Encouraging Initiative

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

Encouraging employee initiative makes sense. By allowing employees a more active role in problem solving, managers increase staff feelings of satisfaction with their jobs while freeing themselves to devote attention to planning or other leadership tasks.

The foundations are laid for employees to resolve problems on their own—and regain employee engagement—when their manager includes staff in goal setting and development of action plans. If staff members are to address on their own problems they find as they do their work, they need that information. It helps them to make the right decisions and focus their energies where it will have the greatest return for the organization. However, tapping into mission or goals isn’t always sufficient nor do bromides about the value of employee initiative constitute a supportive environment for out-of-the-box thinking for staff members.

How does a manager create the kind of culture that encourages employees to use their initiative? They do this by:

  • Keeping all lines of communication open. The more employees know about deadlines, difficulties with supplies, and the like, the better equipped they are to make intelligent decisions when problems arise.
  • Listening. Listen to staff ideas. Make clear that you are interested in their suggestions.
  • Give frequent, objective, and initiative-encouraging feedback. Even when a problem arises when an employee uses his or her initiative, don’t dwell so much on that lest you discourage further risk taking by your employee. Your staff need to be counseled on what specifically they did wrong and what specifically they did right, and coached, in general, on solving problems.
  • Conducting ongoing training where it is evidently needed. If an employee makes a mistake in solving a problem, and it is likely that that problem might be encountered again, then you might want to have the person undergo training in that part of the solution where he or she is weak; or perhaps you want to mentor the individual through that point in the problem solving where he or she is weak.