Permission vs. forgiveness

If you’re asking me for permission, you’re fishing for a no.

So said one of the best bosses I’ve worked for. His attitude was just do it so long as you don’t go and get anyone killed. Better to step up to the plate then sit on the bench.

No’s the default answer for most of us when we go asking for permission. Your big idea gets a no because we’re too busy and have other priorities. Or we’re not busy and want to keep it that way. No, because your big idea has never been done before or it was tried once a long time ago and didn’t pan out. No, because you’re stepping out of bounds and playing in someone else’s sandbox. No, because the person who’s saying no didn’t think up the idea or has another idea they want to run with instead.

The trick is to beg forgiveness for an idea that you know’s a winner and that’ll fly before getting noticed by anyone in a position to say no. Yes, you may get reprimanded. Written up. Dressed down. Fired even. But your next employer — the one that values initiative and drive and smart risk-taking — isn’t going to hire you on the basis of what you thought about doing.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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