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How to develop initiative in your team
Group of business workers standing with hands together doing symbol at the office

Most managers want employees who take initiative to make decisions, offer suggestions for improvement, lead when you are absent, and solve problems without assistance. Some employees do this naturally; others need to be shown how. As the leader, you want to cultivate initiative in all your employees to strengthen your team as a whole, help your employees develop and grow in their careers, and ensure everyone is positively productive. 

  • Create a Safe Environment
    It takes courage to take initiative. You have to be willing to leave your comfort zone and run the risk of being wrong. It’s the same for employees. When you want them to stand up and show initiative, you have to create an environment that encourages this behavior. Ask for their ideas, listen to their suggestions, and implement their recommendations wherever possible. Avoid blaming when someone makes a mistake. Hold staff accountable, but use mistakes as learning opportunities to foster continued initiative.
  • Encourage Your Team Members to Be Creative
    Show employees how to recognize where process improvements can be made and encourage them to address issues before they become problems. There are many advantages for them to be more proactive. They can:
    • Gain new skills and sharpen existing ones by stretching and growing in new areas.
    • Energize their day by working on interesting challenges.
    • Increase their self-confidence and sense of achievement.

Ask them to consider their areas of responsibility and identify what can be streamlined or where an obstacle can be removed. Reward them for finding ways to do things faster, easier, more efficiently.

  • Use Delegation
    Delegation is a highly effective way of teaching initiative, but it has to be done correctly. Match assignments to an employee’s skills, but ensure they have room to grow. Give the employee the information and resources needed for success and set clear expectations about deliverables and deadlines. Be available for questions during the course of the assignment, but don’t micromanage. After completion, debrief and recognize achievements. See my blog post Avoid Delegation Mistakes for more information.
  • Consider Mentoring
    Mentoring an employee is a good way to help them develop initiative. Mentoring one of your own staff might be considered favoritism to other employees; however, you could have a senior employee mentor a junior employee. Make sure mentor and mentee agree to the relationship and help them establish how they will work together.

Initiative is a skill that can be taught to make your team stronger, more positively productive, and creative.