Showing Initiative at Work Can Help You Soar

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Be the employee your boss counts on when he or she wants to get something done. Show initiative. Own your projects and look for ways of doing them that stretches you. And then welcome that stretch. It will energize you — and build your skills and confidence.  

Not long ago I attended a wedding where the bride’s brother toasted the couple. (It was really more of a tribute and welcome to the groom, Robby.) He remarked on Robby’s unique ability to attack situations and projects with gusto and willingness. He mentioned that the family had started saying that something had been “Robbyized,” when Robby was involved. He immersed himself, delivering a high level of excellence and enthusiasm regardless of the task or event.

Professionals who reach for more than the status quo are in big demand in the business world. Taking initiative, doing more than is required, anticipating what’s ahead, being persistent and creative — the value of these actions to an employer is obvious. The side benefit: these actions also help reenergize you.  

Is there a more efficient way to handle that routine project? Is there a way to get better results? Can you prepare now for a future task? Could a colleague use a hand? What can you do to make this customer more than just satisfied? If you’ve stopped asking these questions, it may be a sign that you’ve become complacent in your job.

If you’re new to a company, you look at things from a fresh vantage point. Everything is new. Every task is different than your experiences elsewhere. You learn. You compare. You ask why.

But it’s easy to slip into complacency over time. You do your job. You play the game. You smile. You get your paycheck.

“There is no magic to initiative, just a sense of responsibility for the company’s well-being,” according to Samuel Hui of It’s about taking steps to make your organization better, focusing on what’s important and what’s ahead.

Here are a few suggestions to help you move past complacency:

  1. Take responsibility for your own professional growth. Learn. Pick up a book. Research a question. Build your skills in an area you’re interested in. An added benefit to knowing more is that you feel more confident. When you’re making suggestions, it’s more than just your gut talking.
  2. Look for a better approach … continually. Ask questions. Why are we doing it this way? Observe what’s going on around you. Pay attention to processes and suggest changes, and offer to help put them in place.
  3. Do more than the required amount. Be exceptional — better than the person doing your same job. Focus on areas where results will be visible, but also make sure everything supporting that work is well done.
  4. Care about the team. Help a colleague who needs help.
  5. Be conscientious. Your work is a reflection on you.
  6. Speak up. Your ideas aren’t helping anyone if you don’t share them. Your concerns won’t be considered if you keep quiet about them. (Read more about assertiveness here.)
  7. Anticipate future obstacles and questions. Look at your own work with a critical eye and adjust it when you need to.
  8. Be prepared. If you know you’re heading into a big meeting to discuss a specific client that you’ve only had brief contact with, read the file if you have access to it.
  9. Promote your ideas. And don’t be easily thrown off course. If you truly believe in something and have reasons to back up your thinking, don’t let criticism affect you.
  10. Tackle problems immediately. (Read more about procrastination here.)
  11. Don’t sit idle. If your job has downtime, use it.



Show initiative.

Find something that needs to be done and do it.

Leave your quality mark on the projects you touch.

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.