A Permission Slip

A former colleague just started a new job. I remember him for many things, but I thought about him today because he is one of those all too rare people that speaks his mind about things large and small in the world. That makes him an intriguing person because he stays curious, speaks up, and speaks out. As a bonus, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, a quality that the best people in my life and career have in abundance.

Too many people wait for a permission slip from their boss before they speak up and move toward something they believe in. I’d like to encourage you to turn a permission slip from a noun into a verb. Let a permission slip be the times you forgot to ask. Instead, you act because you believe in something with such clarity and passion that you move ahead without consensus and a door opened by explicit direction from a boss.

As leaders, we often think about the long list of things that we are responsible for directing and delivering. We believe that by controlling the controllable, we are better at our job. Often, we extend that control to the uncontrollable, and in so doing limit growth opportunities for our people and end up at the end of the week tired and dissatisfied with our results.

When one, or many, team members raise their hands, we are relieved and grateful. And when they don’t raise their hands, but just do what they believe is right, we should stand on a table and applaud their efforts, even if their approach wasn’t how we would have done it ourselves or directed them to do it if we were writing a permission slip.

I’ve written in prior posts that control is not perfect, and it’s not free. We cast our leadership legacies by how we lead people, how much rope we allow, how we make it safe for good people with good intentions to act on behalf of our teams and clients. After we move on, the people we allowed to exercise their decision-making muscles are the legacies of our time there.

Celebrate those that don’t wait. The ones that let permission slip in favor of getting things done. And enjoy the extra time that gives you to do more of the things that matter.