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Encouraging employees to take initiative

I've written about Self Determination Theory before, but thought I'd break it down further. Researchers Deci and Ryan looked at fifteen behaviors that leaders could demonstrate that would allow employees to satisfy their own need for competence, connection and choice. This post I look at another of those fifteen behaviours: Encouraging employees to take initiative.

Scanning the news, reading diverse whitepapers and collecting anecdotes here are a few of the things I have found that you can do as a leader within your organization:

  • Be a role model. Leaders need to model the behavior they want their teams to emulate and hold their fellow managers accountable. The best leaders don’t just give orders, they inspire. Always be curious. Learn, listen, ask questions.

  • Following on from above, Learn how to coach your team. The business world is full of managers who are skilled at telling employees what to do. Take the time to learn how to use coaching to grow your people and their capabilities.

  • Assign Stretch goals. Setting the bar low de-motivates most of us. As a leader we need to set the bar high enough it takes effort to achieve, more effort that the employee may believe they are capable of.

  • Practice Patience. You won't see this behavior over night - it will take time.

  • Practice Patience. Especially with failure. Mistakes are inevitable. Use them to examine thought processes, decision making skills and learn from them, don't punish good faith mistakes.

  • Listen to their feedback. And act upon it if possible

  • Celebrate and recognize those who take initiative. When you get the behavior you are seeking, make sure your whole team - and your stakeholders hear about it!

So how do you encourage those around you to take initiative?

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