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.


  1. Very encouraging!

  2. (Last comment didn't go through, I think. Was disconnected.)
    Thoughtful post. Often, I do wait for something to come up or for someone to goad me into action. However, I suppose that trying to be a better blogger, promote my writing, my social media activities, and attempts to improve my limited techie knowledge as well as reach a wider audience all show initiative.
    Love your last paragraph. It is how meaningful our waking hours are that proves the point.

  3. @ Penelope Thanks for your comment.

    We all wait and wait for the next thing to show up once in a while. What you are doing (and I do as frequently as possble) does count as taking initiative. Also note that we have complete ownership of the things we are doing with respect to our blogs - rewards, risks. That's usually a big motivator in terms of the amount of initiative any one takes.

    What do you think?

  4. Normally we associate initiative with work or our activities around our work place. May be it is ok up to some extent but I personally feel it is attitude of a person that generates energy inside to take certain steps at every moment of life. Be it approaching an unknown person, pick up a new hobby/activity, titillate vocal chord in a crowd to sing or control mob. It can be any activity in any unforeseen situation. Persons having such quality are generally successful and they do not regret taking initiative because they can not restrict themselves. Sometimes it is inborn quality otherwise one can cultivate if one gets healthy and positive environment. Mostly we need to create that atmosphere at home and same we carry with us outside. Another aspect I believe that taking initiative is not to grab an opportunity. Positive results are seen automatically.