Are you a manager grinding out results at your form of employment? Are you a Business Owner who works in your business as a Leader/ Director?
When things stall, are you constantly wondering who you can assign the mantle too, or is there somebody who is always at your door with some keen initiatives?
Taking initiative is essentially assuming the risk of a possible failure. When doing so, you put yourself out there and things don’t always go as planned. But the alternative is choosing to be inactive.
If you are a leader, it is vital that members of your team make the right choice between doing nothing and doing something. For a healthy, forward-looking operation, they should want to choose action — and this begins with the encouragement of a proactive leader. On the flip side, you may be proactive and still not yield to having members of your team doing something or nothing at all.
For you to inculcate some form of arrangement that makes your team share their thoughts before you ask (as well as come to you with their own ideas) is no mean feat. And for this to happen without them feeling like they will be shut down is even better. Here are some suggestions
1. Start by creating a supportive environment.
Team members need to feel comfortable in their workspace. They should know that while they may strike out, their ideas will be heard and taken seriously by leadership. If the office isn’t a safe place to do this, new ideas will no longer be shared — or conceived at all. Make an effort to tell employees you are excited to hear their thoughts.
You do not have time to sit down and discuss ideas face-to-face? Create a process for workers to submit and share ideas. Even set up a unique email address for this exclusive purpose.
2. Get to know the diverse ways in which the team process ideas and thoughts.
This was borne out a realisation that in any group of individuals, their likes are diverse and helping them appreciate the different likes is a huge challenge. Bring up different scenarios and situations that can be done by them as ONE team to bring them out of their shells but not force them into a bottle.
3. Kick people out of the office for a day or two.
From time to time, encourage your teams or units to meet separately outside their normal work environment. Our firm, BLEGSCOPE did this at the end of the year, and we always make an attempt to do this on a monthly basis on the last Thursday of every month. Members of the team meet off-site for the latter part of the day and share their own goings-on about what they think of the world, the economy and it helps us appreciate each other’s diversity. These thoughts may not have surfaced had the team members met in the same workspace they occupy day to day. Sometimes, all it takes a change of scenery for less vocal employees to come out of their shells and share ideas.
4. Preach volunteering and spearheading.
Initiative comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to mean highhandedly taking on a new project. Someone can volunteer to help another person who is already on a committee, team or project and support that individual any way he or she knows how. Remind employees that it’s not all about coming up with the idea but also helping to move it forward is valuable, too. If you praise volunteers as potential thought leaders, everyone will realize he or she has an important part to play.
5. Let history speak for itself.
Looking back on the past, one can find evidence of great things coming from those who take initiative. Breakthrough ideas, inventions and processes exist today because someone recognized a problem and sought a solution. Your employees may not change the face of the future with their work, but there’s a message to be learned from history: No matter how worthy the goal, a person may be unlikely to succeed on the first try. In sharing stories of people in similar industry or job position who eventually succeeded after many attempts, you may be providing the encouragement members of the team need. It may not negate their risk of failure, but this human spin might shift their mind-set toward taking action versus sitting back.
6. Tell employees the truth.
The best, most transformation ideas do not usually come from the top. Many times the best ideas come from individuals involved in an organisation’s day-to-day business. They see the organization from a different perspective, which can be very valuable. If a team member waits to be called upon, however, the positive transformation will tend to be dependent upon a leader’s prompting.
The easiest way to encourage team members to take initiative is to simply enlighten them accordingly: If they know their ideas are not only wanted but also needed, they may find the extra time to develop them.
We’ve all heard leaders say they want new hires to have go-getter attitudes. It’s easy to forget that this approach can be found inside everyone. Often it’s a matter of encouragement. By simply opening up communication and creative freedom, you may find that you’ve had a team of thought leaders on your side all along.
By Edmund Kamugisha
Edmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 12+ years of management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry.
You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg