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Taking initiatives is a very valued skill in organizations.  Yet, very few actually take initiatives.  Some employees jump into it straightaway while others are reluctant.  After observing many organizations and people within that, I can see four flavors of initiators.

  1. Initiators who just need an open ground
  2. Initiators who need a bit of a nudge
  3. Initiators who need frequent nudging and guidance ( step by step instructions)
  4. Non-Initiators.

The first and second category is what organizations and managers look out for because they are very resourceful employees.   Throw a challenge at them, and they will put their head and heart into it.  It is a sheer joy to watch them push their own limits and come up with answers.   Every leader is on a look out for these initiators.  There is no guarantee that graduates from a premium school would have these qualities; however there is a strong chance that they would be moulded in this thought process.

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Initiatives carry an associated risk.  The risk of it failing, the risk of it sucking up precious resources, the risk of creating rifts.   The element of risk taking is in a belief system of an individual.  These individuals cherish a belief that there is no point in living without taking a risk.  They would rather die than taking no-risks.  And so with this belief system, taking an initiative and associated risk comes naturally to them.

Organizations also have to safeguard from the excessive risk taking or plunging into new initiatives recklessly.  If the Initiator does not have an ability to bring things to their logical closing point, a string of dud initiatives would be then visible, eroding the confidence of others in the leadership of the successful organization. An element of critical thinking and common-sense is needed here and if those strengths are not available in other senior leaders, it can lead to flawed decisions endangering the very survival of the organization.

So while initiative brings a certain edge, it is also double edged sword.   There needs to be a sanity check.  Processes to encourage initiative taking tempered with rigorous evaluation is definitely needed.

The third and the fourth category of people deserve more empathy from the organization. It could be possible that the aversion to taking initiatives could be from some previous bad experiences.  These then have become a pattern and a belief system in their heads. It would require hand holding and coaching for them to come out of their cocoons and display greater level of initiatives.  Non-initiators are particular of great concern because it can stop the organization in its quest to excel. And yet they could be good performers in their own right.   Such people are also vital to the organization. They bring stability to the organization.  Pushing them for initiatives would possibly be counter engaging for them. However, they need to be educated and reminded of the need to change and upgrade and maybe with little bit of encouragement, they can add much more value than the stability which they already provide to the system.

By Vikas Bhatia