Stimulating Initiative

I was in my local Target, wanting to purchase store-brand water. I had been trying to purchase it over the past few weeks, and it never seemed to be in stock. I asked a manager what was going on with the water, and he proceeded to give me a weak answer about the store having high sales in water and that they couldn’t keep it in stock. I found this hard to believe because of my frequency of visiting and the fact that all the other water was in stock.

I continued shopping there, and over ten weeks I could never purchase the water. During that time I asked two more managers and could not get an educated response as to what the problem was and what was being done about it. I got the impression these managers took the “it’s not my problem” mentality. I would wager those managers did nothing to investigate why the shelf stood empty for so many weeks. If they were truly invested in their store, they would feel a sense of urgency that such prime real estate and high-margin product was unavailable to their customers.
When employees take initiative, it shows they are engaged in the company’s success. Are you driving initiative among your employees? The easiest way to drive initiative is to reward those who take it.  When you see it happen, thank the employee, recognize it in a staff meeting, or bring it up in a status. Be careful not to squash initiative by criticizing an employee when they take the initiative and don’t get results. Help them uncover what didn’t go right, but praise their actions.
To create a culture of employees taking the initiative, it’s important to show employees when there were missed opportunities to take the initiative. In the above situation, I would recommend that the store manager ask her managers what they had done to fill the shelf with store-brand water. When they reply that it’s not their department or that there is nothing they can do about, she can take the opportunity to expand their problem-solving skills and encourage initiative at the same time.

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