When you were growing up, did you hear this question (I bet you did)? “Why do you have to wait for me to tell you to clean up your room?” One or both parents would make this nagging request. Yeah, I thought it would bring back memories.
What were our parents trying to do? Were they just bored and looking for something to gripe about, harping on us, making our lives unpleasant? No.
What they were trying to mold in us was this: Initiative. Self-discipline. Drive.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and realize that the difference between excellence and mediocrity boils down to whether one is a self-starter or has to be told, constantly, what is the next step in any given enterprise or series of tasks.
Understand this: Your boss, like your parents, can spot initiative. And initiative taken, even if the performance is not up to speed, gets favorable attention from those who are in positions to help us. The opposite is true as well. Our betters can spot laziness and a “just enough to get by” attitude a mile away.
I studied French for six years in high school and college. One phenomenon I’ve heard about a few times comes from people who’ve either visited France or Quebec. The French are notoriously jealous of their native tongue. And they should be for it is a beautiful language. Those who take the initiative to try and communicate in French with native French speakers, even if their own skills are marginal, often have the reward of the French trying to help them, honored that someone took time and effort to try. Such initiative has an ingratiating quality about it.
Here’s the challenge: Find something in your job, your vocation, your home, wherever, that you can do without being asked. And then make a habit of this. “It’s not my job” must not be within a million miles of your credo. You are meant for far more than that. And the habit for doing more than is expected will be rewarded.
Remember, people are watching. Up the ante.
A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results (Paul Gustavson & Stewart Liff)
The Go-Getter: A Story That Tells You How To Be One (Peter B. Kyne)