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Initiative Is A Long-Term Philosophy

Initiative Is A Long-Term Philosophy

Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender

August 05, 2010

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.

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