Read in 7 min. Do the people in your organisation feel free to use their initiative or are they waiting to be told what to do?
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"Yes, of course. No problem. I'll make sure that gets to you before you leave for your holiday." And, sure enough, the proofs arrived before I left. I knew they would. From the start, the new printing company I'd chosen had shown initiative and excellent customer focus. My kind of company. What a shame that they are so few and far between.

I wonder why people are not taught about using their initiative from the very first day they enter an organisation? Initiative is one of the most important assets for any company. If it is true that the accounts, the bottom line, reflect behaviour, then initiative is one of the most important behaviours any organisation can encourage.

* Do the people in your organisation feel free to use their initiative or are they waiting to be told what to do?

The easiest way to discover the answer to this question is to listen to the language people use in your organisation. Do you hear phrases like: "Of course, no problem. Yes, I'll do that for you. It's a pleasure." Do people take responsibility for getting things done, for owning callers' problems, for making sure the organisation's reputation is kept intact? Do they work to the maxim: "When we say we'll do something, we will"? If so, then the management and staff of your organisation are doing a wonderful job to foster initiative.

However, if people dwell on the past, talk about the "good old days" and focus on why they can't do something, and if the language they use is more like: "I'm sorry, that's not my section, I can't help you, you'll have to phone back", then you can be guaranteed that there is no sense of initiative being engendered. People in this kind of organisation feel powerless, give up easily, take no interest in the strategic intent of the organisation and won't identify with a group/team or their role within it. They will treat their work as "just a job" and behave in that way. They won't care about or take responsibility for making sure things get done or that Customers' concerns are dealt with positively and quickly. It will always be "someone else's problem" and never theirs.

Developing Trust

Trust, or lack of it, is the foundation for all behaviour. Trust underlies the growth and development of every individual, team and organisation. People need a sense of inclusion, belonging, being supported and a feeling of confidence in themselves and the organisation to which they belong. When you develop a trusting environment, people feel positive about themselves and the organisation. They will want it to succeed. They will co-operate and share ideas, use their initiative and move the organisation forward.

Trust is all about consistency of behaviour. Did you ever hear someone saying, "If he said he'll do it, he will" or "If she said she'd be here, she will". What the person is really saying is that they trust the person they're talking about to be consistent in their behaviour. If they say they'll do something or be somewhere, they will. They always keep their word.

Once people develop trust, they create an environment where people will use their initiative. If people don't develop trust, they develop mistrust and dependence. They will always need to be "told what to do", need rules and regulations and never use their own initiative.

"We need to be using the combined brain power of the staff to be able to face up to the turbulence and constraints of today's environment, mobilising every ounce of intelligence." Ernesto Sirolli, Ripples from the Zambezi.

Initiative is a frame of mind, a way of thinking and behaving in the world. People who use their initiative are self-starters. They take on roles outside of their normal work, they are pro-active and anticipate problems in order to prevent them or to prepare for them. They are good at making decisions and following them through. They take responsibility and make things happen. They don't just build pie in the sky' dreams. They are able to develop something through from imagination to reality.

Organisations will only survive if there is a constant flow of ideas, innovative thinking and people using their initiative to implement some of those ideas. When trust and initiative are developed, everyone in the organisation will co-operate to make sure things do get done.

People who have developed initiative

* are clear about what's expected of them
* understand how it adds value to the organisation's intentions
* do what they set out to do
* take on extra responsibilities
* willingly do things outside of what's normally expected of them
* understand that change happens and it needs to be dealt with flexibly.

Making Errors

In an organisation where initiative is encouraged, people won't be afraid to discuss mistakes or errors when they occur. Everyone in the organisation will understand that initiative can only be used if errors are incorporated as part of the learning process. Learning comes from making mistakes and learning from the experience of others. If things go wrong, people need to be encouraged to reflect on what went wrong and to make sure they take the learning forward to get it right the next time.

WOM Marketing

"It should be the top priority of every employee to build, protect and represent your brand to the best of their ability." Joe Calloway, "Becoming a Category of One".

When people connect externally, what are they saying about you? What stories are they telling about the experience of working with your organisation, being a customer or supplier? How's your WOM Marketing (Word of Mouth)? "Word-of-mouth marketing is the easiest and most cost-effective way to increase sales. We are a gossip species. Human beings talk about each other. When we encourage those we know to do it proactively, we dramatically increase the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing." Roy Sheppard, Rapid Results Referrals www.RoySpeaks.com

We can only connect through trust. People trust referrals from other people who've had a good experience with your organisation. Following recent scandals such as Enron, Worldcom and Andersen, most organisations are rightly focusing on a psychological turnaround. They are spending time developing trust with their staff, customers and suppliers. How are you building trust? What are people saying about you? Do you know? Is it contributing positively or negatively to your organisation's success?

If we believe in our product or service, then we need to be encouraging and creating positive stories that will help people to understand what we're about and how we can benefit them.


Organisations will only survive and thrive if there is a constant flow of new ideas and innovative thinking - in other words, if people are using their initiative. One of the most important ways in which any organisation can make a positive impact on its staff, customers and shareholders is to foster a culture of initiative.

Every person's behaviour affects the bottom line. If we set up environments where people foster trust, allow mistakes, support exploration, increase self-esteem and satisfy the need for achievement that every human being possesses, people will be pro-active and use their initiative. They will help to eliminate waste of time, money and resources. They will think of new, effective ways to do what needs to be done, take action to resolve problems and clarify miscommunications and most of all they will be customer focused. You can be sure that their behaviour will affect the bottom line.
This Article is authored / contributed by ▸ Marie M. who travels from Oxford, United Kingdom. Marie is available for Professional Speaking Work both Virtually and In-Person. ▸ Enquire Now.

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