Monday, April 29, 2013

Take Initiative and You’ll Stand Out

My daughter Alison is now a successful broker in a financial services company. But when she was first hired several years ago, she started out as a sales assistant working for four brokers.

Alison had only been there a few months when she came up with a questionnaire for the brokers to use when meeting with their clients. Its purpose was to uncover needs that the clients might have – to make sure the broker discussed other services the firm could provide. No one asked her to do this. She was simply on the look-out for ways to make her brokers more effective, and she wasn't afraid to suggest something new. It turns out the brokers loved the form, told one of the executives about it, and he encouraged all the brokers to use it. Alison developed a reputation as a star assistant throughout the company because she not only got great ideas – she translated them into action.

But not everyone does this. As someone who’s hired many people over the years, I have found it’s the rare person who takes this kind of initiative. The vast majority wait to be told. Maybe they think it’s safer. You can’t get into trouble if you don’t take unnecessary risks. Or maybe the thought of trying something new or different never even enters their head.

And yet, seeing something that needs to be done and then doing it without being told is one of the most prized behaviors any employer, professional association, club or family could want from its members.

It’s a type of personal leadership that makes someone truly stand out from the crowd. While everyone else is standing around waiting for orders, the person who takes initiative is busy looking around to see what needs to be done…and then kicks into action.

Ask people who've achieved great success, and they’ll tell you that most of the things they attempt don’t work. But they don’t let that stop them. They keep trying other things because they’re confident that at least a small percentage of the things they do will work. They know that the only way to get momentum going is by taking action.

If you find yourself lacking ambition, energy or just plain gumption, it’s worth pondering these insights from British playwright George Bernard Shaw:
"The people who get on in this world are the people who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

"You don't learn to hold your own in the world by standing on guard, but by attacking, and getting well-hammered yourself." 

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." 
If you want to make a real difference in the communities you’re involved with – in both your personal life and your career – start taking initiative more often. Your efforts will get noticed, and you’ll develop a solid reputation as a person who gets things done.

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