17 Tips on How to Take Initiative at Work

17 Tips on How to Take Initiative at Work

by Duncan Muguku

This article discusses tips on how to take initiative at work. The ability to see something that needs to be done and stepping up to do it is a game changing habit that can help you to stand out at work.

Having initiative demonstrates a sense of self-drive, self-awareness, insight and personal motivation.

The habit of taking initiative strengthens your personal brand. You will become a role model to others who will seek to emulate you.

My favorite tip on taking initiative is # 16 “How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm at Work”. What is your favorite tip?

You can quickly skim all the 17 tips on the table of contents below then click on any tip to read further details. Please enjoy reading. Thank you.


  1. A Game Changing Habit: Cultivating Initiative
  2. What Does Taking Initiative Mean?
  3. How to Develop Your Initiative Muscles
  4. 25 Ways to Have Initiative at Work
  5. Benefits of Taking Initiative
  6. Things to Consider Before Taking Initiative
  7. How to Take Initiative as a Team
  8. How to Encourage Employees to Take Initiative
  9. What Causes Lack of Initiative?
  10. 20 Qualities That Can Help You Take Initiative
  11. Solving Problems at Work
  12. How to Think Like an Owner of a Company
  13. Asking Good Questions
  14. How to Be More Confident At Work
  15. How to Pitch a Proposal or Idea to Your Boss
  16. How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm at Work
  17. 5 Motivational Quotes on Taking Initiative


1. A Game Changing Habit: Cultivating Initiative

One crucial skill that can serve you well in both your personal and professional life is the ability to show initiative at work. If you constantly wait to be told what to do, then you waited too long.

The habit of initiative entails seeing something that needs to be done and either doing it or figuring out ways to do it.

The more you work on initiative, the easier it becomes. The key is finding ways to be resourceful and taking action or doing something before others do it or before you are told to do it.

Taking initiative shows the hallmarks of a leader in the making.

Examples of initiative include: when you see others struggling reach out and offer help. When you see areas where your life is not going as well as you would like to and you decide to do something about it.

When you see bad decisions being made that could be disastrous and have courage to speak up and point the flaws rather than waiting for the bad thing to happen and then make statements such “I thought that wouldn’t work out well”.

Other ways of developing your initiative include learning to ask the right questions, probing questions which can bring to surface negative undercurrents that need to be addressed.

Taking initiative helps to build and strengthen your decision making skills and analytical skills where you get to analyze pros and cons of different courses of action.

Having initiative also helps to identify opportunities and capitalize on them.

The habit of taking initiative strengthens your personal brand. A person who takes initiative will be a role model to others.

You will chart a new path and try out a new way of doing things that could help improve your life and those of others.


2. What Does Taking Initiative Mean?

Taking initiative means going the extra mile or going above and beyond your normal job responsibilities to make things happen.

Taking initiative means the ability to see something that needs to be done and deciding to do it out of your own free will without someone else telling you to do it.

Doing something that needs to be done out of your own personal drive with a desire to make things better than they were before or improve processes and ways of doing things.

Doing more than your normal work duties and adding a little unexpected surprise for others at work.

Being proactive instead of reactive, thinking ahead and taking action.


3. How to Develop Your Initiative Muscles

Developing your initiative begins by knowing what you want to achieve in your career, what things you have to and are willing to do and how fast you want to achieve your career goals.

Learn how things work and figure out efficient ways of working. Look for opportunities in problems.

Persevere and be willing to start small. You don’t have to dive into a big project immediately; build your initiative muscles one step at a time.

Observe colleagues who are masters at taking initiative. Talk to them, learn from them, work with them, learn their thinking processes and most importantly study how they execute ideas and accomplish goals.

Practice speaking up and making your voice heard. You could start by contributing and participating actively in small group meetings then graduate slowly to larger groups.

Let people get used to hearing your input. When you consistently offer good ideas, suggestions or recommendations, your opinions will be sought over time.

Learn to be decisive. Become comfortable at making decisions rather than agonizing endlessly over decision making.

Think long term. Study how different things are interrelated and connect the dots such as the interplay between individual annual goals and the strategic goals of the company.


4. 25 Ways to Have Initiative at Work

There are many ways and opportunities to take initiative at the workplace.

Typical ways to demonstrate or show initiative at work include the following:

  1. Seeking more responsibilities.
  2. Tackling challenges.
  3. Solving problems.
  4. Helping others.
  5. Pitching in.
  6. Going the extra mile.
  7. Doing things and projects that others avoid or don’t want to do.
  8. Willingness to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes.
  9. Stepping in when someone is unavailable or absent.
  10. Being creative.
  11. Inventing unique solutions to problems.
  12. Being a fast learner and training others or explaining things to others.
  13. Leading events or meeting and working with different teams and departments.
  14. Referring good potential employees.
  15. Helping in interviewing and hiring process.
  16. Brainstorming ideas to improve the company.
  17. Becoming a champion at team building.
  18. Supporting your supervisor or manager.
  19. Helping others to see their strengths and qualities.
  20. Thinking ahead, anticipating and preventing problems before they occur. Especially by drawing from your past performance and knowing typical failure paths or where mistakes usually happen in a certain project and avoiding errors ahead of time.
  21. Dressing sharp and professionally representing yourself and your organization well.
  22. Sharing the credit not being a credit hog.
  23. Maintaining high standards.
  24. Making good decisions and being decisive.
  25. Doing quality control for finished projects.


5. Benefits of Taking Initiative

You should take initiative because it gives you visibility at work, you stand out, you get recognition, and it enhances your value and personal brand.

Taking initiative improves your potential for promotions and career growth.

More problems are solved at work, time is saved, resources are saved or utilized efficiently and processes are improved.

Taking initiative and trying different things, methods or processes can lead to breakthroughs.

Additionally relationships are strengthened when you help others resulting in stronger team dynamics.

It likewise creates independence, higher morale, bosses and supervisors are happy with your contributions, you become a role model for others, you stretch your critical thinking skills and challenge your problem solving skills.

Other benefits of taking initiative include strengthening your people skills, identifying synergies, removing redundancies and duplication in work and improving your self-confidence as you tackle things and obtain results

Moreover, the habit of taking initiative adds to your personal happiness and job satisfaction.


6. Things to Consider Before Taking Initiative

In as much as taking initiative is to be praised, there are some caveats to take into account before diving into the depths of demonstrating your initiative.

The first item on the checklist is to ensure that you finish your normal tasks satisfactorily before taking on more work.

Your primarily responsibility is the job that you were hired to do. Efficiently handle what is on your plate first. Avoid overcommitting yourself.

The second item on the checklist is to know the limits of your authority. Before taking initiative on matters in a gray area, consult as appropriate.

Work with your boss on critical high profile initiatives or obtain your boss’ permission to proceed on your own. Do thorough research before changing things or proposing major changes.

Taking initiative also means taking risks. Assess your risk tolerance. Know that there is a potential to make mistakes and fail.

Don’t overpromise and under deliver – it affects your credibility. There could be situations where you need to own up and admit your mistakes when you fail. Have resilience and a good attitude.

Additionally your sincere initiative efforts and ideas could be ignored or unwelcome. Rein in your ego when you encounter rejection of your ideas, don’t take it personally. Keep your cool.

Have the ability to bounce back and keep on going with enthusiasm.

Don’t try to solve all the company’s problems at once. Likewise don’t try to do everything alone. Feel free to ask for help when you need it.

When you stick your neck out you can attract haters; people who won’t be happy by your progress. You can be taken advantage of by others and have extra work dumped on you.

You can encounter people who want to put you down for no reason. Be cautious of idea killers especially when idea is at infancy.

Don’t appear as a know it all – be a sponge, absorb, learn and soak up knowledge. Don’t brown nose. Practice being patient, change takes time.

Sometimes you will underestimate the effort involved in executing a task; this is part of the learning process. You will become better at estimating effort required over time and through practice.

At all times, take care of yourself, be well rested, take time to do a job well rather than hurrying up to finish the work, be open to other people’s viewpoints, be humble, and respect yourself and others.


7. How to Take Initiative as a Team

Ways of taking initiative as a team consists of problem solving as a group, brainstorming ideas – presenting a raw idea to a team can result in a much better idea after input of different people, and volunteering on an internal or external activity as a team.

Other ways entail working collaboratively on designing manuals, standard operating procedures, guidebooks, flowcharts etc. for others to use and teaching each other through formal or informal learning sessions.

Taking team retreats to work on developing ideas, concepts and projects and working on team building initiatives to strengthen working relationships.

Remember to thank others and acknowledge other people’s contributions in making the teamwork a success.


8. How to Encourage Employees to Take Initiative

An organization with a culture of employees taking initiative can achieve substantially more results than a company where staff do not take initiative.

How can you create a culture of taking initiative in your company? By acting on employee feedback and suggestions from staff surveys. By praising staff for doing a job well.

By providing company-wide rewards tied to taking initiative to stimulate creativity and innovation. By inviting well respected industry leaders to talk to, inspire and motivate your team.

Encourage employees to take initiative by creating environments necessary for initiative to prosper such as weekly meetings where staff share their initiatives and the successes achieved, including employees in planning goals, publicly appreciating and recognizing those who take initiative and empowering employees.

Other ways of stimulating creativity include knowing what your employees are good at and encouraging those positive traits, sharing the company vision and inviting clarifying questions, showing employees the results of their efforts i.e. who benefits from their work and equipping employees with knowledge, skills and tools to succeed.

Challenging employees to improve processes and create efficiency, being accessible to staff and listening to their ideas, making it ok to take smart risks and make mistakes.

Being open and sharing information about what is going on in the company, encouraging sharing of knowledge and information and senior leadership to make taking initiative a priority.

Good management, culture of initiative being supported, actively seeking suggestions, ideas and recommendations from employees on how to fix what is broken and areas of improvement.

Encouraging teamwork, allowing work flexibility and telecommuting, giving employees regular and actionable feedback and hiring people with a history of taking initiative.


9. What Causes Lack of Initiative?

There are many reasons why people do not take initiative such as fear of presenting your ideas, fear of speaking up, fear of criticism, self-doubt, lack of faith in one’s ability and thinking someone else should do it.

Doing the bare minimum to survive in your job, making excuses, playing the blame game, playing the victim, waiting to be told what to do and believing that the boss has all the answers.

Other reasons why people do not take initiative consist of: lack of interest, shyness, don’t want extra work, self-sabotage and not seeing the benefit of doing it.

Not wanting to rock the boat, procrastination, search for perfectionism, it simply takes too much time, resistance to change, mistrust, coming up with reasons why it won’t work, negativity, burnout, other commitments and being overstretched.

External reasons for lack of initiative include people pulling each other down, constant complaining and doing nothing, taking initiative is frowned upon, your ideas getting stolen by others, not getting the credit you deserve and people satisfied with the status quo.

Being held back by past failures i.e. we tried that before and it didn’t work, short term thinking, busyness, low morale, poor team spirit, micromanagers and fearful managers who are threatened by employees’ success.

It is worth noting that despite all your good intentions while taking initiative, there are some bosses for whatever reason who might feel insecure and threatened when you take initiative at work.


10. 20 Qualities That Can Help You Take Initiative

The following 20 traits can aid you in the pursuit of initiative:

10.1 Action-orientation

Planning and then taking action.

10.2 Ambition

Knowing what you want to progressively achieve in your career and deliberately taking steps to get you closer to your career goals.

10.3 Caring

Concern and consideration for not only the well-being of the company but also about the well-being of colleagues.

10.4 Collaboration

Teamwork, cooperation and working well with colleagues, bosses and customers.

10.5 Courage

Boldness to take smart risks and having confidence that what you are doing will have a positive impact.

10.6 Curiosity

Interest in how things work and trying to figure a way to make things and processes better.

Reading widely. Keen observation to see different perspectives and connecting the dots.

10.7 Decisiveness

Not agonizing over making decisions and choosing options. Thinking on your feet.

Conducting relevant research, analyzing, interpreting and drawing timely conclusions and recommendations.

10.8 Determination

Persevering even when the going is tough or when it takes a long time to reach the desired result.

Not giving up. Following through.

10.9 Goal-oriented

Set targets for yourself and actively work on meeting and even exceeding your goals.

Let your goals excite you and energize your actions. Measure your progress.

10.10 Good attitude

Having a good attitude complements all your other traits.

It makes it easier to get along with others. Smile. Practice being grateful.

10.11 Good communicator

Strong listening skills. Talking, writing and expressing your thoughts in a logical organized and persuasive manner.

Be aware of your tone of voice. Pay attention to body language or nonverbal communication.

10.12 Humility

Keeping your ego in check. Valuing other people’s ideas and opinions. Respecting others.

Concern for others and their feelings. Not over stepping your boundaries.

10.13 Open minded

You can learn from anyone and any situation. Being open to new methods of doing things.

10.14 Optimism

Thinking of possibilities and potential benefits.

10.15 Organized

Good planning skills. Good time management skills.

10.16 Passion

Passion for your job, for success, to teach others, to contribute positively and the desire to make a difference.

10.17 Reliability

You can be counted upon. You always do what you say you will do.

10.18 Self-drive

Pushing yourself to accomplish what you set out to do. Having internal motivation and the will to see it through.

10.19 Thinking big

Thinking about the big picture of the company and how your seemingly small efforts can benefit the overall organization. Dreaming big, creativity and innovation.

10.20 Willingness to change

Flexibility. When your assumptions don’t work as expected re-calibrate and try another way. Desire and willingness to keep improving.


11. Solving Problems at Work

Inevitably problems are a part of our daily lives. Problem solving skills are important for the career-minded professional.

The foundational pillars of taking initiative include the ability to solve problems.

A quick way of solving problems in the workplace entails:

  • Understanding what the problem is.
  • Listening to and assessing all available viewpoints.
  • Identifying what solutions have been tried already if any.
  • Brainstorming possible solutions.
  • Analyzing how the problem arose.
  • Resolving the problem.
  • Lessons learned.
  • Mapping out repeatable steps for the future.


12. How to Think Like an Owner of a Company

When you imagine yourself as the owner of a company, it can help stimulate your appetite for taking initiative.

A business owner is responsible for the success or failure of the company. This mindset requires thinking about all the moving pieces of the organization and ensuring proper alignment.

To think like an owner of a company, ask questions such as – how can this company go to the next level?

An owner thinks about the big picture and creates systems to make processes easier including automating tasks, delegating and even outsourcing some activities.

They also work on setting goals, taking responsibility and not making excuses or blaming others, keeping good records, treating customers like royalty, following up regularly with customers, taking risks, develop the brand and reputation and studying other successful business leaders.

Being decisive and not getting caught up in analysis paralysis, thinking of potential revenue generating ideas, how to grow the business, how to improve processes, how to save costs and where to get good employees.

A business owner also encourages staff, prioritizes work, networks, builds rapport and alliances, negotiates, sells, forecasts, innovates, studies business trends, looks for opportunities, manages, visualizes and plans.

Studies the competition, seeks mentors, makes presentations and pitches, improves processes, reduces expenses, works on customer satisfaction and learns from failure and mistakes.


13. Asking Good Questions

The art of asking good questions is a relevant ingredient in the process of taking initiative. Question why things are the way they are.

In a respectful manner, ask open-ended questions and also follow-up questions. Don’t ask too many questions at once.

Take down good notes. Later on take time to review and reflect on the important points you learned.

Become proficient at gathering data, understanding details, figuring out how things work, understanding bottlenecks, listening well, paraphrasing, not interrupting, recapping, assessing pros and cons, testing theories and assumptions, and making logical conclusions.

Seek feedback and use it to spur on your initiative efforts. Talk to supervisors and colleagues to learn what you are doing well and should continue doing.

On the other hand also learn about which areas you are not performing well and what you need to do to improve.

Talk to customers, ask them what they like and what they don’t like and seek any suggestions for improvement that they might have.


14. How to Be More Confident At Work

How much initiative you take can be determined by your level of confidence at work. So how do you increase your confidence so that it spurs you take more initiative?

Simple ways of increasing your confidence include: being good at your job and having a record of accomplishments, being knowledgeable about your subject area, increasing your skill levels and competence.

Paying attention to details, not making excuses, knowledge of both the big picture and the nitty gritty, building alliances and networks at work, supporting colleagues and supporting your boss.

Other ways entail working on your posture and body language, speaking with confidence and projecting your voice well, participating in meetings, keeping your supervisor updated, planning your work and meeting deadlines

Having goals and meeting them, being well prepared, dressing well and comfortably, smiling, stretching yourself, going beyond your comfort zone, being kind to yourself and practicing positive self-talk.


15. How to Pitch a Proposal or Idea to Your Boss

Part of taking initiative at work will entail sharing and pitching your ideas to your boss.

When you have a proposal or a new idea, write down the idea, list the major benefits of the idea, list the drawbacks and disadvantages, explain what resources would be required to implement the idea, how to execute and implement the idea, what are the implications if the idea is not implemented and a timeline for implementation.

Prepare a one or two page outline that covers the points above then schedule a good time to meet with your boss.

Send your boss the proposal in advance. On the day of the actual meeting present your idea confidently, anticipate any questions that might be asked and prepare yourself adequately.

Practice your pitch a few times. Carry copies of your proposal.

You might get an answer immediately or you might get it later on. In either case be prepared for either a yes or no answer.

Whichever answer you eventually receive, always graciously thank your boss for taking time to review your proposal.

Seek to gain as much insight and feedback as possible if the answer is no and use this as a learning lesson for your future pitches.

Get used to some rejection along the way. Cultivate the skill of quickly bouncing back and moving forward.


16. How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm at Work

Your level of enthusiasm affects how much initiative you take and how self-motivated you are to go the extra mile.

Firstly, enthusiasm and love for what you do will take you further than when one is unenthusiastic about their work.

Granted everyone has good days and bad days at work, the key thing is to on balance strive to have more better days.

Enthusiasm is infectious; it can be transmitted from one person to another. It makes the work environment fun and stimulates creativity.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines enthusiasm as “strong excitement about something or a strong feeling of active interest in something that you like or enjoy.”

Maintaining enthusiasm takes effort. Routine at work can cause loss of enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm apathy and complacency can set in. This can lead to coasting or doing just enough to keep you going.

Boost your enthusiasm through talking to colleagues and cultivating healthy work relationships, attending industry events and conferences, interacting with customers, reading widely, getting mentors and learning new skills.

Similarly maintain your enthusiasm level through seeking feedback, setting mini challenges for yourself, organizing your work area and decorating it, reading motivational quotes and re-reading kudos or congratulatory notes from your boss or colleagues.

You can also listen to inspirational music.

Other ways of maintaining your enthusiasm include writing down your career goals, going outdoors and enjoying nature, taking a break and teaching others.

Watching inspiring videos, volunteering, complimenting and recognizing others when they do well and avoiding negative thought patterns and self-talk.

More ways entail taking small steps to achieve big goals, taking time to do personal reflections, taking time off, writing down your ideas and taking care of the basics such as sleeping well, eating breakfast and lunch, drinking water, dressing well and planning your day well.


17. 5 Motivational Quotes on Taking Initiative

From time to time, take a moment to read a few inspirational and motivational quotes on initiative, to boost and recharge your mood and morale.

Below are five motivational quotes on taking initiative:

“When you believe in what you’re doing and use your imagination and initiative, you can make a difference.” ― Samuel Dash

“Initiative is doing the right things without being told.” ― Elbert Hubbard

“People who end up with the good jobs are the proactive ones who are solutions to problems, not problems themselves, who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with correct principles, to get the job done.” ― Stephen R. Covey

“Success depends in a very large measure upon individual initiative and exertion, and cannot be achieved except by a dint of hard work.” ― Anna Pavlova

“Your success is your responsibility. Take the initiative, do the work, and persist to the end.” ― Lorii Myers


Additional Resources on How to Take Initiative at Work

  1. 9 Ways To Take More Initiative At Work
  2. Taking Initiative: Making Things Happen in the Workplace
  3. Why Taking Initiative at Work is Key to Your Success
  4. What Is Taking Initiative at Work?
  5. 48 Ways to Take More Initiative at Work and in Life
  6. How to Display or Show More Initiative at Work: Best Ways
  7. 10 Tips For Adding Value By Showing Initiative
  8. How to show initiative at work
  9. Initiative – The Key to Becoming a Star Employee
  10. Millennials, This Is Why You Haven’t Been Promoted


17 Tips on How to Take Initiative at Work
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17 Tips on How to Take Initiative at Work
This detailed article guides you through how to take initiative at work. When you have initiative, it strengthens your personal brand and can help you stand out in the office. It shows self-drive and motivation. Ways include seeking more responsibilities, tackling challenges, solving problems and being creative.
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