Permission vs. Forgiveness

This past week, we shared some advice from a reflection session.  If you haven’t already, check out the full post here.  There was one specific moment that we did not share and wanted to focus on today, as it has important messages.  Here we go:

During this off-site event, we had the pleasure of having a fantastic guest speaker, Professor Rob Rubin from DePaul University.  He was talking to the group about the importance of managing up and communication with others in the office.  He presented the group with a scenario and challenged us to develop different ways to address the scenario.  The scenario was: 

You have read and heard about the benefits of telecommuting and are interested in trying it out in your office.  Unfortunately, your office does not currently support telecommuting.  But, your manager expresses interest in new ideas and is open to trying/pursuing them.  You have noticed, though, that brand new ideas are often met with “that’s a great idea, we’ll look into that” and then nothing happens.  How do you sell telecommuting to your manager? 

My initial response was:

Just telecommute one day and see what happens.

Upon finishing that sentence, the entire room of about 30 people burst out laughing.  Since this was such a brash and bold way of selling the idea to a manager, the laughter was not unexpected or unwarranted.  However, I think it teaches an important lesson.

While it would be brash to just go for it, think about the worst case scenario.  It isn’t that bad.  Your manager would likely just tell you not to do it again.  You won’t get fired.  On the other side, the best case scenario is it works out well and you get all your work done and then some, collect and present your findings to your manager and then you get telecommuting privileges.  The risk and reward is there.

On one of my first days of work, my hiring class was told to:

Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

This is such a great mindset that goes unused in today’s work world.  So many times employees are timid or worried what other people or management will think about their ideas, so they get suppressed.  They feel they need to ask and get affirmation on everything, which limits creativity and empowerment.  It is a huge responsibility of the people manager to facilitate an environment where employees are able to try new things without repercussion, but the employee also needs to push the limits of the current state.  This is how new ideas are introduced!

Telecommuting may be a big thing to “just go for,” especially as a new employee who is trying to start off on a good foot and get their bearings.  So start smaller.  See a process you think you can improve?  Run with it.  Then once you’ve improved the process tell your manager about it.  They will appreciate the initiative more than anything.

Fortune favors the bold, even in Corporate America.  Don’t let the corporate structure weigh you down in you ability to try new things out and introduce new ideas.  Don’t let a worst case scenario scare you from doing something – the repercussions are never so bad that you should not try it.  Nike’s slogan since their inception has been “Just Do It.”  People don’t typically wear Nikes in the office, but take their advice and bring it into your life and career and you will be much more empowered in your day-to-day.