Showing posts with label Take Initiative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Take Initiative. Show all posts

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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

3 Interpersonal Skills Every Leader and Parent Should Have

In the first job where I supervised other people, I made a terrible mistake.

One day, a woman on my team told me she had done something without asking me, something she thought I’d be happy about. As I listened to her describe what she did, I let my facial expression communicate that I wasn’t pleased about the action she’d taken. I don’t think I actually scowled, but I probably came pretty close.

I watched her positive energy and enthusiasm evaporate before my eyes as she realized I didn’t approve of what she’d done. She had expected accolades for taking initiative and ended up apologizing for not checking with me first.

Back then, I wasn’t adept at using these essential interpersonal skills, which apply to managers, entrepreneurs and parents alike:

Listen without judging. That means not SAYING anything and not SHOWING disapproval while the person is talking. Be patient and give her time to finish.

Don’t assume you know where the story is going because you might start creating the ending in your own mind. And when you do that, it means you’ve stopped focusing on what the speaker is saying and you’re paying more attention to your own thoughts.

Ask questions to learn more. Don’t jump to conclusions about what you think the person meant or what his motives were. Asking open-ended questions helps you find out what mental processes he was actually using when he made the decision to take a specific action.

These five questions from the Reflection exercise in our online coaching system, ProStar Coach, work like magic:
  1. What happened? (to find out the sequence of events and who did what)
  2. Why did it happen that way? (to discover motives, cause and effect, what helped or hindered)
  3. What were the consequences? (to explore problems, benefits, outcomes, costs)
  4. How would you handle a similar situation in the future? (to draw out lessons learned)
  5. What are you next steps? (to think about how to apply the learning)
Affirm the person. When someone has made a mistake or shown an error in judgment, it’s easy to use language that comes across as criticism of him and not what he did. Separate a person’s actions from his worth as an individual by pointing out what you value about him.

In the situation with this employee, I could have sincerely praised her for taking initiative because that is a behavior I value and wanted to see in the future. Instead, my negative reaction had the opposite effect, at least in the short term. I inadvertently discouraged her from looking for opportunities where she could make additional contributions.

Today I work hard to apply these three skills. I know what a difference they make in my relationships when I use them well, and the havoc they cause when I don’t.
"What a leader does now sets up what he does later. And there's always a later." - Mike Krzyzewski, American college basketball coach (1947- ) 
"You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that's assault, not leadership." - Dwight D. Eisenhower, American president (1890-1969)
"There is no more powerful leadership tool than your own personal example." - John Wooden, American college basketball coach (1910-2010)