The Dirty Truth About Acting Without Permission
You say you want people to act without asking permission. In truth, you want them to do what you want them to do without being told.
How many times have you said, “Just go do it. You don’t need my permission.”
Leadership by decree isn’t leadership.
Other than saying, “You don’t need my permission,” what’s in place that enables action without permission?
The problem with stepping up is being slapped down.
People go with the flow unless acting without permission is safe.
Acting without permission:
#1. Declare yourself sooner. No one likes getting answers from on high. Stop sitting in solitude solving problems on your own.
Engage people if you expect them to be engaged.
Begin by working with your team to create an environment where acting without permission is safe.
#2. Define when permission is necessary.
- How much money can be spent?
- How many staff can be involved?
- Can cross department activities occur?
Authority is permission to act without permission. Negotiate the extent and limits of their authority and yours.
#3. Develop shared vision.
People don’t act when they don’t know where to go.
Invite team members to develop personal vision statements that fully align with organizational mission, vision, and values.
Develop a future that excites them. Ask, “How can you make your area reflect your passion?”
#4. Get out of the way. The hardest thing leaders do is not getting involved. Accountability is necessary; your involvement isn’t.
#5. Let failure happen. Let it hurt. Let them learn. They don’t own it until they own the failure, too. The moment you slap someone down for stepping up is the last time they step up.
#6. Expect results. The biggest failure is refusing to step up. After that, ask, “How could this be remarkable?”
#7. Celebrate success.
How can leaders create environments where acting without permission is safe?
Two points drew my attention- going with the flow and accountability is necessary. Going with the flow looks like creating less or no resistance with the authority. It also means that not doing anything extraordinary. I think this state is like creating an image of likeable. Such behavior could lead to “Yesmanship” kind of thing. On the other hand, taking stand is courageous exercise and intentional decision to do something different that is right. And this mindset is the differentiating factor between ordinary person and extraordinary person.
Taking the both kind of mindset into account, we can safely conclude that both kind of people create environment. First actually strengthen the existing environment and generally liked by others. And second one attempts to create an environment that could be difficult for others to accept and perhaps the person is not accepted by other easily. He or she may face difficult situations sometimes that could be discouraging. But the fact is that it is the second category of person who create an environment that healthy for organizational growth. And that is where leadership role comes into play.
Thank you Ajay.
I have much appreciation for your assessment and insights.
As I read your comment, I found myself wanting to be both types of people. One who goes along and one who takes a stand.
Good thoughts, Dan. Many times, it seems, permission comes with strings attached. Strings attached aren’t necessarily bad when the strings are visible. It’s the invisible strings that cause harm.
On your comment about shared vision, our company (small agency specializing in agriculture/meat industry) decided to fully embrace working toward a company vision statement coupled with team and individul mission statements. It has been an incredible journey and very valuable in helping us remain true to our larger vision of where we are headed. It helps us figure out which clients we can partner with most effectively, what work we are hungry for, and how we can make a difference in an area we’re passionate about.
Thanks for the post, Dan.
Yup! It’s those invisible strings that burn us. Ever been punished for doing what you thought you should do? I have….it’s the worst kind of sting employees feel.
Thanks for your story and best wishes for continued success.
Yes, I have been burned so if I keep my head on straight, that experience helps me be a better collaborator and leader.
IF I keep my head on straight…
Well again if one chooses to listen to what Simon Says…..hire people who believe what you believe.
Then quicker trust emerges if at all then hiring on qualifications.
Work against the flow all you want all it does is make things more difficult for you.
Then when you got folks making decisions you TRUST they are making close to the same decision you would, cause your relationship is based on connected whys and beliefs and trust.
Not qualifications and hope.
So find people getting the results you desire. Find out what they think do and believe. Stop doing what you thought, did and believed.
Do it their way thought action beliefs for 21 days. Time it takes to develop a new habit.
Or keep doing what you always have and keep getting what you have always gotten. That is cool too as long as you like what you are giving yourself and not whining like a little baby. If you are not cool with what u are getting stop the incessant whining and do something different, anything!!
I suggest do what Simon Says and check Barry Wehmiller out to see how it works in action.
Or whine, either way cool with me I ain’t whining.
Shifterp back to the present
“Do it their way for 21 days…” Bingo. Thanks for this nugget.
AMEN. The “throw the rock and hide your hand” strategy continues to fail. Empowering people and then supporting their decisions is necessary. It has to do with the level of trust and one’s ability to let go of the death grip they have on controlling EVERY single solitary thing that occurs. It back fires…because there will be times when you need people to “move” or make “the call” and they will be so paralyzed by fear of the ramifications of doing so that they will not seize the moment. The mentality that says if it works then kudos but if it fails then hit the bricks is alive and well these days. There are so many great ideas and strategies in our collective work groups that we do ourselves a disservice by not picking the brains of those who share the work. Part of the problem is that we don’t do this regularly so there is no confidence and in the 9th hour when the stuff is getting ready to hit the fan we can manufacture confidence in a supply ample enough to “trust” someone else’s suggestion.
“Throw the rock and hide your hand.” I haven’t heard that before. Love it.
YOu’re hitting one of the issues. We wait too long and engage too infrequently. … Make it a habit.
And as you indicate, how we handle failure says more about people acting without permission than anything. Man, I can’t tell you how many times, over the years, everything’s going great and then boom! It hits the fan. Now you’re getting punished for doing what you’ve don all along. Part of this is fearful leaders covering their own butts.
I like the idea of handing out “warrants”. They describe the boundaries of authority and allow the holder to solve problems and lead efforts semi-autonomously. If we don’t do this, our leadership and efforts will only reach as far as we ourselves can! I love the Old Testament moment when Moses’s father-in-law Jethro comes to him and almost rebukes him for hoarding the leadership. With his guidance, Moses sets up judges and other leaders, empowering them to administer the nation he led.
Empowering a new leader always means giving some power away. When we empower others, we don’t LOSE power. We multiply it.
semi-autonomy…that’s honest and realistic. Made me think about Daniel Pink and his book “Drive.” … we are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose/meaning.
YOu last two sentences are brilliant. I’m going to use that one!
Excellent insight on how to create strong leadership and trust within the company. The best way to grow your business is to create trust within the company as well as out.
Communication is number one (thank you for listing it as so). It’s unfair to expect others to “just know” what you want. Being a team player and communicating is what makes good leaders, not isolating one’s self from the team.
Enna’s statement is right on: “Empowering people and then supporting their decisions is necessary.” Too often failure is treated as the end of the road, where, in reality, something good may still come of it; even if it is only learning how to do better the next time. This is not to say all failure is ok. Some failures can have disastrous results. This is why communicating with your team about safe risks is so very important. In the end it all comes down to communication. Communication builds trust. Trust builds leaders.
Upfront empowerment. Empowerment – 1. To invest with power or official authority. 2. To equip or supply with an ability. As leaders, we have to be willing and able to empower our people. This takes trust and transparency. The empowered people must know that when they make decisions they are fully supported by the leader wether their decisons are good or bad, fail or succeed. There is no such things as a bad decision or step to an empowered person…as long as their is learnings. Leaders should empower their people upfront meaning have the discussion with them. Communicate your trust in their ability based on their performace, past decisions, etc. This gives people the spirit to “go forth and conquer”.
Oh Dan. This is a great topic and one that creates the most grief for me. “you want them to do what you want without being told” – now add “and the way I would do it” (regardless of achieving the desired outcome.) Of course in this environment, no one makes any decisions except the person who creates the environment. Then he complains and brags about how he can’t walk through the plant without being mobbed by questions.
I’m never quite sure what’s worse — the stress from inaction or the stress from anticipating how much trouble I’ll be in when he returns.
Thanks for the opportunity to vent!
Oh, this one is so bloody true! You touched a raw nerve here. I was once blown up for acting without permission, and one hour later was encouraged by the same man to act without permission, and to encourage others to do the same!!
Thank you for another insightful, important post. You have listed some wonderful and practical points. Leaders must begin by taking complete responsibility, avoid judgements, commit to absolute clarity and have open lines of communication to help create a safe and encouraging environment.
Reblogged this on IAm Synt.