the ability to do what needs to be done without being prompted by others or has the willingness to take a fresh approach.

INITIATIVENESS and SELF-MOTIVATION attributes are probably some of the most important determinants of success in any situation.

  • Self-motivation is about your internal drive to achieve, develop and keep moving forward; it is what pushes you on to complete something when you feel like giving up.
  • Linked to this, is initiative: This is about being proactive rather than reactive, spotting and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise and persisting in the face of setbacks.In this post I am looking at how using your initiative can improve the impact you have within your team/organisation and on your own self-development.
  • Using your initiative is a great way to demonstrate your ability and potential. Dealing with issues or initiating improvements without having to be asked will make you a valuable asset and example to others.


A dictionary definition says:

Initiative [noun] is . . .

  • the ability to act and make decisions without the help or advice of other   people, ‘you’ll just have to use your initiative’;
  • the first step in a process that, once taken, determines subsequent events i.e. decide to take the initiative

In another context, . . .

  • Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and work without always being told what to do.
  • It requires resilience and determination.
  • People who show initiative demonstrate they can think for themselves and take action when necessary.
  • It means using your head, and having the drive to achieve.

Initiative is a self-management skill. Initiative also means doing things for others. Going out of your way to help people shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond, which will impress employers.

People who take the initiative are generally inquisitive by nature, self-motivated with a strong interest in learning and making progress. But how do they use their initiative to greater effect than others?

Displaying And Developing Initiative

Consider the following behaviours and characteristics:

  • They tend to follow their own lead. Although they may ask for and use advice, they will usually consider it against their own ideas before taking action.
  • They have a high commitment to continuous learning and will actively seek out opportunities to develop and expand their personal skills and knowledge.
  • They place an increased level of trust in their intuition (generally based on an honest appreciation of their ability and experience).
  • They are practical by nature. They can foresee or identify problems before they arise and will make efforts to avert or solve them.
  • They tend to be uncomfortable with the ‘status quo’ and have a continual improvement attitude in things they do or are associated with.

The Value Of Initiative

A person who is not afraid to use their initiative is a valuable asset to any team or organisation. They can enjoy many role-enhancing advantages and are seen to be progressive and conscientious.

Using your initiative makes you a desirable candidate for jobs and opportunities as you are showing you can think for yourself, as well as proving that you will continue to develop and grow in your role.

Initiative will allow you to get ahead of the competition and ensure you’re up to date with what’s going on in your career sector. People who show good initiative often win awards and promotions as they generate exciting and beneficial ideas.

People who Use Their Initiative Are …

  • perceived as being proactive, positive and willing to get their hands dirty. They will be the person who is asked to help in both the planning and execution of events and projects. Managers often rely on them to sort out problems and check things are in order. They attract trust and respect.
  • creative thinkers and good at offering suggestions and ideas. They will be valued for their imagination and contribution to ‘blue sky’ thinking exercises or brainstorming sessions where the ability to think outside the box is important.
  • able to overcome challenges and are tenacious about problem solving. They never let a difficulty get in the way of progress and can be remarkably upbeat when things aren’t going well. Their positive attitude helps motivate and encourage others.
  • good at dealing with change – relishing the opportunities it may bring and enjoying the prospect of having new challenges to deal with. Their enthusiasm to improve matters can help a team stay focussed and support the whole change process.
  • inspiring to others. They are generally seen as the person who gets things done and sorts things out. Their value to the team is obvious and it’s not difficult to appraise the value they add.

A Word Of Warning – Use Your Common Sense!

People who use their initiative are not superhuman. Whilst they bring many benefits to the group, they are not infallible. Before you start diving in with new ideas and trying to spot the next problem to solve, remember that not everything needs sorting out and it can be quite demoralising for other team members if you’re seen to be interfering all the time.

As with all strong personality characteristics, there’s a time and a place. The real skill is knowing when to use your initiative and when to let someone else use theirs.

Use you common sense …

Common sense is the use of sound practical judgment derived from experience rather than study.

Common Sense Working

The combination of initiative and common sense can be very powerful. Balancing your desires to learn, improve things, impress others and make a difference, with the need to deliver your core responsibilities is vital.

Getting involved in additional projects and initiatives is all well and good providing your own deadlines and outputs are not adversely affected. Always take a moment to think through the consequences of your input and involvement, and negotiate the part you could and should be playing


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