Within any company, the ambitions of individual team members should aid the growth of the overall organization.
However, it takes a leader to fuel, direct and inspire this ambition into a plan that helps both the team members and the organization as a whole.
One way leaders can get their team members to realize their ambitions is by guiding them toward self-teaching and taking initiative, as a way of expanding their knowledge and skills while also seizing new opportunities within the company.
Tips for Your Employees to Take Initiative
To help, we asked 15 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:
“How can leaders encourage their team to self-teach or take initiative?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
1. Show Them Their Impact
“The best way to make people curious about the industry they are in and the work they are doing is to show them the impact they are already having. Too many people work just to receive a paycheck and lack a full understanding of how their efforts are benefiting the business, or indeed society as a whole. Fill them in. Once they understand where they fit, they are more likely to start exploring.” ~ Ismael Wrixen, FE International
2. Lead by Example
“We have weekly meetings at our company that are called ‘Breakfast and Learn.’ During these meetings, the company leaders teach participants something they are learning and encourage other team members to share new learnings.” ~ Kevin Urrutia, Voy Media
3. Assign Difficult Tasks
“Assigning each team member with a difficult task that requires a creative solution can lead a team to work outside their comfort zone. That ‘push’ can encourage and provide motivation for self-learning.” ~ Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
4. Set Up a Training Program
“We have set up a quarterly training program as part of each employee’s goals. We help research the courses, buy them and schedule time to complete each course. Most of it is online such as through Udemy, Lynda or Treehouse learning, but it can be in-person too (eventually).” ~ Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design
5. Create a Great Process Checklist
“Back when manufacturing was everything, checklists and procedures made sense — you made a widget and that’s it. The world is more complicated now, and adjusting to reality quickly is crucial. Encouraging your team to add notes and questions to your process helps document their thinking. This allows independent thinking and helps them understand the ‘why’ of the things we do.” ~ Richard Fong, Automatic Growth
6. Take Fear Out of the Equation
“You’ll see team members thrive once you empower them and let them know mistakes will be made, are expected and are opportunities to learn. Create an environment where mistakes can be corrected before they impact the customer. Taking away fear of failure won’t solve everything, though. Not thinking things through or making the same mistake twice is not taking initiative — it’s lazy.” ~ Gregor Watson, Roofstock
7. Be Transparent About Challenges
“People may not be taking initiative simply because they don’t know where they can add additional value to the company. If you are transparent about the challenges the company is facing, it may inspire people to see where they can make an impact by stepping up and taking initiative.” ~ Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
8. Give People Time to Learn
“One way to encourage people to learn is to give them time to do so. Yes, you’ll need a training budget and maybe even access to a learning tool, but if people don’t have time to learn, there’s no point. Encourage your team to block out time on their calendars for learning and make sure they stick to it.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
9. Make the Needs of the Company Known
“Overcommunication with your team is important for so many reasons. Communicating your vision for the business — where you want to grow, what your goals are, etc. — will unify your team and inspire them to take initiative. You may even discover that the skills you are looking for are secret passions of your team members.” ~ Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
10. Offer Opportunities to Step Forward
“Hand out invitations for employees to take initiative. This can look like passion projects that need a new leader or you can just ask your team who can lead the next event. Some may be too timid to step forward, but when the option is more accessible, it is easier to step forward.” ~ Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
11. Provide Necessary Resources And Guidance
“Employees sometimes don’t self-teach because they lack a plan or priorities. The best way to stimulate that is to provide useful and necessary resources to help them grow. Instead of endless PowerPoints on law, ask who is interested in subscriptions to The Economist or to JSTOR. Praise employees who are proactive, and ask about their studies. They appreciate your interest in their growth.” ~ Duran Inci, Optimum7
12. Allow Them to Follow Their Curiosity
“Allow and encourage the employees to follow down the path of their curiosity. This allows them to build the mindset they’ll need to learn to be lifelong learners. Also, being an example and sharing what you are learning can also encourage them to take the path.” ~ Rishi Sharma, Mallama
13. Hold Monthly One-on-One Meetings
“Holding monthly one-on-one meetings can help you teach your team to take some initiative and self-teach. It’s so vital that you encourage your employees to grow both personally and professionally. One-on-one meetings give you a chance to mentor and learn more about your employees. Give them advice about the kind of things they should do to reach their goals, such as more independent learning.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
14. Organize a Book Club
“Books are a great way to self-teach! Organize a book club and have your team read all relevant books concerning your type of industry, or create a list of books you have read that have helped you during your journey and organize a biweekly meeting to talk about concepts, topics and ideas with your team.” ~ Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow
15. Appreciate Those Who Show Initiative
“A powerful way to encourage initiative at work is to show people that you reward it. You can do this by publicly recognizing and appreciating your employees who do a great job in solving problems and coming up with ideas. Consider featuring them in emails or in your Slack channels and also mention great work done during online meetings.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress