Making important decisions, acting like a leader, being a person your colleagues can count on to get the job done – all of these are qualities associated with “taking initiative.” So if there’s a lot of extra initiative lying around, odds are you’d like to take some of it for yourself.
Doing so, however, can be easier said than done. What happens if you make a mistake? What if someone else doesn’t like your decisions? Shouldn’t you make sure it’s OK for you to do something before you just go ahead and do it?
If any of these (or other) questions have stood between you and being able to take initiative, here are a few ideas and insights that might help.
People Who Take Initiative Make Plenty of Mistakes
As do people who don’t take initiative. Why? Because EVERYONE makes mistakes. The real difference is that people who take initiative have a better understanding of two things:
- Most mistakes aren’t critical
- Making mistakes is not a sign of personal weakness or failure
So if your concern is that you’ll make too many mistakes, don’t worry. You will certainly make mistakes, but they won’t overwhelm you, and they don’t mean you’re a bad person.
You Can Take Initiative AND Ask Questions
“Taking initiative” doesn’t mean bulldozing your way forward without any consideration for other people’s thoughts or feelings. It involves asking intelligent questions that indicate you’ve done some thinking on your own but can’t move forward without help, or that you have a clear objective in mind but would value some additional input. What it does not involve is asking someone if it’s OK to try something simple and harmless before trying it, and it also does not involve asking someone to help you the second you find a roadblock. People who take initiative need just as much help as everyone else; they just ask different questions at different times than people who don’t take initiative. For example:
“Do you think it would be OK for me to do XYZ?”
“I decided to try XYZ, and I’ve done everything I can think to do. Could you help me figure out where to go from here?”
I’m pretty sure you can tell which of the questions indicates a certain level of initiative, and which one indicates a certain level of helplessness.
Bottom line, the best employees, managers, leaders and CEO all have this in common – they try to solve problems themselves before immediately asking someone else to solve it for them, and they are confident enough in themselves to occasionally make decisions without waiting for everyone else to weigh in. These are not specialized qualities that only a few geniuses possess. They are simple skills that are yours for the taking. All you have to do is choose to take them.