What is it that separates the achievers and the go-getters from those managers who sit there, spinning their wheels or worse still, just waiting for something to happen? The real achievers are those who take the initiative and make things happen. Do you want to stand around and wait for something to happen, or do you want to make it happen? The following guidelines are provided for the latter…

1. Adopt a positive approach at all times.

If you want to be a successful initiator, you must begin by having the right attitude. You must speak and act with confidence, even be a little pushy in your approach. If you assume that your ideas will be listened to and respected, you immediately increase the chances of that happening. If you see the initiative as a possible disaster, a disaster will probably occur.

Your attitude will be contagious. If you exude confidence about the outcome of your initiative, your enthusiasm will be passed on to your staff.

2. Challenge the routine way of doing things.

It is very comfortable to stop thinking critically about our routine tasks, to go through the motions, to retreat to the familiar. It can be habit-forming.

When did you last look critically at everything you do with the eye of an initiator? Try it for a week. You’ll find that some of the best initiatives are small improvements to old routines the way you run meetings, how you organise your day, when you meet with clients, and so on.

Remember, too, that success is usually a result of being one per cent better at 1000 things than 100 per cent better at one thing. Besides, small initiatives are not as risky; so it is easier to get support from your staff for the changes.

3. Look for opportunities.

Look for ways of improving things in your workplace. Force yourself to stop for a minute every hour, to step outside yourself, to look at what you’re doing and what’s going on around you.

Ask yourself: ‘What’s not working?’, ‘What could be done better?’ By opening your eyes, you’ll see opportunities for initiative everywhere. The trick is to discipline yourself to set aside that minute every hour.

4. Be action-oriented.

Don’t wait to be asked, trained, or told. Whenever you see an opportunity to improve the operation of your organisation, pursue it. As Peters and Waterman write in In Search of Excellence: ‘do it; fix it; try it’. Initiators are thinkers and doers, planners and workers. They get involved using a hands-on approach.

5. Look beyond your own world.

Winners learn from winners, so be on the lookout for other organisations’ successful ideas. Who’s trying what? What’s working and what isn’t? Proactively seek out ‘initiatable ideas’.

Develop your own formal and informal networks through professional organisations, clubs, and so on. The professional journals are goldmines for action-oriented leaders and they usually come with the whys, wheres, hows, and valuable contacts. Don’t limit your horizons. Look beyond the confines of your own organisation.

6. Accept the challenges and the risks.

Many of the best opportunities for initiative reside in those activities that others are reluctant to handle. Make a name for yourself: take on the challenge that nobody else wants. That’s how successful leaders are made. Remember that every new initiative involves a risk: theory doesn’t always work in practice. But a mistake doesn’t mean failure. Mistakes are inevitable; they’re also invaluable, apparently, for superachievers in life usually have a long string of failures behind them.

7. Foster initiative in others.

As a manager, you must not only take the initiative but must also inspire others of your staff to do so.

One simple way of doing this is to require your employees to come to you, not only with problems, but also with some options and recommended solutions. An added bonus is that you may end up with a better solution than if you were the sole problem-solver. As well, this process creates a wonderful opportunity for staff development.

8. And don’t forget:

  • Some people fight change. Initiators embrace it. They know that change is the one constant in today’s world.
  • Develop the ability to visualise the steps from idea to fulfilment.
  • Be assertive rather than aggressive. Do not alienate your staff members by flaunting your innovative nature.
  • A successful initiator relies on imagination, strength of purpose, intelligence and a little luck.

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