Initiative: 4 Ways to Act without Permission
New ideas always encounter resistance.
Success requires initiative.
Leaders act without permission.
There’s too much permission-asking in organizations.
You’ve been asking permission all your life. It began when you were a kid.
How might you take initiative when you’re surrounded by naysayers?
4 ways to act without permission
Reject the idea that good employees ask permission.
- Display regard for others. Don’t think of initiative as getting your own way. Act with the best interest of others when you take initiative.
- Use curiosity, not anger. When you’re afraid to speak up, anger builds up. Initiative based on anger is self-serving. It’s about making things better for you. Self-serving leaders lose influence.
- Be proactive, not reactive. A lousy boss is no excuse to do what you want to do. Initiative is acting-for, not acting-against.
- Act with openness. A closed mind reflects a better-than spirit. Initiative is about humility, not arrogant superiority.
Don’t solve a naysayer’s objections.
The first response to new ideas is usually no.
The worst thing you can do is solve a naysayer’s objection. The moment you answer one objection, a committed naysayer spouts two more.
Anyone who is committed to ‘steady as she goes’ finds reasons to stay the same.
3 ways to respond to naysayers:
- Seek input early and first. Don’t ask naysayers for permission to try something new. Tell them you’re developing a new course of action. “What problems might we encounter if we…?”
- When they say, “That won’t work,” say, “What exactly did you try? What specifically did you learn that didn’t work?”
- When they say, “We can’t,” say, “Lets come up with three reasons it won’t work and three reasons it will.”
What suggestions do you have for someone who wants to take initiative? (Act without permission.)
Still curious: Taking Initiative
Who said, “Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”.
Never give up, come prepared and never give up!
Thanks Melanie. I suppose humility is what makes asking forgiveness work. 🙂
Grace Hopper is credited with that quote. She was a computer scientist with the military at a time when few in leadership knew a bit from a byte, so moving ahead and asking permission later became a way of life, She was so instrumental to the military’s work on computers that she was called out of retirement twice. One person described her as being “all Navy, but if you reach deep inside, you will find a Pirate waiting to be released.”
You shouldn’t take initiative without the organization savvy to understand what is and isn’t acceptable and the critical thinking skills to identify your options and select the one you want to try. Otherwise, you won’t be able to explain why you did what you did in a way that makes sense to those around you.
Wonderful insight, Jennifer. I also felt it was necessary to reconnect with my boss when something I planned bumped up against policy or current culture. If you’re going to act without permission, sensitivity to your impact on others is essential.
I really appreciate the insights for the naysayers. Thank you!
Thanks Susan. I’ve noticed that some naysayers are really smart. 🙂
In most of the organisations I have worked for, there is NO forgiveness when you haven’t asked permission. The first act outside or above your specifically delegated authority level will be your last. You’re not put in positions where you can exercise initiative again.
Thanks Mitch. Sad, but true. I’ll add that I work with some great organizations and leaders who encourage people to take initiative.
Mitch’s comment made me wonder how often we suppress the initiative of those working for us–whether it’s because we want to protect them from organizational backlash or because we’ve allowed ourselves to become the naysayers. Can we use these questions to get outside our own heads?
My new mantra: ‘Use curiosity, not anger’. Frustration is much easier to access than openness to listening…
Thanks Amy. Anger seems to come more naturally to some of us than curiosity. I think they are mutually exclusive. Anger isn’t curious.
“Anger isn’t curious” – that’s a winning thought!
HaHa! I speak from experience, Ken.
There is a great book titled “Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” ” that addresses this topic (and you may have been the one who recommended it years ago).
Thanks Bill. I agree 100%. Love that book. Just in case anyone might want to check it out, here’s a link.