According to a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, based on more than 50,000 360° evaluations (https://hbr.org/2014/04/what-a-players-do), taking the initiative is one of the skills that most distinguishes key contributors from other employees. This ability to exceed expectations and to propose new solutions is now more and more sought after by companies wishing to develop an intrapreneurial culture (the implementation of an innovation by an employee within the company). Here are our 4 tips for encouraging you or your team members of to take the initiative.
Be prepared to take risks when identifying key projects
Taking the initiative is about exposing yourself to risks. It’s about doing things that others don’t do, without being asked. It’s never easy, whatever your hierarchical level. The first step in achieving this is identifying key projects for your manager, team, or company. Taking the initiative is an individual act, but your initiatives will never be noticed, encouraged or seized upon if they are not part of a collective project. Start by identifying key projects for others, before acting individually.
Establish a framework of trust
Taking the initiative follows the same process as creativity: trying out new things, testing them, making mistakes, correcting mistakes, testing again, until after a few attempts you succeed. This iterative process is only possible if you operate within a framework of trust that is forgiving of mistakes. As an employee, get to know your strengths. Build on these by identifying projects where you can implement them, those that will increase your confidence. As a manager, make sure the rules of the game are clear to everyone in your team. Make sure you create a context and climate that is favourable for taking the initiative.
Take step by step action
Initiatives can be taken at all levels of the company. But if you are not a member of the management committee, before you get started on your company’s strategic project, ask your manager if you can be involved in a topic, a project or at a client appointment. Then gradually, become involved in more ambitious topics. For each project, talk to your manager, ask them for feedback, and gradually, they will give you more and more autonomy. Also be prepared to give without expecting anything in return. This will get you out of your comfort zone. If you fail, you will minimise the risk of not meeting expectations. If you succeed, you will be in a strong position to negotiate a fair reward for your initiative.
Speak up for yourself
It is essential that you know how to highlight the initiatives you have taken. It’s not about being conceited but rather obtaining the recognition you deserve following a successful initiative. The annual appraisal is, for example, a formal meeting that allows you to highlight your initiatives. As you prepare for your appraisal, take the time to look through past emails and pick out those times or projects when the initiative you took was beneficial. Clearly and accurately record the problem you faced and the way you addressed it. Also mention your successes when you’re at the coffee machine, or during your team meetings. Professional or corporate social networks are also great channels for communicating your successful initiatives. Once again, it is less a question of putting yourself forward individually than ensuring you disseminate any information that will not necessarily be transmitted without you.