The value of taking initiative

“She doesn’t have to be asked, she just takes care of things.”

“He’s the first guy to offer to clean up the job site.”

“I can always count on them to get things done even when I’m in a meeting.”

These are the comments overhead from supervisors and managers who value the quality of initiative. Taking initiative, of course, means that you start, on your own, to act and add value to the work you and your team are doing. This makes requests from the superintendent, manager or supervisor unnecessary, since you’re already doing top priority work and getting things done.

If you’re the type who naturally takes the initiative, you probably wonder why others don’t do the same. Sometimes it’s a matter of your upbringing, where you were expected around home to take care of things without having to be asked. It can also be a matter of your own personality style, that you’re more comfortable making a decision and acting on it rather than waiting for permission or commands. Mostly, it’s a level of confidence that one gains by learning his or her job, looking around to see what needs to be done next and taking care of it.

If taking the initiative seems foreign or risky to you, there can be contributing factors. You may have been raised in a home where you were expected to ask permission to do virtually everything and it was taken as a sign of respect that you ask before you act. You may also have a behavioral style that lends itself to being more cautious and checking things out a bit before you take action. Sometimes it’s as simple as handling a new job or a lack of familiarity with the needs of the job you’re doing at the time.

Some things you should know about taking initiative at work:

  • Before you take any action, you should ask yourself if what you’re about to do is safe for you and all others concerned.
  • When you regularly take the initiative, people will see you as a hard worker, even if you’re not working any harder than those who wait for requests.
  • Taking initiative is one of the best and fastest ways to get noticed by others in the company and often a leading factor in being considered for career advancement within the company.
  • When you take the initiative, you may get it wrong. People will often forgive you for acting, even if it’s not perfect. You’re likely to get a suggestion or two to prevent the problem from happening again and a “Thank you” or other sign of appreciation.

In a growing company, new challenges and new opportunities arise regularly. By taking the initiative and helping the company address these challenges, you’ll find that you get more opportunities to learn and grow with your company.

John Carroll is an entrepreneur, consultant, author and president of Unlimited Performance, Inc. in Mount Pleasant. You can reach him at john@johncarroll.com 

 © Copyright 2013 John Carroll  All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “The value of taking initiative”

  1. It is definitely important to show initiative while on the job. At my previous job, all my supervisor talked about was how she wanted me to show initiative. I was somewhat afraid to get out of my comfort zone though. Towards the end of my time at that job, I started doing more, and taking initiative and I could tell my supervisor and others were really happy that I did.

  2. Congratulations on stepping outside of your comfort zone. Taking initiative, as uncomfortable as it may be, is certainly enhanced with supervisors who encourage good tries and consider such instances learning opportunities. Done well, taking initiative and asking three questions shortly afterward, can make a huge difference in career development:
    1. What did we do right? (Keep these, of course.)
    2. What could we do better? (Make notes of these for future reference.)
    3. What action(s) can I take right now to optimize results and lessons for all concerned?
    Best wishes on your continued career growth and advancement.