If unengaged employees, little innovation and deadlines more suitable for the comedy hour are typical of your workplace, lack of initiative could be the culprit. Thankfully, with time and effort you can help create a company culture that inspires initiative on a daily basis. The result is a happier work environment that helps grow you, your team, and especially the bottom line. As a bonus, you can keep the comedy hour on TV -- not in your office.
Uphold job descriptions. Team members who don't take the initiative may be fearful of stepping on toes by doing another person's job. Communicate detailed job descriptions clearly to all team members and post all job descriptions on your company's intranet, blog or bulletin board for all to see.
Enlist help. Entrepreneur Paul Morin suggests starting innovation groups to encourage team members to share new ideas that naturally result in increased initiative-taking. Ask these groups to collect all ideas -- no screening allowed -- in a table format showing who initiated each idea and which business process it touches. Meet with your innovator teams at least once a month and help prioritize the list.
Implement feedback. When an employee repeatedly shares ideas or takes initiative with little follow-up, she faces the strong temptation to hunker even deeper down inside her cubicle, sticking to only her comfort zone. Kayla Barrett, human resources expert and president of Organization Impact, encourages leaders to truly listen to team feedback and implement viable suggestions as soon as possible. When an employee sees the quick turn-around, she'll want to see her next idea in action, too.
Reward initiative. A team member enjoys a huge sense of accomplishment when you not only recognize her initiative but reward it as well. "Talent Management" magazine's Joe Garfinkle offers several ways to reward hard-working employees, including lunch with the CEO and upper management and extra vacation days. Surprisingly, he also suggests recognizing failed ideas, acknowledging the risk your employee took to initiate the idea at all.
Encourage questioning. Closed minds seldom see what needs action in the first place. Develop the habit of asking "Why do we do it this way?" and other open-ended questions to yourself and to your team. When your team regularly applies the answers to these questions to daily tasks -- no matter how small -- opportunities for improvement and taking initiative appear.
- Instead of taking your employees' ideas to upper management, let them advocate their own ideas. The more involved they are in seeing their ideas happen, the more keenly they'll feel the success of their accomplishments.
- Don't critique ideas as soon as you hear them. Thank the idea-giver first and give it time to settle.
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