How to develop initiative and proactivity in a team? Practical tips for leaders and managers

What would it be like to have a team that surprises you by being proactive and completes its tasks perfectly, even in your absence? This is the dream of many leaders. Unfortunately, the reality we find in many organizations is completely different from the expected one. We hear sentences such as: "No one told me this should be done" or "It's not my role, it's not my task." These statements block the potential for creating valuable initiatives. But is there a way to break down these barriers and build a proactive team?

Here is practical advice to help you do so:


1. Set and maintain transparency

Transparency in communication is insanely important for building initiative and proactivity in a team. Often, employees don't fully know what they are responsible for or what is expected of them. Therefore, set clear goals and clarify what behaviors and attitudes are desired, and then communicate them clearly to all team members. Understanding their role helps employees identify opportunities to take initiative. When they have a more complete understanding of how their work contributes to the larger goals of the organization, they can better identify areas where they can be proactive.


2. Give feedback, but do not punish

The point is not to punish for lack of initiative. What is important is that you, as a leader, give regular feedback and offer support. If you are currently at a point where you have already started working on increasing proactivity in your team, then focus primarily on giving positive feedback. Let them know that this is the kind of behavior you expect and that this is the kind of feedback you want to see from your team. In this way, employees will have a more complete picture of their work and will feel motivated to continue coming up with their own initiatives. Don't punish for mistakes, but encourage them to learn from them. Create an atmosphere where employees feel safe to experiment and take risks.


3. Understand individual motivators

Every employee is different, and consequently, there is no one-size-fits-all type of motivation. Therefore, first of all, get to know your team - find out: what encourages them personally at work? What discourages them? What causes them to "block"? When are they most effective? If you get to know their characters, you will also know what level of initiative you can expect from them. Conduct one-on-one interviews to learn about your employees' expectations and goals. Adjust your approach by offering development opportunities that match their motivations. Remember that job satisfaction and commitment increase when employees feel that their work matters and contributes to their own ambitions.


4. Be solution-oriented

Explain your understanding of initiative and proactivity to team members. But be careful not to fall into the trap entitled. "Don't come to me with problems, come to me with solutions!" into which leaders who have extremely high expectations of proactivity can sometimes fall. With this attitude, you can achieve the opposite of what you care about - discouragement, fear of a bad idea, withdrawal. Create a culture where you encourage employees to come up with ideas and proposed solutions. Show that their input and initiative matter to the success of the organization.


5. Reward proactive behavior

Remember that a person who feels appreciated always does more than is expected of him or her. Rewarding proactive behavior strengthens initiative in the team. Recognize employees who go beyond standard duties, take on new projects and offer innovative solutions. Introduce kudos, a system of rewards (not necessarily material) and awards that show appreciation for employee involvement. This could include praise at a team forum, financial bonuses, extra days off, development training or the opportunity for faster promotion.


Increasing initiative and proactivity in a team is not only possible, but essential for success. By maintaining transparency, giving constructive feedback, rewarding initiative and understanding individual motivators, you can foster these valuable qualities in your team. Remember that as a leader, you create an environment that agitates initiative and proactivity. Be open to ideas, supportive and understanding, and you will see your team go from strength to strength, achieving above-average results.



Recommended supplementary literature:

  • „The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen R. Covey – recommend to anyone, regardless of position
  • „The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” Stephen R. Covey – recommend to leaders and managers, or people who are pretending to be bosses

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