Remember that one annoying classmate back in school who never failed to remind the teacher about yesterday’s homework assignment? Ugh.
Plot twist: what if that’s how everyone at work sees you today? Double ugh.
There doesn’t always have to be a conflict of interests when it comes to being proactive. The key is to streamline your efforts at being more proactive so that there’s as much alignment between furthering your personal interests and those of the team’s as possible: here’s how.
No one likes a Scrooge, but a self-professed Good Guy/Girl who keeps making empty promises is even more annoying.
This is THE most important thing to remember when it comes to taking initiative: once you’ve volunteered to put in time and effort on a particular task, make sure you follow through.
If the task you volunteered for means staying after hours or coming in early, then it’s even more imperative than usual to manage your time well, plan ahead, and pace yourself.
Don’t let your own tasks suffer because you’re trying to be a superhero, though. It goes without saying that you should make sure that your own tasks don’t suffer as a result of trying to volunteer for everything.
Don’t panic. No one’s expecting you to pull a kamikaze or be the team’s sacrificial lamb.
No matter how evenly tasks are distributed in a team, there will be days where you finish up earlier or don’t have that many challenging tasks on your list.
Take a quick look at everyone’s task lists for the day (or just ask them) and offer to help out a teammate who’s got a heavier workload.
People will appreciate your gesture and remember it. They might even opt to pay you back for it, either with small gestures like treating you for lunch or bigger ones like returning the favour when you need some help with your workload as well.
But again, make sure you can handle it, and make sure your own work is taken care of as well, and more importantly: make sure you don’t bite off more than chew.
Staying on top of your game requires you to keep making consistent efforts to upgrade your skills.
If your organisation doesn’t prioritise staff training or skills development courses, that’s no excuse for you to sit in your corner and wait for things to change.
Go through SSA Academy’s course catalog, find a course you know is going to help you out at work, and put it forward to the higher-ups.
If you don’t want to make it seem like you’re just trying to overstep everyone and look good in front of your boss, remember: personal development is sometimes a team effort.
Ask if anyone else in your team is interested in taking the course with you before you approach the bosses about it together.
This way, you’ll make it clear that you’re not trying to step on anybody’s toes, and with more than one team member with you, make a stronger case for attending the course.
Being proactive doesn’t always require taking on more work. Sometimes, it’s as simple as not partaking in office politics.
If there are very visible cliques at your workplace, there’s no rule or company policy that says that you absolutely have to pick a side, no matter what.
Look out for those amongst your team who might be shunned, ostracised, or just can’t seem to fit in, and take the initiative to approach them and provide a more welcoming atmosphere for them at work.
No one wants to come to an office that wholly ignores and sidelines them. By being a neutral party playing the bridging role, your effort to bring the whole team together won’t go unnoticed.
The trickiest thing about always taking initiative is often that after a while, people tend to take you for granted. In fact, that’s also why people tend to avoid being proactive at work altogether.
It seems like as long as there’s a task nobody wants to do, it somehow finds its way to you even if you’re bursting at the seams with your own work.
But this unfortunate side-effect doesn’t take away the gains that it’ll give you and your team if you do it right.
You could explain, for instance, that you’d be glad to take on said task if you had the time to (which you did the other day when you volunteered to do it) but right now, you have urgent work that needs your full, undivided attention.
Don’t be afraid to draw the line when you feel you’re being taken for granted: assert yourself constructively, rationally, and without being abrasive.