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Take initiative

  • Written by Nelson T. Dy
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 311

It makes sense

INITIATIVE is when you do something without needing to be told. Generally, bosses don’t want to spoon-feed or nag their staff. They want their people to know their tasks and be confident that these tasks get done.

Anticipate your boss’ needs. Let’s say that part of your job is to prepare reports for your boss. Get to know the “rhythm:” when to gather the data ahead of time, when to do the spreadsheets or power points, and when your boss wants to review your work before the report is released. That way, your boss does not have to keep tabs on you.

As much as possible, be always ready such that if, out of the blue, he asks you for a certain piece of information, you have it. If you are caught flat-footed, don’t bluff or blame, but promise to find out. Then make a mental note so it won’t happen again.

Contingency planning is another evidence of initiative. Supposing you are charged with organizing a major company event. Not only do you identify every need but also what can go wrong. If it’s going to be held outdoors, what if it rains? If a big-shot will be giving the keynote address, what will you do when his microphone conks out? If the emcee or entertainer you hired suddenly gets laryngitis, do you have a back-up plan? Cover your bases through prudence, not paranoia; foresight, not fear.

Learn as much as you can. One tell-tale sign of lack of initiative is when an employee does not go out of his “box.” All he knows and cares about is his immediate domain. But take time to study the company organization chart. Find out who are the key people to know and be known to. This is not to make sip-sip or to by-pass your boss. Rather, you are gathering resource persons so you can learn more about your company, competitors and customers. Other avenues are to network in professional organizations and study the industry reports -- if necessary, on your own time.

I know of engineers who look for ways to touch base with strategic customers so they can serve them better by improving product quality or sharing technical experience. They go out of their comfort zone to support the overall business, not to compete against the sales force. So widen your horizons.

Go the extra mile. Try to do something your boss does not expect. Instead of just giving him a bunch of numbers, draft a paragraph about what the numbers mean. Offer a recommendation or solution. Granted, your input may turn out to be naive or downright wrong. But chalk it up as a learning experience. Who knows? Your boss may be impressed by your efforts that he shares more information with you or gives you more responsibilities.

Many times, my wife and I come home late, weary from a long day’s work. But when our household staff wrote down messages from phone callers while we were away, mended a torn garment, or organized a haphazard pile of books (my fault!) -- without us having to ask or instruct them -- our fatigue lightens up. Initiative indicates a trustworthy character. And trustworthiness invites opportunities for advancement.

When in doubt, ask your boss. Still, there is a fine line between a self-starter and a loose cannon. When you thought of doing something extra but are not sure if you are to do it -- it would take time away from your regular duties, you may be stepping on someone else’s toes, you don’t have the expertise or credibility -- then ask your superior. Personally, I would start with, “May I propose…?” When your boss is open to the idea, take that opportunity to learn more. One more tip: Take notes. You don’t want to wonder, “What did my boss say again about…?” only five minutes after leaving his office.

Conclusion. Bosses don’t want robots. They want people who have a passion for their jobs and will work without being monitored. Stand out of the pack by being such a person. It will pay great dividends in your career future.

For more insights, check out my author’s page https://www.facebook.com/nelsondybooks/notes.