Scot Herrick at Cube Rules published a post recently titled Showing Initiative at Work is Way Overrated. I thought the post had an interesting twist. Hope you will check it out.
Initiative means taking the first step in a series of actions. As a general rule, I think we all believe demonstrating initiative is important. But Scot’s point was initiative doesn’t necessarily get you further ahead, like you might expect.
Now, I do agree with Scot that sometimes you don’t want to take the first step. There are times you could be in a better position by waiting to be asked versus volunteering for an assignment.
On the other hand, there are times when taking initiative is the right thing. Here are some examples:
Take on the additional assignments you want. If you can see where everyone around you is being handed extra work, take the initiative and get the project you want. If you wait until you get assigned, you get what someone else wants you to have. So when you see it coming, go to the boss and say…”Hey, I noticed that everyone is being asked to take on an extra project. I’d love to do XYZ.”
Help the people who will be supportive in return. I’m all for helping people but lately there’s been a lot of conversation about people who take the help and don’t even have the decency to say thank you (much less recommend you as a good worker). Since there’s not enough of you to go around, choose the people you will support carefully. My motto is “support the people who support you.”
When I think of initiative, it’s really about long-term versus short-term. On some level, we can all deal with some unpleasantries on a temporary or short-term basis. So with some things, it doesn’t really much matter what you raise your hand for (or not).
But it takes a lot of thought to plan for the future. And initiative is about taking action to make that plan happen. So if you have a goal and you really want it…using initiative can get the projects you want. And it can allow you to work with people you can learn from.
Does the reward happen right away? As Scot mentions, in most cases – no.
Demonstrating initiative also means understanding that you’re working step-by-step toward your goals. It doesn’t mean volunteering for everything. It means stepping up at the right time, for the right project that will produce the best outcome for you and for the company.0
It’s interesting that this perspective is coming during a time when the majority of entrants into the workplace want more concensus teamwork at the line and less direction from their supervisors. What the more ambitious of workers are finding is that the majority of their coworkers are happy to sit back and let them their work for them. What happens when they go on strike (cherry pick as suggested above)? Maybe it’s time to reread “Atlas Shrugged.”
Sharlyn Lauby says
Excellent suggestion. I’m all for teamwork. But I’ve seen many times where a handful of people bear the lion’s share of the work.
I wonder if the “strike” will take the form of top producers and innovators becoming freelancers/consultants. Thanks for commenting!
James | Employee Scheduling Software says
I think it’s also a lifestyle involved, some people are naturally wired to work and take initiative as others are naturally born lazy and want to get away with as little as possible. Over time, you can clearly see who is and who isn’t by their position in life.
Sharlyn Lauby says
Thanks for the comment James. I believe everyone has a certain amount of initiative. It’s just what people choose to do with it. I’ve known people who demonstrated little initiative at work, but with their side hustle…watch out. They were all over it.