In Stephen Covey’s bestseller, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he talks about the need for leaders to take the initiative – to be proactive.  He defines initiative as “recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.”  Isn’t that a great definition? 

In some companies, there is an evident culture where initiative can be taken and is expected!  Everyone “owns” the process and customer interactions.  Everyone has skin in the game and finds way to efficiently work and collaborate on innovation.  There is energy.  There is excitement.  There is a definite feeling that the company is moving forward.

Then there are companies where the employees must ask permission to take the next step in established processes.  New ideas rarely come out of the ranks.  The status quo is maintained.  If someone does share an idea, it can quickly get shot down.  Folks normally just keep their heads down and do their jobs.

I personally believe that managers can still take initiative in either situation.  In the first company, it’s easier and expected.  In the second company example, it is a bit more difficult.  But it can happen.

Covey talks about a “circle of influence” in his book.  Initiative should start in the areas you can control.  Primarily, within your department.  You have more control over things than you may realize.

Look around.  If you were to start over with this department, what would you change?  What would you keep doing?  Do you like the personal interaction environment that you work in?  Do you have a negative Nancy or Ned taking over?  Is there a spirit of indifference?  Boredom?

Take initiative.  Try some new things:

  • What does your department produce?  Are you exceeding expectations?  Look at the numbers that your department is evaluated on.  Does everyone on your team understand them?  If not, educate you team on the numbers and story behind those numbers and make it clear.  A knowledgeable team is more effective. 
  • Spend time with each of your team members.  Observe them doing their work.  Ask them why they are doing what they’re doing.  Do they know the purpose behind what they do?  A purpose-filled team becomes more engaged.
  • Discover how what your team produces relates to other departments.  Collaborate with those other departments to help them become more effective as well as your own team.  Produce win-win situations wherever you can.  A collaborative team is more efficient and appreciated.
  • Mentor and build up your team leaders.  Multiply what you know in them.  Challenge them to read and to grow.  Personally invest in their development.  Praise them in public.  Council them in private.  A developed team leader multiplies your results. 
  • Share your successes with fellow managers.  Encourage them to step out and try new ideas.  An encouraging manager is a trusted and valued resource to his/her peers. 

Your boss looks at your results.  Taking initiative to exceed your results will get noticed.  A single department can launch corporate change when you continue to build on your team’s success.

Let me ask again:  do you make things happen?  Or do you watch things happen?  Where will success ultimately land?

You know the answer.


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