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When Initiative is MIA: What To Do About It

[Photo: Shutterstock/Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko] I had a wonderful opportunity to take initiative on the weekend. And I didn’t. No, no, of course I won’t obsess about it (not!) It’s just that I was preparing an activity for class this week about initiative on the weekend because a student and I had a discussion that ended […]


[Photo: Shutterstock/Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko]

I had a wonderful opportunity to take initiative on the weekend. And I didn’t.

No, no, of course I won’t obsess about it (not!) It’s just that I was preparing an activity for class this week about initiative on the weekend because a student and I had a discussion that ended with the question: how can a manager encourage employee initiative?

I googled initiative and came across articles discussing engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of today’s workforce consists of actively engaged employee*. Which begs the question: why? Lack of interest, indifference, stress at or outside of work?

An attractive infographic on snacknation.com presents the 9 pillars of employee engagement: 1. Values & Purpose; 2. Workplace Environment; 3. Recognition and Incentives; 4. Communication; 5. Well-defined Roles; 6. Buy-in from Managers; 7. Health & Wellness; 8. Relationship with Colleagues; 9. Personal Growth & Development.

In three words, lack of initiative stems from lack of knowledge, purpose and support: head, heart and hands. An actively engaged employee is at work head, heart and hands. She’s all there. Present!

And that takes me back to the start of this post: why didn’t I take initiative? An assumption. That assumption was, once examined, erroneous, not true, false. In short, I lacked knowledge – ‘key intelligence’, so to speak. The heart and the hands couldn’t follow; they were missing out on the intelligence!

How often do we miss out on amazing opportunities for lack of true knowledge? Further, do we always have to know, be told, be asked, to take initiative?

My personal definition of responsibility is response-ability. If you can respond, then act. I even break down the base word response into an acronym:

Resources

Energy

Skills

Power                                  – ability = responsibility

Opportunity

Network

Savviness

Experience

You have the resources (if not all, some), energy (even if minimal), skills (once again, maybe not all, but some), power (if you have the opportunity, then you have the chance to intervene), network (people are all around you: talk!), savviness (enough knowledge to see there is a need, and if you can’t, you can ask someone to help), experience (again, if not all, some).

Moral of the story: If you see need, then you can intervene.  That, to me, is what initiative is all about.
Whatever, you do, don’t listen to those sneaky assumptions!

So, I missed my opportunity on the weekend, but at least I gained a powerful object lesson to use in my class this week on manager intervention to encourage initiative.

Gotta go, now. There’s laundry to take care of and classes to plan. Initiative, right?!

What are your tricks to taking initiative? I’d love to know! Drop me a line in the Comments.

  • Claire :O)

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2017/10/15/5-powerful-steps-to-improve-employee-engagement/#6bb67fb4341d

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