“There are three types of people in the world: Those who make things happen, those who see what´s happening and those who wonder what´s happened"
Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Ash worked as vendor for cosmetic companies in the USA between the fifties and sixties of the last century. After teaching and training a new employee and seeing how he was promoted instead of her, she founded her own cosmetic company. That simple. Her way of protesting was to create a cosmetic empire that today sells more than 2 billion dollars every year all around the globe.
Paraphrasing Tom Peters, the people who change the world are the angry people. They have initiative. The word comes from Latin "initium", that means to start. In the world of the companies, education and psychology, the initiative is the capacity of a person to start something without a demand, influence or order from another person.
The initiative goes through the next phases: No acceptance of the establishment, rebelion against the status quo, the search of an alternative and the implementation of this alternative.
In the USA is calculated that each year more than 100.000 persons die in hospitals due to evitable causes. Doctor Peter Provost from the Hospital John Hopkins created a checklist like the one that is used by the pilots when following the take off ritual. He reduced the contracted infections while in treatment in hospital to practically ZERO. This checklist has been institucionalized in a lot of hospitals gaining identical results.
“The successful people in this world are the ones who stand up and look for the circumstances they want and, if they don´t find them, they create them"
George Bertrand Shaw
The initiative in the companies
In the companies and in the job market we are experiencing worldwide changes without precedent. In this environment the companies have to hire people with initiative. I explain why:
The job´s description that´s made when a vacant job has to be occupied is rapidly obsolete due to the velocity in the change in the market. The employee who redefines himself these funktions saves time and money for the company. The employee is the first to detect the new necessities of external and internal customers, and the faster to react. In this process the manager´s or team´s leader work is to check and harmonize those new tasks with the rest of the members of the team.
The one who defines his own goals is especially motivated. It´s a basic psychological process. We react worse to external impositions than our own. If you want to have your people motivated, don´t decide for them. Make them participate in the process of goal´s setting. Besides we get an extra-advantage: When we ask for responsabilities for unreached goals, they cannot say that the goals were impossible or unreal, because they have participated in the setting. This makes them implicate even more their commitment with the task.
Design of the own career: The jobs for life are finished. The talented people see their career as a succession of projects. If you have a company that needs talent not only money will atract them. Your projects must be cool if you want the best people with you.
Design of your own education: The faster innovation and competence rate worldwide urges the workers, above all managers, technique profiles and self-employed to take control over their own education and training. The curriculums are not completed with barchelor and master, but increasingly as a collage with different short-term courses. The CAS (Certificate of Advenced Studies) and the MOOC allow you to create a tailor made curriculum adapted to each person.
Internal costs savings: The vendors have to make decisions withing seconds depending on the customer needs, and to do so they need autonomy and a high grade of initiative. This saves comunication time with the managers each time they have to make a discount or deal with a special petition. The customer want to deal always with the person that makes de decisions, not go over the same points once and then again with different people. A vendor´s word that is unsaid by a manager is fatal for the company´s reputation. The people who "work on the field" see the problems first, and often they have the resources to fix it in that very moment. Why don´t we simply let them do it? Imposing an "Ask the boss before you do" policy is a waste of money and time. In Toyota they brought this philosophie to the assembly line in what they called TPS (Toyota Production System). The idea is easy: Every employee is encouraged to take the lead, correct the production mistakes that they find and comunicate it to benefit the hole line. This lead to 1 million improvements per year. Year after year, those little improvements have made Toyota one of the world leaders in the automotive industrie.
The new manager: The role of the manager is changing. With the exception of repetitive and rutine tasks, the boss shouldn´t establish tasks and control the execution. You don´t need to have all the answers. Your first job is to build a team. The recruitment is vital, because it determines the success or failure of a proyect before it starts. You have to define a mission that motivates and unites the team, to set up a deadline and a budget and let the talent work. You have to control the personal relationships, to foster the creativity. The team is not at your service, you are at the service of the team eliminating barriers. You have to be intermediary between the team and the needs of the company, the customers and the market.
The initiative can be shown, taught, and developed. We have to create a culture (in the family, school or in the company) where failure is not punished and where attempts are prized as well as victories.
More than a to do list, we should make a not to do list. The initiative grow alone when the environment is favourable, because we as humans are naturally agents of change. Sad to say, the authority figures (fathers, teachers and managers) tend to interfere in the development of the initiative. Either for control, power or fear, we restrict the initiative of the people who are in our charge.
We have to teach the people how to decide by themselves: For that they have to participate in the decision process.
If an idea is not valid, don´t say just that it´s not valid, even though you are the big boss. Tell them why and give them an alternative. And be prepared for them to atack your idea as well (as you did).
Never ridicule somebody who gives an idea, however absurd it is
Jamás se debe ridiculizar a alguien que aporta una idea por muy absurda que sea.
Make people feel safe prizing their ideas with public recognition and gratitude.
Take the shy out of the shadows. They have ideas, but they need the right environment to expose them. In public it will be difficult, so talk to them personally one by one so they can explain their point of view
Don´t punish failure!. I´ll never get tired of repeating this. If an employee´s mistake costs 8000 euros, take it as money spent in training and organise a meeting to explain what´s been learned from this to everybody. It will be money well spent. The cost of cutting the initiative is infinetly higher.