortem for any important project, initiative or situation. Meet with a trusted colleague or your team prior and let your imaginations run wild by brainstorming all of the things that could go wrong. What are your greatest risks? What skills or political capital are you or your team missing? What can slow you down? Then, put a plan in place to prevent it. – Loren MargolisTraining & Leadership Success LLC

2020 OFFICIAL MEMBER Forbes Coaches Council Logo

As Seen On Forbes Coaches Council – 

Debbie Kassebaum-Ince
Founder & President of Executive Talent Finders