Whether it’s in a club or in corporate America, why is it that some people seem to scale the ladder quickly, receiving bonuses and raises, whereas others plateau at the same position for years? Is it looks, intelligence, knowing somebody that knows somebody? How about personality? I guess some of these reasons may play a role. However, there is a two-fold principle that if followed, will help you rise above your peers. It’s the two-fold principle of initiative, and returning and reporting. As with many principles, it’s easy to understand but difficult to follow through.


Initiative in this case, involves voluntarily asking for responsibility over something (preferably something your supervisor is working on but doesn’t necessarily need to be). For example if you know one of their tasks is to write up a spreadsheet for a series of financial transactions, offer to take over that part. They’ll be thankful for the lighter load and you’ll learn a new skill. There’s usually something that they are doing that you could get stewardship over. Look for those opportunities.

To Return and Report

The second part of the principle is to start working on your task and return and report on what you’ve done. This is used extensively in the military and most successful people do this naturally. You’re essentially giving an accounting of your stewardship. This will allow your supervisor to, with time, trust you and not feel the need to micro-manage. As trust increases so does responsibility and when the time comes for a promotion you’ll be the first one they think of. In effect, you’re almost working at the level that you’d be promoted to, so in their eyes you’re the perfect candidate.

My Own Observations

Being in a supervisory position myself, I have the opportunity to write performance evaluations about those who work for me. It is those who practice the principle of returning and reporting on their respective stewardships whom I always give a high rating. This rating is the major determinate of any pay raises or promotions that they receive.

This principle has allowed me to be promoted sooner and oftentimes with higher pay than my fellow peers who have been in the company longer. In fact, in our last laddering, I was ranked #1 above 25 others who were at my same level – mainly because of this principle.

Here are some ideas which you can use to take initiative and return and report:

  • Tell your supervisor that you’re looking for more responsibility and if there’s anything that you can help them with.
  • Make it a habit to regularly report back to them via email, phone or in person about the specific task that you’re working on.
  • Issues will arise as you’re working on new tasks. Before you return and report that there is a problem, spend some time trying to figure it out, as well as think of any other possible solutions. They will be impressed with how you showed leadership and initiative and tried to come up with solutions without running back to them at the first sign of a problem.
  • Seek opportunities to delegate. This will allow you to lessen your own load so that you can dedicate time to tasks that you’ve taken from your supervisor.

So if you’re content with mediocrity and only want to do the minimum requirements, then disregard this. Otherwise, if you have some drive in you and desire to stand out from among your peers, then follow the principles of initiative to get some new responsibilities and return and report on them.

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