Initiative is a character trait highly prized by employers. It's a good trait to have on your resume. It's what separates the leaders from the doers. If someone is lacking in initiative, that doesn't mean they are a bad employee, just a mediocre one. Sometimes though, employees are too fearful or comfortable to show initiative or make big decisions.
An employee that won't speak up or follow their instincts can be detrimental to your business. However, in a lot of cases you can encourage these employees to show initiative. Managing "comfeartable" employees doesn't have to be an ordeal. It can be a matter of shifting office culture, or simply encouraging one person.
A big step is to let your employees know that it's okay to show initiative, to make big decisions. Some people hold back because they are afraid of consequences for mistakes. We all know there are good and bad mistakes – "strong effort, weak results" -- but employees need to know that they won't be punished for the good mistakes.
Everyone has varying degrees of stage fright, and it's possible that someone doesn't speak up in meetings because of an audience. If you tend to get great ideas from someone, but only in private, maybe their stage fright is getting in the way. Make the next meeting they are in a conference call. They won't have all those people looking at them and may feel freer to contribute.
Initiative takes courage. Some people have courage, and some need encouragement for their courage to come out. Speak to them in specifics and go into details on how they can step-up to a challenge, how best to meet it head on, and how they will be rewarded if they do.
Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist