Initiative is taken, not given

The talk about initiative comes up time and again. Most recently it came up in one of Seth Godin's posts that I get via email. A lot times we wait for the next thing to show up before we actually start taking initiative. It comes to us from from higher management or the customer or our weekly status meeting... What do we do between tasks? Mostly wait, right? Maybe that is because there is not enough ownership or stake. Even if we don't own the company we work for, our work is a reflection of the kind of person we are. Even if a lot of us claim not to care what people think about us as a person - we all do (secretly or openly), especially at work. So why do we wait for the work to land up in our laps attached with a string of constraints?

A common misconception is- initiative usually entails doing a lot of "extra" work. The word "extra" is very subjective. Some see it a natural outcome of doing worthwhile work, while others view it as a burden of bad management or unrealistic expectations. But, if you notice, initiative in most cases involves being more aware of the task at hand. It is a change in thought process leading to a purposeful attitude. It develops the human imagination to understand:

-- how does your part of the work fit into a bigger scheme of things?
-- whether your 8 hour shift is actually valuable to the organization (or to you)?
-- the constraints (there are always constraints/unexpected problems) and minimizing their damage

No one can force you to do any of the above... it needs to be taken up by force. It's a batten that can't be passed on.  It is held by people who are not motivated only by monitory rewards... but also by how meaningful their waking hours are.