The ability to take initiative is a powerful one, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. People with initiative do things without being told, find out what they need to know and take advantage of opportunities that others may pass by. 

They’re the ones who step in to take control when something unforeseen happens. They take responsibility, allocate tasks, get things moving. Is this you or do you lack confidence in your own judgement and ability? 

I took the initiative to start my own business and as any business owner knows, every day, week and month can involve a combination of innovation, collaboration and risk. 

We all encounter setbacks and hurdles and we all have times when we have to make decisions even if we’re uncertain about our choices. But what seems important is that we’re able to see challenging times as opportunities, to have a clear plan and to keep on being curious, creative and resourceful. 

What is initiative?
Initiative is about being proactive rather than reactive, being able to show intuition and judgement – and to understand when to take action and approach people who can help you achieve your goal. 

When we take the initiative, we make things happen. And when we think on our feet and display a willingness to get things done, we take responsibility. Initiative is defined as ‘the power to originate something’ without being told to do it.

It starts with an active curiosity – asking the right questions, looking at how things work and keeping your mind open to new ideas. Identifying where improvements can be made, where small problems could grow into bigger ones, finding ways to improve processes or ease frustrations. 

It’s also about putting creative ideas into action by speaking out, collaborating with others and overcoming obstacles. Because if we don’t take the initiative, what will happen to those ideas? 

Is initiative something that’s inherent, or can it be learned?
The good news is that we can learn how to be more proactive in many areas of our lives. Even better, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. 

It could be as simple as making a change if something isn’t going well at home or at work. Helping someone if they’re struggling. Having the courage to speak up if you feel a bad decision is being made. Questioning rather than simply accepting. 

But how do we start? Here are some simple steps that could help us become more proactive. 

  • Look at other people and learn from them. 
    If they show initiative, how do they accomplish it? Ask them to share their thoughts and processes with you. Most of us have seen initiative in action in the workplace, but how is it achieved?
  • Establish your objectives.
    Do you have a clear plan for what you want to happen? If you do, then you’re more likely to act in a way that helps you achieve. Analyse your ambitions, make a list – then work towards them one by one. It helps if you can be open to the possibilities too… 
  • Think of yourself as a team player rather than an individual.
    If you’re part of a team and you understand both your team’s purpose and the wider goals of your organisation, it’s much easier to understand what you need to achieve. You have more reason to be proactive because you’re investing in it emotionally. 
  • Spot opportunities, then act on them.
    Find areas that can be improved, or look at small problems and see if you can resolve them before they grow into bigger ones. Are there processes that can be made better, or faster? Spot what needs to be done and do it of your own free will, not because you’re told to. 
  • Do your homework. Research and consider.
    You’ll have a better chance of success if you understand the risks associated with what you want to achieve. Accept that you’re going to encounter setbacks and difficulties. Ask questions before making a decision about whether an idea is worth taking forward. 
  • Know when to push your ideas forward and when to take a step back.
    The key is to find a balance. Be positive and listen to others. Learn how to manage change, challenge negativity and open minds that are closed. If you decide that this isn’t an idea to take forward, then be confident in that decision.

And build your confidence
A lack of self-confidence is one of the biggest blockers to taking initiative. If you’re scared to speak out and put your point of view out there for fear of being criticised, or, ignored, then no one will hear your ideas. People may disagree with you, but set small goals to start with then move yourself towards them.

As Lorii Myers, entrepreneur and author says, “Your success is your responsibility. Take the initiative, do the work and persist to the end.” 

If you’d like to identify and overcome your fears, and become more confident in taking initiative, then call me to discuss how we can work together. 

17 Tips on How to Take Initiative at Work – Duncan Muguku,
Taking Initiative: Making Things Happen in the Workplace –
The Adaptable Mind –