Initiative is something we as leaders would obviously value highly from those we lead. But why don't we see it more ? What can we do to build it within our team, or see it more often ? I explain it this way, Initiative is bred by confidence, confidence is bred by competence.

To understand this first you have to understand that people for the most part do not like change. They we stay in their comfort zone and rely on their comfortable same old routines. But in today's business world things are constantly changing. Even worse you won't always be there to shepard them through every new wrinkle.

Confidence is the quality that allows someone to step beyond those comfortable old routines. Confidence is what psychologically allows someone to seize the moment when necessary and take control of a situation. But how do you build confidence ? By building and maintaining competence. The better each member of your team knows their job, how your organization functions, etc. the more likely they will be to step out front. this is why our military trains the way they do. They practice the smallest detail of every function again and again until you literally don't even think about it

We often will train someone on their job at least to some extent. But are we doing enough. We often will train someone on the technical aspects but not the "soft skills." To the leader wanting more initiative ignoring soft skills can scuttle the whole effort. Beyond that how much do they know about the job of the one next to them ? Or the next job up the chain ? I once advised an elected official who took over a large, important department in a very large county government. One of the first things he did was walk around their main branch location and ask people what the people around them did. Nobody knew ! Worse yet their were no written job descriptions for him or anybody else to refer too ! Can you see how a leader could expect initiative in this kind of environment ? I can't ! You can be sure they had job descriptions, organizational charts etc. very quickly.

As you can see growing confidence in your people goes beyond simple training or mentoring. It also entails having documented accessible policies. These policies, structures etc. are part of what you need to instill deeply into those you want more initiative from. Knowledge of your organizational culture and values would be important too.

It is also of great value for the members of your team to know each other, beyond mere job descriptions. People are much more likely to step out when needed if they already have a rapport with those around them. An occasional team lunch or other social event can pay big dividends here.

These are just a view observations to get you started. Remember my formula, Initiative is bred by confidence, confidence is bred by competence.

One final note. As your people start to show initiative they are going to make mistakes. Try hard to be supportive not judgmental. The long term growth of both your people and your organization will benefit more from seeing such cases as teaching moments, instead of opportunities to jump down their throat. Give them the opportunity to try and fail, because such failures are where some of the greatest growth occurs !

Author's Bio: 

Robert A. Crutchfield is a technically literate leader with diverse skill sets. He has led small work teams, and sat at the board table. Through his articles and videos he has helped train thousands of leaders. He is a Leadership at All Levels Expert at Clarity, ( a leading small business mentoring site. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.