The Ten Principles of Permission-Giving

I’ve been asking permission all my life.

I raised my hand, in first grade, to ask Mrs. Goodwin for permission to use the restroom. One finger meant I had one thing to do. Two finger meant, well you get the point.

hand slap

Authority figures have been giving and taking permission since mommy said, “Don’t touch!” Permission-giving lives on in organizational life as well.

Remember when you stepped on someone’s turf. What happened? You got a good hand slapping. (What age does “hand slap” apply to?)

Ouch! “You won’t do that again.”

Embarrassment from overstepping keeps you in your place.

The Ten Principles of Permission-Giving:

  1. Fear of overstepping keeps people from stepping out. Under-performance results.
  2. Your response to those who act without permission establishes organizational culture.
  3. When people keep asking you for permission, you’re the one with the issue.
  4. New employees need more permission than old. Don’t just say, “Go do it.” Lack of boundaries keeps people in the safe middle.
  5. Systems and processes are institutionalized expressions of permission.
  6. Effective permission-giving identifies “No Trespassing” zones.
  7. Authority is permission to act without permission.
  8. Top-down organizations thrive on permission-giving.
  9. Highly regulated industries require permission-giving.
  10. Permission-granting is both privilege and responsibility.

Bonus: Give permission to give yourself permission.

Need for permission holds back.

Six ways to give permission:

  1. Give permission before they ask. Just go around giving it.
  2. Ask, “What does permission look and feel like to you?” Give it.
  3. Explore where artificial boundaries prevent initiative. Eliminate them.
  4. Explain limits. Understanding limits is more important than understanding permission. Once limits are set, everything else is permission. Tell them what they can’t do.
  5. Celebrate failure as learning.
  6. Affirm initiative. When people take action without permission, go nuts.

How can leaders create environments where people take initiative?

What are the limits of acting without permission?