[June 22, 2014] “I learned it from the school of hard knocks.” In Part 1 of Building Initiative yesterday, I proposed two things. First, it is possible to improve initiative in workers through some very specific steps. Second, that it was the obligation of a leader to build initiative. Many believe that initiative is learned only through relevant experiences. While I believe experience is a big part of it, there is a place for formal initiative programs.
“Success depends in a very large measure upon individual initiative and exertion, and cannot be achieved except by a dint of hard work.” – Anna Pavlova
As senior leaders, we are the ones who must establish the setting and conditions. This is done in several ways. Any program run by leaders must use several avenues of learning to be most effective. Having a formal class setting with a small number of people, for example, is only a small part of it. Here are some fundamentals to ensuring a successful program on building initiative:
- Fence off time that people can dedicate the intellectual focus to learn initiative
- Provide a mentor for each person in the program
- Teach the fundamentals of initiative: what it is and what it is not, examples, etc.
- Arrange for a visit to leaders who have shown initiative and have explain their thinking when they exercised it in specific situations
- Use practical applications
- Spread the formalized program across time
- Support those who are being trained so they know showing initiative is important
- Get them out of their comfort zone
Later, I will discuss training initiative in leaders. While this is not radically different, training and building initiative in leaders come with a twist. If they have not already shown initiative, they should not be a leader. Therefore, our interest will be more in improving skills, taking those skills to the next higher level.
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