Innovation is a required skill for any administrative professional. You have a unique perspective that allows you to easily see where gaps exist, where mistakes are being made, and – more importantly – how to fix areas that need fixing. You’ve probably come up with some great ideas to make work flow smoother, save time, or make your executive’s job easier.
But without implementation, those ideas stay just that: ideas.
Innovation, implementation, and initiative go hand in hand. Innovation is conceiving the ideas; implementation is the process of bringing them to life. And to do that successfully, you need to take initiative.
To be The Innovative Admin™, you need to be willing to put your ideas into practice – but for those with little to no experience in implementation, that can be a scary prospect. Where do you start? Do you need to ask permission? Will your executive think you’re overstepping your boundaries? All of these are very common questions and fears.
The good news is, the ability to implement your ideas can do wonders for your career. Taking initiative shows the value you add to your organization. It proves that you’re truly committed to your role. You’re not just there to punch the clock and get a paycheck – you’re actively engaged in making the company a better place. What executive wouldn’t love an admin like that?
If you’re looking to begin taking the initiative to implement your ideas in the workplace, these tips can help make it easier.
Identify Your Approach
Stephen Covey, author of The 8th Habit, specifies seven different levels of initiative:
- Wait until told
- Make a recommendation
- “I intend to”
- Do it and report immediately
- Do it and report periodically
- Do it
The approach you take will depend largely on your executive’s managerial style as well as your own personal comfort level. Some executives are happy to have their assistants dive right in; others want a heads up and some communication before you begin to implement your ideas.
If you’re not used to displaying initiative, my recommendation is that you start small. Set up a meeting with your executive and ask permission to implement a certain idea. Have all of your facts ready and be prepared to provide a detailed plan of attack.
As you become more comfortable taking initiative – and more able to judge your executive’s reaction to it – your approach will likely change. The important thing is to find a balance that works for everyone.
Actively Look for Ways to Take Initiative
Sometimes the opportunity to take initiative falls right into your lap; other times you may need to actively seek it out.
Begin looking for areas where you could make a difference. Is there a project that’s been sitting unfinished because no one has made it a priority? Is there a team that could use an extra member for a few hours a week? Are you constantly seeing your executive doing something that you could be doing for them, instead?
When you see an opportunity to jump in, do it! Those who take initiative are rarely caught sitting still – any downtime they have is spent improving themselves or the company in some manner.
Even the best of ideas are useless if you keep them to yourself. A big part of taking initiative is finding your voice and using it!
“I’ve spent a lot of time this month fielding calls asking how to properly submit expense reports. For everyone’s convenience, I’ve created a procedure to explain the process step by step. It can be found in our shared Dropbox folder.”
“It seems like every time we plan a board meeting, something gets forgotten. I feel like this reflects poorly on the company, so I’ve developed a checklist. Can you look it over and see if there’s anything I’ve overlooked?”
“I’ve noticed you’re spending a lot of time on email this month, and I know it’s not your favorite thing to do. Would you like me to take a look at your inbox each morning and weed out anything unimportant?”
You should never be afraid to speak up. Even if your ideas aren’t immediately taken into consideration, you’re proving that you’re a team player!
Be Realistic About Your Bandwidth
Taking initiative can be a huge career boost – but not if it comes at the expense of your regular job duties. No one will care that you revamped the way the company handles the budget reports if you’re constantly missing deadlines or making careless mistakes in a rush to implement your next big idea.
Be realistic about what you can do and always prioritize your assigned duties over everything else. Don’t let your eagerness to take initiative compromise your good reputation!
The Innovative Admin™ isn’t content to sit and wait until they’re asked to do something. They’re always willing to go above and beyond for their executive, colleagues, and organization. Taking initiative, both in your role and out of it, can take your career places you never thought possible!
Interested in learning more about how to implement your ideas?
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.