Collaboration comes in many forms and, if you’re a part of a team in a professional environment, you’ll probably experience a wide variety of collaboration dynamics throughout your career. If you want to be the person who knows how to take initiative but not the person who gets stuck doing all of the work, these do’s and don’ts will help you strike that ideal balance! Let’s start with the 4 do’s.
1. Do Provide Your Team With Clear Expectations: No one can read your mind so, if you’re taking initiative and spearheading a new project direction or breaking the project down into manageable chunks, you need to communicate your vision clearly if you want to be able to see it through without doing all of the work yourself. Do provide your team with clear expectations when you take the reigns and trust that they’ll be able to do what is needed to deliver exemplary results.
2. Do Offer Your Help to Others: One way to take more initiative in a team environment is to offer your help to others. Maybe they’re working on an element of a project you’re fascinated by but haven’t gotten the chance to work with in a professional setting. Maybe they’re swamped and you’ve already completed your portion of the project so you see if they could use an extra set of hands or eyes. Whatever the case may be, you should feel free to offer your help to others in a team environment. After all, you only succeed as a team in a team environment, there is no I in team!
3. Do Contribute Ideas for Improvement: If you see a task that could be done a better, more efficient way, say something! If you know of a cutting-edge technology you could use that would really improve the project, say something! A major part of taking initiative is contributing your ideas for improvement along the way and championing these ideas so your team sees your passion and point of view. Become the kind of person who doesn’t have to be told to look for potential problems or inefficiencies but, instead, seeks them out constantly and contributes ideas that will help save the day.
4. Do Your Best Work for Your Team: The root of taking initiative in a team environment is and should always be doing your best work. Don’t churn out lower-quality results just to prove that you can get more done and don’t lower your standards to fit the performance level of the rest of the team. Do your best work for your team and trust that they will meet the high bar you set along the way.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you should do if you want to walk the line between taking initiative and being stuck doing all of the work in a team environment, it’s time to cover 4 don’ts that you definitely want to avoid.
1. Don’t Volunteer to Do All or Most of the Tasks: If you don’t want to get stuck doing all of the work, don’t volunteer to do all or most of the tasks that need to get done! It’s really simple in theory, but this can be a major stumbling block for professionals who want to take more initiative. Why? Because they think doing it all is the only way it will get done, or the only way it will get done right. Trust in your team and set clear expectations from the start and you’ll find that you won’t have to do all of the work yourself.
2. Don’t Just Take Over What Others Are Doing: If you don’t want to steamroll your team and you want your fellow team members to feel like they’re contributing, you need to learn how to lend a hand without taking the wheel. Don’t just take over what others are doing, offer your help and guidance and, if they take you up on it, make sure you’re listening to their needs and input along the way.
3. Don’t Forget to Listen to Others and Let the Best Idea Win: While you can be a champion for your own ideas, you also need to be able to listen to others. Remember, the whole point of working as a team is to collaborate, have multiple points of view, and let the best idea win so the results can outshine what one person could have done on their own. If you don’t forget to listen to others and let the best idea win, you’ll be in a better spot than if you insisted your ideas are always implemented.
4. Don’t Repeatedly Cover for Others: Taking initiative on a project is great but, if you’re repeatedly cleaning up other people’s messes or covering work for coworkers who are slacking on their responsibility, you’ll create a toxic team dynamic where you’re expected to do far more than your fair share. Make sure you hold up your end of the bargain, help where you are willing to, and leave the rest of it up to your team. If they aren’t getting their jobs done, the onus doesn’t and shouldn’t fall on you.
There is a way to take initiative in a team environment without being stuck with the expectation that you’ll do all of the work. True collaboration comes from open communication and, with these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be well on your way to taking initiative and collaborating effectively in your professional team!