7 Ways Leaders can Encourage Employees to Take Initiative

A good organization is always eager to educate and cultivate well-preforming employees, but the best employees are ones that take the initiative themselves and are always eager to expand upon their current knowledge and skill set, as well as, go the extra mile for the organization.  However, most employees hesitate to step out of their shells and are content with their current positions. As a leader, it falls on you to cultivate an environment of learning, and encourage people to take the initiative. Here are 7 steps you can take to get employees out of their comfort zone and into a creative, constructive and proactive attitude.

Nurture a supportive environment

When team members feel comfortable in their workspace, they are more likely to become involved. They need to feel like their workplace is a safe place to voice their ideas and concerns and they need to know that they are being taken seriously by top management. If they fear retribution or rebuke, they will stop sharing their ideas, or even worst, stop conceiving them at all. Go over the top to tell employees you are excited to hear their thoughts. You don’t have to sit employees down one by one and discuss each idea in detail if you are pressed for time. You can create some process for workers to submit and share ideas

Take fear out of the equation

If you want employees to take action, be prepared for a lot of failure. After all, the road to success is paved with the corpses of unsuccessful initiatives. However, as a leader, you need to empower your team members by letting them know that it is ok to fail, and that each mistake is just another opportunity to learn. It’s your job to lead and to convince people to keep going until they succeed. You just need to create an environment where mistakes can be corrected before they impact the bottom-line.

Reward change makers

People need loads of motivation to keep going and showing appreciation is a sure shot way to keep up the morale of your employees. Be sure to reward employees who go out of their way to solve a challenge or implement a positive change. The reward can be a bonus, a promotion, a development opportunity, or even putting their name in the limelight can suffice as a positive reinforcement. Not only will you motivate them to keep going, the other employees will also be inspired by their example.

Effective communication

Ineffective communication is often the biggest factor in lack of initiative efforts on the part of employees. Employees who feel that they are always out of the loop or that they are unappreciated because they have infrequent communication with their manager, often hesitate from taking initiative. Leaders should make employees know that their work matters and that their ideas and suggestions are being heeded. Companies should leverage communication apps to facilitate communication between employees and top management to encourage free flow of ideas.

Be transparent about challenges

Some people don’t take initiative just because they are unsure of how to add value to the company or simply don’t know what the company is going through. If you are honest with your employees about the challenges that the company is facing, people might make an effort to step up and try to come up with a solution. People innately want to make an impact; you just have to provide them with a challenge and watch them rise up to the occasion.

Kick people out of the office

Office environment can become mundane, which is counter conductive to creativity. Encourage your employees to meet outside their normal work environment from time to time. Most companies allow teams to meet off-site some days, which almost always results in better and more creative ideas. The run-of-the-mill office environment may inhibit the flow of ideas, especially for introverted or less vocal employees, and a change of scenario is often what is needed to surface these thoughts.

Create room for experimentation

If you want people to come out of their shell and think out of the box, first give them the space to do so. Provide them with the freedom to start their own projects, offer them with resources to work on new ideas. Use Google’s famous ‘20% time’ policy or develop your own strategy. In addition to dealing with their routine work chores, employees should be able to develop their own initiatives. Adobe gave its employees an innovation tool-kit called the Adobe Kickbox. In addition to instructions and tools, the box also contains a $1,000 prepaid Citi card that employees can use for their ideas without having to ask for permission.

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