In today’s competitive workplace, it is ‘soft skills’ – like the ability to take initiative that opens up other doors in your career.  It’s just not enough to meet expectations at work. You need to add value and one of the sure-fire ways to do that is to demonstrate that you’re an employee who is able to show initiative. Taking initiative requires energy, enthusiasm and commitment – personal traits sought after by any employer. There is a great demand for energetic professionals who exhibit these traits – self-initiative, self- enthusiasm, self-action – and who are proactive in the workplace. Demonstrating initiative is often equated with exceeding expectations.

What does taking initiative really mean? A concise definition of taking initiative at work means handling duties and responsibilities, and offering solutions, without waiting to receive instructions from others. Having initiative is a way for employees to be more independent in their day-to-day tasks. This in turn will lead ultimately to better outcomes.

Here are six practical tips to get you started.

Keep everyone in the loop

Communication underpins all initiatives.  Be sure to communicate to all who are connected with your decision – be it your peers, your supervisors, managers and stakeholders.  Our decisions and actions can impact others.

Step out of your comfort zone

Every endeavour requires taking some risk. Be ready to seize the opportunity to take initiatives and act with confidence. Learning from constructive comments and to ignore malicious criticism will give you the belief and confidence that you need to take initiative when necessary.

Don’t doubt yourself

Being confident is a delicate balance that many people have difficulty keeping. Over confidence can lead to arrogance whereas a lack of confidence causes self-doubt that will hinder your ability to take initiative. Confidence is a natural state when you believe in yourself.

Recognize areas for improvement

Set aside some time to perform your daily tasks like it’s the first time you’re doing it.  View it with a set of ‘fresh eyes’. In some instances, some elements of the process may be improved and in turn result in greater efficiency, time and cost savings. “Good enough” is never enough.

Be a champion of new ideas

Don’t settle for the ‘old way’ just because that’s what has been done for years.  There could be a more efficient way of doing it. Do your homework. Ensure you understand all aspects of your proposal – including its limitations before you recommend a change or improvement to a product, service or process.  

Learn from your mistakes

Sometimes the most well thought-out plan fails in execution. Mistakes will happen, use them as learning opportunities. Taking the responsibility to look after an issue or event by finding the answer is what taking initiative is about. Don’t give up on showing initiative ever again because of a single negative experience.  Use the experience wisely and ensure such mistakes or omissions will never recur.

In summary, when you take initiative, it elevates your visibility in the organisation.  It enhances your chances for recognition, triggers learning opportunities, enhances collegial interactions, and lastly, promotes job satisfaction.

Article by Madeline Ernest, Senior Consultant at Training Edge International. She has more than 10 years of experience in education and in-house training. 

To be at competitive edge in today’s workplace, find out how you can take initiatives at work to gain more recognition by your employer. Register today at for a full day workshop on “Taking initiative and making things happen in the workplace”. Sign up now to enjoy early bird prices!