Stop Waiting and Start Doing

I once changed roles in a company I was working for and I had the opportunity to review the team I was leaving behind with their incoming leader. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses and how he could help each of them to continue to grow. 

When discussing a particular employee I made the comment that this person would do anything you asked them to do to the very best of their ability. That was their strength. Their weakness was that if you didn’t ask them to do anything then nothing is exactly what they would do. Nothing! The person completely lacked initiative. 

That’s a huge challenge for many people in the workplace today. They wait and wait to be told what to do. When they are told what to do they will need explicit instructions on when to start and how to do it. You may tell them to do something every Monday morning for a year but the first Monday morning you fail to tell them to do it do not be surprised when it doesn’t get done. 

There are lots of reasons some people lack initiative.

Some have what’s called Bounded Rationality. That’s a fancy way of saying they can’t even consider doing something they are not told to do. If it is something not entirely within their comfort zone they won’t even consider doing it unless they are explicitly directed to do it. They may not feel especially qualified to do it and unsure where to start. That’s an initiative killer too.

Some people are lazy. They expend the majority of their energy finding ways to NOT accomplish something. But as a leader you should know this: they were not born lazy. Somewhere along the way they lost their motivation and with it their initiative. Perhaps a former boss or teacher told them they would never succeed. Maybe someone told them they didn’t have what it takes to excel. Sadly they may have believed that.

If you have the audacity the call yourself a leader then never give up on someone who may be lazy today. Discover their motivators and help them find their initiative again. That is not a burden for an Authentic Leader, it is a challenge they enthusiastically accept. 

Some people who seem to lack initiative have learned that if they wait long enough to take action that someone, likely you, will come along to rescue them. Their lack of initiative is strategic. 

They know that you or someone else you assign will swoop in to get the work done. In these cases you as a leader are at least party responsible for their lack of initiative. You have taught them that they do not need to be accountable. You deny them the opportunity to learn and grow. You limit their opportunities to learn decision making and correcting mistakes they may have made. 

If they are thinking they cannot succeed you have solidified their thinking. That’s not effective leadership. 

Sometimes too much initiative can actually lead to what appears to be a lack of initiative. When a person says yes to more than they can handle they may become so overburdened that they don’t know where to begin…so they don’t. 

As a leader you must not allow your people to become so weighted down with work that they can’t maintain their forward momentum. When that happens most leaders wonder what happened to their former top performer. What they don’t realize is that what happened to them was inattentive leadership. 

If you’re not yet a leader but you want to be then you must make taking the initiative a habit. If you hope for greater success in the future then stop hoping and start taking the initiative. 

 

Make no mistake about this absolute fact: if you always wait for someone to tell you what to do you can be certain that someone will always be telling you what to do.

Today is the Best Day to Do It

The problem with doing something tomorrow is that when tomorrow comes it’s today. Then what will you do… push it to the tried and true tomorrow again? 

 

How many tomorrows does it take for tomorrow to become the day you actually take action? There are probably many people who can’t answer that question because they don’t know how many tomorrows it will take. They don’t know because they haven’t taken action yet. They are still counting tomorrows. 

 

Successful people will miss few opportunities today. Less than successful people will miss many opportunities tomorrow. 

 

For the record, someday, the perfect day, and the right day are just as bad as tomorrow. Today is the only someday for successful people. You can make today the perfect day, you can decide today is the right day. Yesterday’s tomorrow is today. 

 

You are out of excuses. 

 

You may not realize it but all that stuff you “plan” to do tomorrow weighs you down. It is a drag on today’s productivity. Each day you delay taking action on “tomorrow’s stuff” the weight becomes heavier and the drag greater. 

 

Here’s an idea: if something takes less than a minute to do then do it immediately. Do it right this second. You’ll be surprised how many things you put off that could be done in less than a minute. 

 

Most of the things we put off are not delayed due to a lack of time. We put them off because we don’t like doing them or they make us uncomfortable. We use time as an excuse. 

 

You should know that one of the biggest differentiators between successful people and less successful people is that successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 

 

Success is far more about possessing the discipline required to take action than it is about anything else. You can be the smartest person on earth but if you don’t use your brains what does it matter. Lack of initiative kills far more opportunities than lack of money. 

 

Do you have the discipline required to invest a handful of minutes a day to stop putting off those things you don’t want to do? Even the ones you know would make a positive difference for you?

 

When you start doing the things that require less than a minute pretty soon you’ll have enough momentum built up to tackle longer and tougher tasks. Before you know it, nothing can stop you. 


So what do you say? Got a minute to succeed? 

The Importance of Initiative

I was waiting for a flight a couple of weeks ago when the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He asked what I did for a living and after explaining what I do I returned the question and asked what he did for a living. 

 

He kind of had two answers. He said he worked for the last 9 years as a sales rep for a medical device company but that was merely what he did to earn a paycheck. He then said that he was actually “an idea man.” 

 

When I asked him to explain he said that he came up with new and better ways of doing things. Intrigued, I asked him for a couple of examples and then he talked for several minutes without taking a breath. This guy had an idea for just about everything. He “knew” how to fix healthcare, solve the immigration mess, make a better cell phone, better batteries, he had several ideas on improving the United States banking system, it just went on and on. 

 

When I asked what he was doing with his ideas he seemed a little puzzled. He mumbled something about being “the idea man” but leaving the action to somebody else. I just smiled politely and luckily my flight was called shortly after that.

 

I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that leaving the “action” to someone else most likely meant leaving the success to someone else too.

 

As I thought about this guy a little later it dawned on me that he was just like a whole lot of people. He was filled with a ton of ideas, at least some of them surely actionable but he lacked the initiative to act. He was one of those “somebody ought to do something” people who just never thought about the fact that they are somebody.

 

Here’s the thing, you can have all the ideas in the world but if you lack initiative then you almost certainly lack the ability to achieve your full potential. You may achieve some limited success but it will be just that…limited.

 

Make no mistake, if you sit around waiting for someone to do something eventually someone will and right after that they will tell you what to do and they might keep telling you for the rest of your life. 

 

Initiative is defined as the ability to initiate things independently. The definition is only about getting started. Having initiative doesn’t mean you must know exactly how what you initiate will end. It doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers to every question before you begin. 

 

It simply means you do something, begin something independently, because you can. Everyone can. 

 

Don’t wait for someone else to act on your good ideas, take action, take a risk, step into the unknown and see where it leads. If it doesn’t work out you’ve gained valuable experience, if it does work out you have gained at least a measure of success. 


Somebody ought to do something and that somebody ought to be you!