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Leadership Traits: Initiative

One Saturday evening several years ago I was running my restaurant.   We were busy.  We were barely keeping up with our orders.  The restaurant was a disaster area.  Tables needed cleaned, the trash needed taken out, the phones kept ringing.

The money guys were in town, the two primary investors.  They were worth around ten million dollars each.  They were putting cash into payroll before we were generating enough revenue to meet payroll, and keep the lights on and the oven running.  These were only second to my customers among those whom I needed to impress.  They seemed to have chosen the least opportune time to come visit my store.

I was so busy I didn’t even have the time to greet these two guys, let alone sit down and have a chat.  John Doe was standing in the lobby waiting for his pizza; Jane Doe was waiting on hers to be delivered out on 48th street; Tom Thumb would be waking through the door in fifteen minutes for his … and the phones kept ringing.

The guys walked back to the back.  One got a broom, the other got a rag, and they started cleaning up the store.  I was sure that was it for me; I thought I might as well turn in my resignation, and step aside.  After things slowed down to the point where I was able to do so, I went over to the table where the guys were sitting so I could face the music.

“I’m sorry about … “ I began.

One of the guys lifted up his hand, and waived the sentence off.

“Mr. Henthorn, do you know how much money I’m worth?” he asked.

“From what I understand, sir, quite a bit.” I said.

“Somewhere around ten million, I suppose.” he said, “Do you know how I made that fortune?”

“I can only guess, sir.” I said.

“I suppose I can only guess, too.” he said, “But, you know, I think it probably has a little bit to do with knowing when I need to pick up a rag, and clean a table.”

And then he handed me a fifty dollar bill, and they left.

I usually tell this story to people who are above sweeping floors, and cleaning tables.  There is also an important lesson in there somewhere about taking initiative.  If you need something done, one way or another, it’s up to you to get it done.

Boost your level of initiative.  Look for things needing done, and go do them.  Put them on a list if you can’t get to them right away, and check them off when they’re finished.  You’ll be more productive, and the people around you will follow your example.

Till next time, remember, you are capable of doing extraordinary things.  Take the initiative, and do them.

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