Managers tend to notice when an employee take initiative at work. When you demonstrate a sense of self-drive, you are less likely to be passed over for promotions or additional responsibilities. Luckily, anyone can learn to be more proactive at work.
What Does it Mean to Take Initiative at Work and Be Proactive?
Taking initiative in the workplace means being proactive. A proactive individual act on things before necessary. This is the opposite of reactive, which involves reacting to a situation when it occurs instead of anticipating it and tackling it early.
Being more proactive at work typically involves dealing with tasks before necessary. For example, you have a task that needs to be completed sometime in the near term. Instead of waiting until the deadline approaches, a proactive person finishes it early.
Taking initiative and being more proactive at work also involves doing more than is required of you. You may accept additional duties, complete work for others, or strive to always add something extra to each task.
Here are 16 examples of being proactive at work:
1. Complete Your Assigned Tasks Early
In many cases, being more proactive means taking on additional work. However, you first need to ensure that you meet your primary responsibilities. You need to excel at your current role before trying to complete extra projects.
Completing your assigned tasks early is one way to show that you have good initiative before taking on more duties. Finishing tasks early demonstrates that you are more than competent in your current position and ready for more responsibility.
2. Perform Unassigned Tasks
When you finish your tasks early, you have more time for additional work. Use your extra time to perform various unassigned tasks, such as administrative or clerical tasks that others dread.
In a typical office setting, there are a variety of necessary tasks that people tend to put off until the last minute. Replacing the toner cartridge in the printer or making a fresh pot of coffee can show that you are willing to go above and beyond your current duties.
Keep in mind that offices and workplaces have unique policies and practices. If you are a new employee, you may want to avoid completing trivial tasks until you learn more about the way things are run. This will help you avoid stepping on any toes while trying to show initiative and drive.
3. Request Additional Responsibilities
After meeting the needs of your current role and displaying your drive by completing trivial tasks, start requesting additional responsibilities. Let your managers or supervisors know that you are ready to take on more work.
Go beyond your normal duties to complete additional tasks or projects. In some cases, you may complete these tasks without receiving explicit permission.
Over time, the extra tasks that you complete may become a standard part of your job responsibilities, allowing you to have more of a positive impact in your current role.
4. Help Others Complete Their Assigned Tasks
If you cannot fill your time with unassigned tasks and additional responsibilities, help co-workers with their tasks. This type of proactiveness at work provides extra advantages.
Along with demonstrating your sense of self-initiative to your superiors, you build positive relationships with your colleagues.
You should be prepared to help by completing minor tasks instead of taking an active role in every project. For example, handling a few administrative tasks for a co-worker may allow them to focus on the quality of their work.
When you cannot actively help others with their tasks, you may share your knowledge or help train others. This allows you to help co-workers become better equipped to complete their assigned work.
As with the previous tip, sharing your knowledge is a great way to build stronger relationships with your co-workers. Your colleagues should appreciate the effort that you make and may return the favor in the future.
Sharing your knowledge is also a common practice of successful leaders. Your supervisors or managers may take notice of your strong sense of initiative and selfless behavior.
6. Respond to Emails and Memos Promptly
Most people do not expect an immediate response to emails and office memos. They typically assume that you may be in the middle of the task and may not have the time to respond instantly. Responding to emails and memos promptly helps you stand out.
It highlights your job initiative and respect for the time of others. The sender may need to wait for your response before completing a specific job duty. By responding promptly, the sender of the message may be able to complete their assigned tasks more quickly.
7. Create Lists and Prioritize Your Tasks
Always start your day by writing a to-do list of the tasks that you need to complete and the tasks that you want to complete. Start with the most complex or time-consuming tasks.
Prioritizing your tasks each day helps you maintain your efficiency, which gives you more time for extra work or responsibilities. You can stay on track while tackling more duties.
Read More: How Do You Set Your Expectations for a Team
8. Find Ways to Improve Business Processes
Finding a way to improve a business process highlights your skills, knowledge, and proactiveness. Businesses develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) to maintain consistency and productivity. However, most SOPs have room for improvement.
When you follow the outlined processes for a given task, you may uncover an inefficient or redundant step. Developing a more efficient process allows you to complete the given task more quickly and with less of a risk of errors.
9. Show up for Meetings Ahead of Schedule
Showing up for meetings ahead of schedule is another way to demonstrate your initiative. In many work settings, showing up a few minutes early for daily meetings or scheduled meetings is standard practice.
Arriving at a meeting early demonstrates that you are fully prepared, which requires strong time management skills and organizational skills. These qualities are important for leadership positions.
When a supervisor walks into a team meeting and sees that you are the only one waiting, you make a stronger impression. You are more likely to be considered for additional duties or projects, which provide more opportunities to show your drive and commitment.
10. Learn from Your Mistakes and Listen to Feedback
Being proactive requires you to excel at your designated duties. You may struggle to complete extra work if you cannot meet the needs of your current position.
To ensure that you are ready for additional responsibilities, learn from your mistakes and listen to feedback from superiors.
If you miss a deadline, overlook an important detail, or skip a step, the quality of your work suffers.
Learning from these mistakes and avoiding them is an important part of being more proactive. Taking the initiative to learn from your mistakes shows that you do not need to wait for corrective action from your supervisors or managers.
When you receive feedback from supervisors or managers, listen carefully to their statements. Analyze their feedback and incorporate their suggestions.
11. Try to Be the First to Volunteer for Projects
Almost every workplace has tasks that no one wants to complete. When a supervisor requests a volunteer, try to be the first to accept the task.
Volunteering provides another way to show that you are willing to do more than the duties included in your job description.
Just make sure that the task that you volunteer to complete does not interfere with the completion of your assigned duties.
12. Provide Frequent and Prompt Status Updates
When completing a project, your manager may require you to provide regular status updates. Instead of waiting until the designated time for delivering the update, you should provide updates frequently and promptly.
You may also need to provide frequent status updates when collaborating on a project with co-workers. Make sure that you keep others informed about your progress.
This keeps everyone on the same page and prevents your co-workers from getting too far ahead or behind your progress.
13. Resolve Conflict or Disputes Between Co-Workers
Managers and human resources (HR) supervisors are often responsible for dealing with interpersonal conflicts. This is a duty that many leaders dislike.
By taking the initiative to resolve a conflict before a manager or HR department gets involved, you help maintain a positive work environment.
Resolving conflicts also helps highlight your leadership skills. It provides another opportunity to show management that you have what it takes to manage others and assume more responsibilities.
14. Continue to Be Proactive Outside of Work
You can learn to be more proactive for workplace activities by being more proactive outside of work. Start taking initiative in other areas of your life to develop a more proactive personality.
Being proactive instead of reactive should become part of your daily life. Try to avoid putting things off, such as grocery shopping, laundry, or scheduling a doctor’s appointment.
Instead of waiting until the last minute to schedule a doctor’s appointment, arrange your yearly exam early.
15. Always Look for Opportunities to Stand Out
You cannot enjoy the benefits of taking initiative at work until you uncover the opportunities available in your workplace.
Some work environments have strict standards and practices that leave little room for taking on extra work. You may be required to solely focus on your core responsibilities.
For example, changing a light bulb in an office may appear to be a trivial task. However, some workplaces require the maintenance department to change lights. Going against the way things normally operate may result in a violation of your company’s policies.
It may also irritate the co-workers who are typically assigned the task that you took over. The key to being proactive at work is finding the hidden opportunities to stand out. Look for tasks or projects that you can complete without interfering with the standard order of things.
16. Set Initiative Goals at Work
As a final tip for showing self-initiative at work, you should set personal initiative goals. Setting a goal makes it easier to achieve what you want.
Instead of simply telling yourself that you want to be more proactive, create a list of the things that you can actively accomplish.
Choose one or two examples of self-initiative to focus on each week. This may include something simple, such as volunteering to handle trivial tasks that others dread.
By setting a goal and working on it, you start to develop positive habits. Showing initiative in the workplace starts to become a natural part of your daily performance.
Should you take initiative at work? In almost every case, the answer is yes. Not taking initiative at work demonstrates that you are satisfied with your current position. You have no interest in being a team player or taking on additional responsibilities.
If you want to succeed in your career, you need to take initiative and be proactive at work. Make sure that you strive each day to do more than you are required to do.
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