Taking the initiative is a determining trait between good, better and great contractors and leaders. Taking the initiative requires understanding what’s at stake, understanding the stakeholders involved, and understanding the best time to make a move.
Jack was a hardworking specialty contractor who did everything he could to satisfy his customer. Not willing to be outdone by competitors, he most often spent many hours each weekend following up on projects that his crews had completed the previous week. He would literally walk most of the jobs to ensure that what his crews were supposed to do had been done to his satisfaction.
Finding a mistake on one of his weekend audits, he found a major quality problem with the columns his crews had completed. The finish was poorly done, leaving more exposed rock than Jack wanted to see. He contacted his crew foreman for this job, Bobby, and inquired as to what had happened to leave the concrete looking so rough. After listening to Bobby’s perspective he informed his crew foreman that the crew needed to come back to this site Monday morning and take the appropriate action to improve upon their effort.
Jack, true to his commitment to provide quality results for his customers, contacted the customer of the poor quality issues, and informed him that his crews would be returning that same morning to address a quality issue. The customer was, first of all, impressed with Jack’s effort, telling Jack that the columns were to be covered anyway and that no one would have known the difference. Jack’s reply was a simple, “But I would!”
This action on Jack’s part not only impressed the customer but also led the customer to passing on some good references on Jack’s behalf to other potential customers. Over the course of the next year, Jack would end up doing work with more than four additional customers who had heard about Jack’s commitment to quality and his leadership to take the initiative.
Many contractors are “go-go” people. Their personality alone often reflects the proverbial, “bull in a china shop.”
They see, they want, they get!
Yet being self-driven to succeed is not necessarily the same as taking the initiative. Taking the initiative requires forethought and purpose. Contractors “on the go” might have a purpose, and they might even think about taking an action before taking the action, but taking the initiative also calculates the right timing for the right action.
Taking the initiative is most often realized and appreciated whenever there has been a problem or disappointment, such as a when a customer has not received a contractor’s best effort (i.e. see Jack) and that same contractor takes the initiative to correct the wrong. Such efforts by contractors often grow into tales of respect spread about a community by the customers who have experienced such initiative committed by contractors.
If taking the initiative is so powerful a tool, what might be some secrets to take this simple-looking effort and truly position it to be a great tool of customer satisfaction and even employee retention? Let’s explore some ways that can add more punch to your already growing and positive impact on others.
“Taking the initiative” secret tips
- Always take the first step whenever you find out that you or your workers have made a mistake in placement, service or support.
- Don’t dodge the hard stuff. “Own up” to any wrong performed.
- Always accept accountability and embrace the responsibility for needed correction.
- When reaching out, be quick to ask questions and to listen actively when others share their anger, frustration or disappointment.
- Apologize when needed. Don’t be stingy about admitting a wrong to others.
- When new and better opportunities arise to solve a problem or to institute an improvement, be quick to share with those in need of your correction about the new direction, action, and share the benefits to them.
- Read the profile of others to determine how and when to take the initiative with them. Some people like initiative that is first taken more subtly via e-mail or texting, followed by a phone call. Others might prefer face-to-face and ASAP…now! Study their profile needs and adapt accordingly.
- Always approach others in a spirit of sincerity, not in any arrogant or overbearing manner. Gentle-but-confident approaches always win more people over to you than bold and “in your face” assaults.
- When doubts or confusion exists about a decision made by a customer, take the initiative by contacting the customer about the decision and the intention. The customer might not always share the whys behind his decision but he does recognize your interest and sense of urgency.
- When you’re running up against important “go-no go” time constraints because you’re waiting on others to make decisions, take the initiative by reaching out and educating them as to the importance of timely decisions.
There are perhaps as many tips on when and how to take the initiative as there are people, projects and opportunities. Let me provide a few of the more “people” tips of conduct when taking the initiative.
Strengthening your initiative
1. Strive to contact the primary player
This might sound simple, but it is critical that whenever the initiative is taken to correct or resolve a situation that the contractor seeks first to communicate with the number one decision maker. The contractor might have to go through someone else first, but make the effort to contact the primary player.
2. Study your initiative before delivery
Taking the initiative is not merely reacting to a sudden crisis but rather a more premeditated action that has first been bathed in study, review and “consequence determination.” The power of taking the initiative is not in fire-fighting tactics, working hard to buy some time, but rather a show of careful strategic thinking that looks for the best solution.
3. Gain input and insight from knowledgeable resources
Before taking the initiative the contractor certainly wants to include any resource that can give him better advice about costs, probable longevity of solution and consequences for alternatives. Seeking such valuable resources can give the initiative greater power.
4. Recognize the potential costs of waiting
Timing is everything. Taking the initiative too quickly can make a less-than-effective impact on a customer. Often, in their hurry to beat their competitors to the punch, contractors might shoot before they have fully loaded the right initiative. Landing the first punch is sometimes critical but it is still more effective that your first punch be one that is solid in its strategy and proposed delivery.
5. Be confident; believe in your initiative
Even if the contractor might have a few lingering questions before taking the initiative, he must believe that at this time the initiative is the best of the available options and approaches. The contractor that hints at any reservation will simply lose the impact that the initiative was to have on the customer. Short of being hard-headed, the contractor must believe that what he is initiating is solid, has the best interest of the people in mind, and seeks the best quality offer possible.
The power of taking initiative can move you and your reputation with customers, suppliers and your own employees to greater heights of respect and satisfaction. From responding to customer requests quickly to delivering on the request by employees for feedback to their questions about a new policy, the contractor will always win a more favorable reception if he takes the initiative.
Don’t wait to respond to others who have made their request a second, third or perhaps even a fourth time. Contractors who take the initiative, even if it’s to honestly report that, “We just haven’t made a decision yet,” will still garner greater respect from others compared to those who choose to sit in silence.
Start today to taking more initiative.
*This article was originally published in 2014 and republished in 2019.