How to make people take initiative?


We are in a bit of a rough situation here. We have a team of 8 that seems to be committed to what we are doing. Most of them have full time jobs. Our start-up is more like a part-time or side thing for them. So they are a bit slackers when it comes to moving the organization forward. If I assign them tasks they would be quick to do them, but they don't seem to be taking initiatives. How can I make them take initiatives, instead of me telling them what to do?

Co-Founder Motivation Management Side Projects

asked Aug 6 '13 at 16:47
138 points
  • Also consider asking a version of this Q on the project management SE site – New Alexandria 7 years ago
  • Oooo this is a very complex question. There's no way to answer the question in a singular one answers fits all approach. Question: What are the roles of each of these team members? – Jacques 7 years ago

2 Answers


If everyone took intitiaitve and had halfway decent ideas most people would not work for someone else. Look at it this way, a developer for facebook might earn 120k a year, him and 10 of his buddies could build the next facebook or ebay if they took the intitiative, and all lived in a low cost apartment for six months. But it never happens.

What you should be thinking about is project management. You need to have a unified vision of what you guys are building. Six guys sounds like a bit much for a startup being created of part timers. Once you figure out what the deliverables are, then you need to really break the project down into some sort of milestone / sprint setup and assign the tasks to others.

One trick is to break tasks down to equity. Say bob gets his 15% by completing all the tasks he is assigned to. Well if he fails to deliver, (on time) then his tasks can be eaten and completed by someone else. This gives them the RISK in their REWARD, and might put a fire under their ass.

THe bottom line, is someone needs to be the visionary, the leader. Steve jobs was not a developer. He was just the asshole to made sure everyone was working as hard as they could, and cracked whips to get his vision across. You need to figure out who the adolf hitler is of your team (in charge and charismatic).

answered Aug 9 '13 at 10:38
2,079 points
  • Thats a great answer! I agree with what you are saying. Getting people to take initiative is one of the most difficult things to do and it will take different amounts of time for different people until they see their light at the end of the tunnel. Till that happens, you just have to push through and take your project as close to the end goal as possible. – Saurabhj 7 years ago
  • A point I would like to add. I hired a developer a few years ago and everytime i went by his desk he was just goofing around on the net. For weeks I assumed he was goofing around. It turned out he was SO good he was doing what other guys did twice as fast and had time left over because he was not assigned any work. Since then I break down tasks and allow developers (team members) to pick them up and work on them. It was a mistake in overmanagement. Building competition (Specially with ownership stock) in a startup by rewarding completed tasks might be a good strategy. – Frank 7 years ago


I think you should first answer the question "why are they not committed the way that you want them to be?" and "what is your definition of 'taking initiative'" Figure out their motivations in joining your start up and what they stand to make (or lose) should you company succeed (or fold). Are they the same as yours? If not, then you cannot expect the same level of dedication from them and should be happy that they accomplish all tasks you give them in time.

Start ups are very difficult and requires a lot of passion from its' people. Make them share your vision, your passion. Let them give their honest ideas on your project. Once you get that first part figured out, allow for them to have accountability and give them the freedom of creative input. After which, set up project management applications for your team to communicate efficiently since you are all working remotely (and most likely at different hours). Try out a couple of proven productivity applications like Evernote, Microsoft One Note or Google Drive.

answered Oct 7 '13 at 16:27
Nate Bridges
11 points

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