“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” TS Eliot

If you’ve worked for someone else for more than five minutes, you’ve probably gotten your proverbial hand slapped for one reason or another.  Obviously you lived to talk about it and likely learned a lesson or two about your boundaries in the process.  But getting your hand slapped doesn’t always mean that you did something wrong.  Sometimes, it’s exactly the opposite!

Asking for Forgiveness vs Permission

In my first real job in sales, about 16 years ago, my boss had a saying, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission”.  I’ve taken that quote to heart and realized that it has powerful implications!

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not like you can just run around doing what you want.  But if you take the time to think through situations and make decisions that are good for you, your company, and your boss, there’s a really good chance that your actions will create a positive impact.

The key is to eliminate victim thinking that holds you back from leading, no matter your position.

Most leaders want their team members to take initiative.  Even the weakest “managers” would agree with the truth of this statement.  So, why not give them what they want?

Three Questions To Ask Yourself Before Taking Action Without Permission:

  1. Have you already been told not to do it?  If so, then you should stop.  This is insubordination and just a bad plan.  Find another way to get it done or use this experience to learn some patience.
  2. Could there be any negative consequences to the business or your co-workers?  If so, then it’s time to reconsider.  The last thing you want is negative backlash for a decision that you made on your own.
  3. How will your actions make your boss look?  You have to ask this question.  Your boss will be the one who will have to defend any criticism for your action, so you have to keep his or her best interest in mind.  Miss this step at your own risk.

What To Do Once Your Hand Has Been Slapped:

Apologize if necessary.  Admit your mistake.  This is especially true if your actions caused any real harm.

Promise to do it differently next time.  Just make sure your boss knows you mean business.  This is a good time to remind him of why you didn’t come to him in the first place and ask him how you can both change to make this communication better.

Remind him or her of the good you did.  I know this sounds like bragging, but it’s important that you point out the positive outcomes of your actions.  Just keep it logical and business oriented; check your emotions at the door.

Question:  What about you?  Has your hand been slapped for something?  Were there positive outcomes?