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1001 Ways Employees Can Take Initiative at Work
by Bob Nelson

Overview - "The first day on a new job is the day you start thinking about your next job." –– Bob Nelson

Whether you're just starting out in a career, dealing with burnout in a dead-end job, or interested in maximizing your career potential, Nelson shows how you can become empowered at work, the master of your own destiny.  Read more...


 
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More About 1001 Ways Employees Can Take Initiative at Work by Bob Nelson
 
 
 
Overview
"The first day on a new job is the day you start thinking about your next job." –– Bob Nelson

Whether you're just starting out in a career, dealing with burnout in a dead-end job, or interested in maximizing your career potential, Nelson shows how you can become empowered at work, the master of your own destiny. "Guaranteed employment is gone forever," as Nelson puts it, "but guaranteed employability is still alive." By showing initiative and giving their best, employees can gain incredible rewards, sometimes even in the monetary sense. Nelson is not only a best-selling author (his 1001 Ways to Reward Employees has surpassed one million copies in print) but also an in-demand motivational speaker. He knows how to capture and hold the attention of an audience, and he's done it in his new book with inspiring examples of employees who have made a difference. Bob Nelson himself sums it up beautifully. "The biggest mistake you can make in life is to think you work for somebody else."
-A Closer Look

Review:


To Bob Nelson's way of thinking, it's a big mistake for employees to think that they work for someone else. True, they may have a boss. And true, they may not share in the business's profits. But the bottom line is that all employees are the masters of their own destiny and have the potential to control their own career advancements.

With that in mind-the notion that employees can make a difference in their work environment-Nelson has written a book, 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, that offers advice on how to turn the tables on employers.

You might want to listen to Bob Nelson. He has written more than a dozen "how-to" business books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and the best-selling 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, most of which deal with management and motivational techniques designed to help employers get the most out of their employees and their own management careers. Obviously, he knows both sides of the coin.

"I want to get across the idea that all employees-not just managers-hold the keys to making a lasting and positive difference at work," he writes. "You can identify the things that need to be done and then act on them yourself. In most cases, not only will your manager be pleased that you have taken the initiative to get something done without being told, but your customers and clients will appreciate it as well."

If you have never read a Bob Nelson book, you will be pleased to discover that he practices what he preaches. Organization is his strong suit and his books reflect the theory that method is as important as content. All of his books are well organized and easy to read. If he has a complicated management theory to present, he will break it down into its smallest-and most easily understood-components.

1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work is filled with brief anecdotes about real people taking charge of their lives and sidebars that share the wisdom of other writers and thinkers on the same subject. Nelson teaches by example, and that is probably one of the reasons for the success of his books.

One section deals with how to say no. When someone asks you to do something, he writes, don't ask yourself if you have time. Instead, ask yourself if the request is important to you. If it's not, then don't do it, he advises.

In the section on how to ask for a raise, he suggests that the key to getting an above-average pay increase is to make your case from the manager's perspective. Try to determine the going rate for positions of similar responsibility in your area, then make a case, based on your own skills and experience, that a raise is justified. Don't be shy about pointing out the ways in which you have made management look good.

Perhaps you are wondering if you should change careers. If so, then you will want to read the 11 "Warning Signs of Career Change." If you answer yes to two or more of the questions asked here, then it might be time to take action. Here are some examples: Do you call in sick, even when you're not, and do you have lingering colds and have trouble getting out of bed on workdays? It might be time to hit the road.

Especially interesting is the chapter on leadership and influence. Here Nelson makes the point that self-leadership is critical. That means making decisions yourself instead of waiting for others to make decisions for you. "What happens when employees manage themselves?" Nelson asks. "In a recent survey of senior managers, direct employee involvement in decision making, including taking initiative, was cited as the major factor in increased productivity in the last five years."

Nelson cites another study that found that, on average, the formal leaders of a company contribute no more than 20 percent to the success of the organization, while followers were critical for the remaining 80 percent. The message here is simple: Know the value of the work you do.

If by now, you are beginning to feel a little better about yourself, then it is only going to get better. When you read the chapter on career options, you will understand that today's workplace is not the workplace of your parents. Thanks to the computer revolution, you have options that did not even exist five or ten years ago. For highly motivated individuals, the opportunities are pretty much whatever they want them to be. Writes Nelson, "Many of us don't consider all the career opportunities available to us until a firing, layoff, downsizing, or the imminent threat of adversity forces us to evaluate our status." The best time to start looking for a new job, he advises, is on your first day of work at your current job.

It is difficult not to learn something from Nelson's books. For starters, he uses dozens of anecdotes about real people and real work situations. If you are the type of person who cannot learn by example, then rest assured Nelson will follow up each anecdote with advise from successful people, many of them well-known within their areas of interest. If all that slips past you, then Nelson will explain the point to you in simple, easy to understand language.

Perhaps because he is a sought-after motivational speaker-and has a talent for the spoken word-his books all have a conversational tone to them, as if he were telling you the stories himself. As a result, readers walk away from his books with the feeling that they have added a new weapon to their employment arsenal. Says Dean Spitzer, a senior consultant with IBM: "Bob Nelson's books are not just meant to be read; they're also meant to be used."

If you are filthy rich and could care less about whether you ever have a job again, then this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, making a decent living is at the top of your list of things to do, you don't want miss this book.-James Dickerson for A Closer Look

James L. Dickerson is the author of numerous books, including Goin' Back to Memphis.

Author Interview:


"The first day on a new job is the day you start thinking about your next job."-Bob Nelson

If that statement sounds crass or a bit disloyal, then you're definitely a candidate for 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work. Author, Bob Nelson, gives loads of advice on how to take the initiative at work. Whether your job is brand-new, old hat, boring, dead-end, temporary or full-time, Nelson provides hundreds of examples of people who have made a difference in the workplace. Best of all, not only do those employees gain marketability, they often receive incredible rewards, sometimes even monetary compensation.

Nelson is the president of a training and consulting firm and a popular motivational speaker, focusing on employee recognition, rewards, motivation, leadership, and management. He is also a best-selling author. Nelson's 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, which has sold more than 750,000 copies worldwide, and his 1001 Ways to Energize Employees are just two of Bob Nelson's library of business books.

When A Closer Look had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Nelson, we wanted to believe taking the initiative at work was really worth the risk and/or effort. So we decided to hand this expert a few (what we believed to be) challenging questions. As you'll see, we were putty in his hands.

ACL: You are quoted as saying, "The first day on your new job is the day you should start thinking about your next job." Doesn't that smack of disloyalty to your new boss or company? Aren't you being disobedient in some way?

BN: Not at all! You're being smart and pragmatic. By keeping your edge and perspective you avoid taking your situation and those in it for granted. The better able you are to keep excited, develop new skills, forge new relationships and make things happen, the greater your continued worth will be to your current boss and employer. I'd advocate this approach any day over a philosophy of hoping your manager is looking out for your best interests and one day having a rude awakening to find yourself laid off. There's a sweeping false security that pervades many organizations.

ACL: What if your efforts to make a difference or to take initiative flop? What is plan B if your "stepping up to bat" backfires?

BN: Nothing ventured, nothing gained! What did you learn from the experience to help you do it better the next time? What alternative approaches could help you still put the idea into motion? How could you improve your chances of success (eg, a test case, trial period or duel system of operation)? You can always hold the idea for when the timing seems right when circumstances change. You could also keep suggesting it until which time that your boss finally brings it up as a possibility. And then jump on it! Individuals who truly take initiative are hard to hold down!

ACL: How do you know when "taking the initiative" means making the current job better or simply resigning?

BN: There's an element of risk in any degree of initiative and in the extreme case, Bob Woodward exclaimed: "All good work is done in defiance of management." If you find that your logical ideas are systematically shot down where you work, or worse, your manager is threatened by your ability to get things done and the visibility it brings you from others in the organization (including upper management), then it's probably time to consider another environment. The good news is those people that can make things happen are still a rare commodity and highly valued in most places they want to go.

ACL: It's one thing to have a great idea on how to improve your work environment, but what if you're not the greatest idea pitcher in the world? Don't you have to be a super salesman to get others to buy into your improvement plan?

BN: Ideas are developed and sold in many ways. You can be the quiet type that does his or her homework, gathers data, tests ideas and builds consensus in a way that gets results with little fanfare. You can also be the person that constantly is trying new approaches until something works better. Or you can be the person that is creative and observant, but needs to team up with others to implement the changes you advocate. And regardless of your approach, you can learn and get better in each instance for the next time.

ACL: In your book 1001 Ways To Take Initiative At Work, it seems as if the changes were made quickly, or often the employee was rewarded immediately. Have you found instances where the employee's gratification or reward for making a difference was greatly delayed?

BN: Most initiative efforts take place over time. I find seldom are great ideas recognized as such at the point of inspiration. There are a lot of skills involved in taking initiative, but the most defining element to me is perseverance. Take for example, the creation of the Post-it(r) notes by 3M. Many have heard the Post-it(r) story, but few people have heard that initially the idea was greatly resisted internally by manufacturing who felt it would be difficult to maintain a quality standard. The creator, Art Fry countered with "That's great news, since it will be difficult for the idea to be copied by other companies!" The marketing department thought it was a dud, as well. They did market tests in eight markets and all of them turned out to be failures. Art and others had to help the company to be innovative in their marketing. For the first time the company systematically gave away free samples as part of a marketing campaign. Some early advocates delivered samples door-to-door to small businesses. Ninety percent of those consumers who tried the product wanted to order it. A positive momentum kicked in, and last year 3M sold over $300 million worth of the product line.

ACL: Some of the employer's incentives and some of the employee rewards and awards were funny or had nothing to do with the actual job the employee performed. What role do you see humor playing in the work place?

BN: Humor is a competitive advantage for today's employers! The more you can make the workplace fun, and the more your employees enjoy being there, the greater the likelihood that they will do a good job-and stay in the job. To do the same thing over and over is boring. If you want the workplace to be fun, you have to experiment and try new, fresh things. If you can align fun with the performance you want more of, the equation is complete.

ACL: Our parents and grandparents believed "good" employees stayed with a company until retirement. Now it's not unusual or even perceived as a negative if someone changes jobs many, many times. How do you see the evolution of careers unfolding in the future? Do you see more of us "following our bliss?"

BN: I believe work is fast becoming a state of mind rather than a place to go. Increasingly, if not already, it is those individuals who set their sights on what they want from life who will be most apt to get it, while others will continue to react to the life circumstances and situations come their way. I believe the power is there for any of us to break out and do what we really want with our lives and to enjoy it more along the way!

Bob Nelson sums it all up himself in saying, "The biggest mistake you can make in life is to think you work for somebody else."-Dee Ann Grand, A Closer Look

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780761114055
  • ISBN-10: 076111405X
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing
  • Publish Date: October 1999
  • Page Count: 240


Related Categories

Books > Business & Economics > Leadership
Books > Business & Economics > Entrepreneurship

 
BookPage Reviews

Taking charge of your career

Author Bob Nelson stopped by the offices of BookPage recently to talk about the latest entry in his 1001 Ways series of books for the workplace. By the time he left, many of us on the BookPage staff were scrambling to get our hands on a copy of his enlightening and fun-to-browse little tome: 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work. Nelson is not only a best-selling author (his 1001 Ways to Reward Employees has surpassed one million copies in print), but also an in-demand motivational speaker. He knows how to capture and hold the attention of an audience, and he's done it here with inspiring examples of employees who have made a difference. Whether you're just starting out in a career, or dealing with burnout in a dead-end job, Nelson shows how you can become the master of your own destiny. That's important advice for employees as the nature of work changes. "Guaranteed employment is gone forever," as Nelson puts it, "but guaranteed employability is still alive." By showing initiative and giving their best, employees can build their own skills and marketability. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to think of a great new feature for BookPage. . . .

 
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