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Why Not Take the Initiative?

I really donít get where workers today get their sense of entitlement; from a summer vacation after they just got hired in April to their own space, equipment and cubicle. Iím not talking about sharing pencils here, but try and have two or three employees share a printer and youíd think youíd made them all wear prison stripes and carry a ball and chain.

The other area in which employees new and old seem to have an outdated sense of entitlement is around training. I am a strong believer in the value of continuing and lifelong training, but where I draw the line is with the perception that all training must be done on my time and at my expense. I think itís about time that employees starting showing some initiative in taking responsibility for their on-going training requirement.

Not the training to operate the basic machinery on the shop floor, nor the training that we all need periodically to upgrade our technical skills. That kind of training is the type that I think most employers would gladly offer on their ticket. I am talking about the soft skills that all of us need to be personally competitive in todayís workplace. The on-going training and improvement that may benefit the company, but will also help us to become better workers and stronger managers.

Those are the areas that I wish that more employees would just go out on their own and take the initiative to make it happen. You donít need my suggestion, or permission, or time, or my money to do it. If you go out and do the research and develop a plan, come and talk to me. I would be happy to discuss where the organization could assist you. I may even offer you some real, financial assistance. But you have to show the initiative.

In his book 1,001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, motivational expert Bob Nelson offers, as advertised, one thousand and one ways for employees to seize the initiative at work. Usually this means that an employee who wants to advance their position within an organization will have to take a little risk, question authority, and think ďoutside the boxĒ. Sometimes they may have to do all three.

One immediate impact of taking initiative is that your employer and all those around you will sit up and take notice. They will notice someone who is trying to go places. Someone who isnít afraid to go first. You will have demonstrated that you are a true leader. I have always loved employees who are willing to show initiative. Sometimes they have driven me crazy. But I always love them.

I also love companies and organizations that encourage initiative. Delta Hotels is one such Canadian company, It has grown from a single property in Richmond B.C. to a chain of 37 hotels and resorts that employs 9,000 people. It has won the Award of Excellence from the National Quality Institute once for organizational excellence, and most recently in 2004 for employee health and wellness.

One of the keys to their success was a program that they launched in 1999 that gave every employee in their hotels and resorts the power to initiate. That program was called Power to Please and it gave front line Delta employees the authority to address customer needs quickly and effectively Ė on the spot. All employees were empowered by Delta to offer complimentary meals, free room nights and enhanced amenities as service recovery if guests' needs were not met.

Employees like maids and bell hops and cashiers proudly wore buttons that said, ďI have the Power to PleaseĒ and knew that if a customer approached them they had the green light from management to take the initiative and make that customer happy. A powerful message that still resonates with both employees and the hotelís customers.

Even if your company or organization does not encourage even a flicker of initiative, like a government department for example, you should take a few risks to practice your initiative and creativity. About the worst that can happen is that the powers that be will dismiss your ideas and carry on as usual. And you donít want your initiative powers to go stale just because your employer is a dud.

Good ideas need a person to take them from the thinking to the reality. Initiative is the tool that helps make that transformation possible. Why not take the initiative?


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