Do you prefer Initiative or Caution?

Published on
September 27, 2020
Time to read: 
To illustrate the concept of a spectrum between Caution and Initiative
A spectrum of leaves ranging from green to burgundy representing the spectrum between Caution and Initiative. Photo by Designecologist from PexelsA spectrum of leaves ranging from green to burgundy representing the spectrum between Caution and Initiative. Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

It’s 6:30 pm Sunday and I’m sitting down to write this week’s blog. I was working on other projects and almost missed keeping my promise to myself to write and publish a blog each week.

For today’s topic I’m going to cover something that’s been on my mind lately. Who is easier to work with? Someone who has lots of initiative, occasionally oversteps their job description and makes mistakes or someone who is more cautious, reluctant to take risks, leading to less mistakes.

I’ve had the privilege of working with many different types of people, with varying skills sets and strengths. If you considered Initiative and Caution to be the two end points of a spectrum, then I’d feel safe to say I’ve worked with people at all points along the spectrum. Depending on which jobs I’ve held, what was expected of me, and who my bosses were, I’ve been on different points of this spectrum myself.

When I worked for bosses who tended to micro-manage their direct reports, I found myself being more cautious, and checking in with them frequently, to make sure I didn’t show “too much” initiative.  I would seek approval before pursuing new ideas and ways of doing things.

Luckily most of the bosses I’ve worked for have granted me a great deal of autonomy, and empowered me to charge off wherever my initiative led me. At times this led to them having to chastise me when I overstepped my authority.

As I ponder what sort of person, I’d prefer to work with, someone near the Initiative or Caution end of the spectrum, my answer keeps coming up “it depends.”

If I’m going for X-rays, I want the person taking the X-rays to be cautious, methodical and precise in their work. I want them to follow all the health and safety rules to help keep me and them safe, with the least exposure to the X-rays possible.

If I’m looking for someone to lead a team through what appears to be an impossible tangle of problems, I want someone who falls half way between the middle of the spectrum and the Initiative end. I want them to take background information and feedback from others into consideration before jumping to conclusions. However, I also want them to have enough initiative to see new solutions, that others hadn’t thought of before.

If I’m looking for someone to create a start-up with, then I’d like them to be closer to the Initiative end of the spectrum, with just a splash of caution (not all the way over to the initiative end). Creativity and initiative seem to work hand in hand. A splash of caution helps keep people from diving off a cliff without looking to see if there is water for them to dive in to.

Where are you on this spectrum? Are you cautious with a dash of initiative, do you dive off cliffs without looking at what you’ll land in. or are you somewhere in between?

Do you act differently depending on the circumstances?  I know I do!