Permission Seeking – Getting Direction – Making a Difference
You’ve been asking permission since you started talking.
Can I have a cookie?
Can I go outside?
Can I watch TV?
Now that we’re all big girls and boys, we need to give ourselves permission to make things better.
3 reasons we’re permission seekers:
- We’re afraid of overstepping. Respect keeps you in your place. What if you step on the boss’s toes or into someone’s turf?
- We’re afraid of screwing up. What if we give ourselves permission to take action and we make something worse. Your inner two year old screams, “Better play it safe! You might get spanked.” We’re afraid of embarrassment.
- We’re afraid we don’t have enough information. What if you take action but something’s already being done behind the scenes.
Permission or direction:
Give yourself permission to fulfill your good intentions. What the heck are you waiting for?
There’s confusion between asking permission and needing direction. Never comfort inaction by saying something stupid like, “I don’t know what to do.”
Give yourself permission to seek direction.
- Ask, “What could I do to be helpful?” Don’t sit on your hands waiting for direction. Seek it.
- State your intention and ask for information. “I’d like to be helpful, but I wonder if something’s already happening.”
- Declare your desire to help and state your concern that you might step on someone’s turf. “I’d like to be helpful, but I don’t want to offend someone.”
Those who aren’t doing anything feel offended by those who step in to make a difference. Maybe it’s time to humbly step on someone’s toes.
Give yourself permission to offend anyone who prefers to do nothing.
You don’t need permission to seek ways to serve.
How might permission seeking hold leaders back?
What’s the value of seeking permission?
“How might permission seeking hold leaders back?”
Permission seeking does not hold back leaders but maybe others.
Thanks Bob! Love it. You kicked me in the pants. 🙂
A1: I think permission seekers can hold leaders back in the way of maybe they see something that you (leader) don’t. But because they are waiting for permission (you to ask their opinion) they withhold that valuable information that could push the organization forward. Thus holding you back.?
A2: The value could be that when people ask permission, they have initiative. For me it can help me identify those that are hungry & humble. They want to move forward, yet they have the humility to see how it would fit into our culture.
Thanks Josh. You came at the first question in an unexpected way. That’s cool.
RE: A2… If we want to let people know that we have initiative we must seek permission rather than waiting to receive it. Permission seeking is good for us.
Dan great subject. Two comments:
1. Asking clarification questions is critical when you are new in a position. Spinning your wheels or going off in the wrong direction drives a Boss crazy versus asking a couple focused, well thought about questions.
2. Healthy organizations allow or should encourage people to push their boundaries until they bump into someone else and then talk about it. Smaller private or startup firms do a much better job of this and achieve more growth and success.
Thanks Brad. Great clarity in A1 regarding direction vs permission. If we act without permission AND without direction we may waste time, energy, and resources. And, as you indicate, frustrate the boss.
A2…I was thinking about Healthcare, governmentals, and education. All three sectors value boundaries and in many cases need them. Your suggestion to make it safe to push a little and talk about it should work in most circumstance.
Its is indeed a delicate balance between taking initiative to make a difference (where inaction by leaders slow progress) and offending a more powerful leader.
It is true that those who aren’t doing anything often feel offense if someone else steps in, likely because it can cause loss of face, I suspect it mostly due to insecurity and fear that you may shine past their current level.
Thanks Rob. Your comment got me thinking about how to help someone save face, even while taking initiative. That idea seems very useful.
Let’s face it, if you kick the boss, you don’t want them kicking you back. They have bigger feet.
Hi Dan Thanks for another thoughtful piece… I’m thinking that your point on seeking direction by asking questions on issues is a good one, especially if those questions are to gain enlightenment from the insight/wisdom of the person you’re asking (not always a foregone conclusion!). This can help open up issues and initiate useful conversations that may turn those concerned in a common direction. In addition, done well and humbly, questioning to enlighten can build trust which in turn progresses team dynamics towards openness and information-sharing. And such questions can be aimed upwards as well as downwards., helping to build respectful conversations, respectful attitudes and respectful cultures wherein it is no shame to admit lesser knowledge or the need for further input…
Good to speak again, and have a good week… Alison
Thanks Alison. Yes. Open questions are to gain enlightenment. Leading questions feel like manipulation or judgement.
You inclusion of respect when we seek direction makes all the difference. If we aren’t careful, we could come off as disrespectful when seeking direction. “Why didn’t you give better direction?” “If you gave better direction, I wouldn’t have to ask for direction.”
Thanks for your views. The spirit in which we ask questions certainly is key.
Understanding the level of hierarchy in the organization helps, who’s toes you can step on and the ones you may regret. Be prepared to ask forgiveness if you over step your boundary, at the same time be prepared to clarify your actions, you may get corporate to rethink their philosophy after all, someone ventured before to establish the guidelines which may be faulty or outdated.
Great comment to hit this message home – understanding the level of hierarchy. There are many who initiate this “take action without permission” who don’t understand the limitations as they have not sought direction and/or not been provided the proper training to acccomplish the action. Good point!
Brilliant point here. Being able to stand outside yourself and try to see things from other people’s points of view is key – and that goes for the ‘organisational point of view’ too. It’s easy to complain about ‘those guys/gals up there’ without first trying to gain some insight into what may be dictating/constraining what they do. The organisation isn’t always right, of course, but it can help people with ideas to really try to understand where the organisation is at. Maybe the idea is wrong for the context, maybe it’s right. But insight can help the ‘idea person’ put the idea forward in the most appropriate way under the circumstances…