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The Value of Initiative

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There’s a Russian saying about taking initiative which is very similar to a saying in English: no good deed goes unpunished. And believe it or not, I personally got such a “punishment” many times after speaking up at meetings and raising concerns or questions – it almost always resulted in me getting an “AR” (Action Required) to address the question I raised! So I know many people who tend to keep quiet rather than speak up, just to avoid an AR about their own question. I must admit this is the easiest way to go as it helps avoid extra work sometimes. And there’s a huge temptation to follow this rule and remain in the comfort zone, but is it really the right thing to do, for the company and for the employee?

Some time ago I realized that there’s actually a great reward for such an “initiative”, it’s just disguised initially as a “punishment” of an AR one needs to follow up on. And there’s nothing bad about getting it – as long as one sees it right and can take advantage of it. Here’s what I found:

  • When I get an AR to follow up on the question I raised, it’s a mandate from the meeting to invest some of my time in dealing with the question. Wasn’t the answer something I really wanted? Properly used, it allows me to prioritize my tasks to focus on the things which are of most interest to me.

  • As I deal with things I raised, I get more knowledgeable about them, I grow my expertise. But even more important – I grow my professional network. This alone is often worth “getting an AR”, as it improves my visibility to others. Simply put – more people would know how professional and knowledgeable I am.

  • When I change my attitude about speaking up at the meetings, I’m awarded by better involvement in the decision making process. There were cases when after such meetings people (who kept quiet or those who I addressed my question to) came back to me off-line and asked for help or with a piece of advice. They recognized me as someone whose thought is worth listening to. And it really gives me more influence on the project outcome!

  • Last but not least, taking courage to speak in the face of imminent AR is strongly aligned with Intel Values of Quality, Risk Taking and Discipline. And it’s the very foundation of being successful at Intel.

So what has happened as a result of my initiative? In one situation, it started with deeply operational questions on how we process payroll. It lead to me driving the operational efficiency project in my region, which ended up saving Intel money and I received recognition for it too! In another situation, I was able to participate in a pilot project for a new notebook model. As a result, I ended up getting a new work laptop, without incurring a cost for my group, and a thank you letter from an IT manager.

So at the end of the day the “initiative” I put in the title seems to be of value for the person taking it. And as long as it’s good for the employees, it’s good for the company, too. So as a corporate officer and a shareholder I’ve got a point to speak up and demonstrate the initiative myself and encourage others to do so. And what do you think of Initiative? Does the positive consequences outweigh the “punishment” of this “good deed” for you?