Hi, everybody. This is Mike Staver, a weekly video series where I answer questions from people like you. Here’s this week’s question.

One of my employees, actually an administrative assistant, is asking for an annual review, which is now overdue. I know she will be expecting comments on performance, and then of course, some sort of increase in compensation. Her performance is adequate, but she does not take initiative in any kind in her work– Oh, of any kind in her work, or reaching out to assist others when she has the time. How do you counsel somebody on a lack of initiative? I have tried and been unsuccessful.


I’m very sorry to hear that. Well, there are a couple of things you can do. The first thing is, say it exactly as you wrote it. Listen to this. Remember this. As employee behavior starts to fail, your leader behavior has to become more directive. In other words, if over here is collaborative, encouraging, and supportive, and over here is telling, as performance starts to fail in the employee, you have to be very directive. I would tell her, “When you are not doing something for me, or when you have a gap in your timing, I want you to go reach out and ask other people how you can be helpful.”

The second thing is, I would say, “I want you to take more initiative. By initiative, here’s what I mean. I mean, when you see something, I want you to step in, I want you to take charge and do it. You’re not going to break anything.” I don’t know, maybe they will. Maybe they’re building rocket ships. It doesn’t look like it because they’re your administrative assistant. Remember, often what we do is we just massage it, we suggest it, but if you have a directive, and this person is your assistant, you got to be really clear with them and very specific because some people aren’t like you.


I know that might be surprising, but some people aren’t like you. If they’re not like you, that could be very difficult. All right? Be specific, be clear, be direct. That’s the answer. Until next time, be courageous. Take care.

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