When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life.Abert F. Geoffrey
Businesses pay big dollars to people who take aggressive action that proves to be successful. Those same businesses fire people who take aggressive action that ultimately fails. In our fast paced world companies need and expect employees to regularly make smart decisions in real time. Occasionally, you will go too far and get yourself in trouble. What do you do when that happens?
In my early 20s I was working for a California company as a facilities technician. The company admired and supported my aggressive can-do attitude and my ability to get things done in an area where things previously were not getting done. As fate would have it I took my assertive style too far. The specific incident occurred during a social event held for a group of visiting dignitaries. Instead of just observing quietly in the background I jumped in with my brassy approach. Being called on the carpet was a valuable learning experience … there is a time for aggressive action and there is a time for quiet observation. Acknowledging and understanding that reality allowed me to continue successfully for several more years with that company.
Have you ever crossed the line and had to ask forgiveness?
In my particular case, I had been previously rewarded for not seeking approval for every action, and for my aggressive can-do attitude in the area of facilities management. That same style bit me in the butt when I used it in the wrong time and place. Fortunately, I asked forgiveness.
What can you do when faced with a situation where you’ve gone too far?
- Take 100% responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame, make excuses, or try to justify. Own it 100%.
- Acknowledge that you understand what occurred, why it would have been best if it hadn’t occurred, and what you will do differently in the future.
- Ask forgiveness.
After that, get back to work! Don’t let a learning experience or setback in one area affect your productivity in another area. For me to completely change my style and give up being aggressive in my area of expertise would have been a mistake. But to not learn from that experience would have been a lost opportunity.
How does one properly gauge the boundary line? What point is too cautious and what point it too aggressive? It’s impractical to dot every I and cross every T prior to taking action. At some point perfection needs to give way to good enough.
Here are my suggestions and questions to ask yourself when venturing into new territory for which you don’t have previous permission:
- What’s the worst-case scenario if you take action without prior approval?
- Will your action jeopardize your job, your boss’s job, or the company’s reputation?
- Is it the right thing to do?
In my own career I’ve taken chances with my decisions and more often then not, they’ve paid off. Twice I’ve given up the security of working for a company to start a new business … twice it’s paid off. Pushing the envelope never got me fired but I have ended up in hot water and had to beg forgiveness to get myself extradited from the situation. In those rare situations I’ve taken 100% responsibility for my action, acknowledged my understanding of the situation and the other party’s position, and promised to not repeat the situation.
In the movie Forrest Gump, our hero is in Vietnam when his unit is ambushed and chaos breaks out; Forrest and his fellow soldiers are caught in a desperate battle. What did Forrest do? He ran! He followed his instinct and saved himself. Once alone and away from the heart of the firefight, he was able to think clearly and make a quick decision. He ran back and rescued Lt. Dan and other members of the platoon. Permission to return and rescue these men was never requested. In fact, at one point Lt. Dan gave him a direct order to not return to the battlefield but Forrest insisted, “I’ve got to find Bubba!” and returned again.
Sometimes it’s better to take action without permission as long as the action won’t jeopardize one’s career or the integrity of one’s organization, and if it’s the right thing to do. With the mindset of aggressive accomplishment, things most often will work out for the best. However, that mindset will occasionally get you in trouble because you’ll have crossed the line. In those cases, you’ll need to ask forgiveness. Do so humbly and sincerely, and learn!
To learn more on this subject continue to explore the SpeakingGump.com website or consider having Steve Weber speak at your next company or association meeting. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!
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