Remember when you were learning how to swim (I had to go to an unheated city-run pool at 8:30 in the morning during the coldest July on record). You stood at the edge of the pool and froze. You thought and thought and thought about jumping in but got yourself all worked out and went nowhere (or got pushed in if you went to the same pool as me).
Met a colleague the other day who’s stuck at the edge of the pool. She’s got a great idea and she’s got the enthusiasm and smarts to pull it off. But she’s preoccupied with how her idea will play out with those higher up on the org chart. Will they approve? Disapprove? Will her idea help or hurt her career?
It took 30-plus years but I’ve now learned to just jump. In all the places I’ve worked, I’ve yet to see someone get sacked for taking the initiative. And I’ve seen many fallen comrades who did the Dead Man Walking because they did next to nothing. If showing initiative is a career limiting move in your organization, take heart. There will be a dozen other employers lining up to hire you.
I had a great boss who once took me aside, closed his office door, told me to take a seat and ordered by to stop asking for permission. "Are you fishing for a no," he asked. "No" I said. "Just want to keep you in the loop."
"I’m busy, you’re smart and you’re not going to get anyone killed with this idea so go for it," he said. And I’ve been doing that ever since.
You don’t really want to be remembered as the person who had lots of great ideas. You want to be known as the person who took a great idea, ran with it and made it happen.