The “I” word

Came across this article I wrote that was first published in the Executary,* way, way back in 1999. I don’t think it’s totally outdated, do you?

The “I” word. Your supervisor will appreciate you using it. Your goals will be accomplished by using it. Your career is bound to move forward by employing it. What is it? It’s what the mover and the shakers of the world take. It’s initiative. It’s a strong word, with a strong definition: “the power . . . to begin or follow through with a plan or task,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary. Why should you, as an administrative assistant, be concerned about initiative? Because your supervisor doesn’t want to have to tell you what to do each day. Because you should be constantly reaching out to improve your skills and knowledge. Because by taking it, you can add value to your role as an administrative assistant.

Yes, you probably already meet the objectives of your daily job responsibilities. And you should; you get paid to do that. But do you really just want to meet the minimum objectives each day? Don’t you want to add value to your administrative role, to your firm?

Here’s How It Works

How can initiative help you add value to your role? Let me give you an example. Years ago, when I was a receptionist, my supervisor asked me to find out how much a phone maintenance plan would cost. Simple request, right? I called the phone company and they told me the cost. I met my supervisor’s objective. But instead of just relaying the dollar figure to her, I added value to the objective, and all it took was about 10 more minutes of my time. I glanced through the file containing our phone maintenance requests and found out that over the past year or two we placed X-number of service calls that cost us X-number of dollars per call. I gave that information to my supervisor, along with the suggestion that it would be cost-effective for us to purchase the phone maintenance plan. I took the initiative and added value-based response (instead of just meeting the minimum objective). Guess who was promoted to the project secretary position within a few months!

As an administrative assistant, you should look for opportunities for taking the initiative. And learn to recognize areas that are ripe for taking the initiative, either within your own position or within your firm in a large capacity.

So What’s In It for You?

The “I” word. It’s a powerful, positive trait to possess. What’s in it for you? A chance to sharpen your leadership skills by assuming the “just do it” attitude. Career paths you might not have dreamed of. Opportunities for greater challenges. A sends of pride in accomplishing those challenges. Kudos from your supervisor and kudos from your peers.

What’s in it for you? Take the initiative and find out!

* Newsletter of the Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals, Vol. 24, No. 7, July 1999

3 thoughts on “The “I” word

  1. Sounds like sound advice for everybody!. I do wonder, though, how you deal with people feeling threatened by initiative, by novelty, by the risk involved in suprises and innovation. In hospitals, initiative carries such risks, and most people learn to avoid it completely. Promotions often come to those who prove they can reliably deliver a lack of it.


    • It must be the industries we work in. I haven’t found that threat within the A/E/C world. And in fact, it seems to be embraced (and perhaps somewhat controlled, i.e., a supervisor or manager typically buying off on staff’s initiative, particularly when it involves a change of business practice), especially when we can eliminate administrative inefficiencies. I thought hospitals were getting into the LEAN program now. Not the case where you work? Thanks for reading, and for commenting!


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