What Initiative Looks Like - When It's Missing, by Ginny Brien




In·i·ti·a·tive, noun
  1. the ability to assess and initiate things independently.
  2. the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.


This week I got to distinguish initiative by observing its absence in myself.


The strategy team had a retreat scheduled for Thursday, and I marked my calendar “be available,” because Nancy told me they might want to pull me in sometime during the day. On Tuesday, I had a call scheduled with Doug, but before and after, I was thinking mostly about the big dog client interviews I’d promised to summarize this week, and was starting to worry about how much (or little) of them I’d understand, and thinking that I should have started on them earlier. I had a few marketing and sales calls with people on the team, and between the reorganization of the supply closets and the email transition, working at home seemed like a smart choice.


On Thursday morning, my phone rang at 9:00, just as I was settling in front of my computer to start my day. It was Nancy, asking, “Did you get my email?” and, “Can you come on the call?” But the real question was, "Why aren’t you already on the call, and why aren’t you prepared?"


We expect every person on our team to lead, from wherever they are, and I got to see several areas where I was content to “wait for orders” rather than bring my drive and intellect to the company. Here’s how my lack of leadership looked:


I didn’t check my work email or voicemail at the end of the day Wednesday. If I had, I would have read Nancy’s email, sent at 3:30, asking me to have documents ready to share with the strategy team at 9:00.


It didn’t occur to me to verify when the team might want my participation, or ask how to prepare, or spend time INVENTING how to prepare for the strategy meeting.


It did not occur to me to study the strategic documents we created at our company's December retreat: the "Picture of the Future," our brainstorm about client service excellence, or the list of immediate actions we aligned on. Yes, I captured the sales notes, but all the strategy we invested two days creating -- I treated those conversations like they were a “perk,” an exercise to give us an infusion of energy and attention. I definitely was not holding them like strategy that I am responsible for implementing and ensuring the success of.


I related to myself as responsible for a “piece” of the action, but not the whole action. And now I wonder -- is it possible to be responsible for a piece of something without constituting myself responsible for the whole of it?  I don’t think so.

To be fully responsible for sales (or any other “piece” of our business) I have to think about and care about my actions affect the whole. Otherwise, I’m no more invested than a temporary employee -- I have no real skin in the game.


This is not acceptable to me.


I am newly curious about what setting time aside to THINK could do for my leadership and for the company. This fits in with some of practices I’m creating for myself in the new year.


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