There were nearly 30 people listening to a panel of four business owners addressing their challenges over the last year. One guy on the panel said, “I finally got permission to do what I wanted to do.” Everyone nodded. Yes, we get it. It hit me that even company leaders need some sort of permission to take big risks, even though I had no idea what permission he had received. I had to know!
He said he’d abandoned a part of his 50-year business to start a new line that would serve his future. So, what had happened in his life that brought him to this? Why did he need permission? He had no confusion about his direction. He wanted out, and had a three-year plan to slowly step backward out the door. He was ready, but he was having fun with the new project, too.
It was very cool to hear about his hurdles and how he cleared them. He felt our culture still expected women to achieve what men do, in the same way men do them. But as the leader, he said, “I expected the women to do things differently, and the younger ones too, without getting too attached to how it got done, it all got done. This way, our company created a lot of trust and shut down our competitors. We had each others’ backs.”
He also got lots of his time back!
Anyway, there were so many success stories of solving business problems. It was motivating and exciting to hear.
It got me thinking: where do the strategic counselors in a business reside? It seemed they were in different roles, not just in leadership. The companies that searched for them created a great deal of internal courage and integrity. It was adverse to autocracy.
These people kept business on track, resolved problems and kept employees engaged. They were like the Mayors of the company, trusted advisors.
It took a lot of different traits to create a company’s pure growth. BUT… the top two traits I refer to almost everyday, and heard loud and clear, were these:
1. Knowing how the company’s strengths support its strategy is #1. If the company were a human being, what would that person’s top strengths be? Stephen Covey referred to organizations from stomach (physical and economical), to heart (good human relations, treatment of others), to mind (identify, develop, use, recognize talent), to spirit (transcending purpose and meaning). How would yours move? Is it healthy?
2. Secondly, employees understood their role in making the plan a success. They knew what to do – and they mattered. All the pieces in the company’s strategic toolbox were explained and everyone knew what was in the box.
Other characteristics they felt contributed significantly to their success included: work/life balance for employees, strong vision, systems, superstar support – and even not cooking fish in the microwave!
But it all came down to knowing where they were going, and agreeing on the route to get there.
Because every organism is different, every company chose different strengths and traits they relied upon. But finally, that “permission” the leader needed; it was also unique to the leader. It came in the form an “OK” from his former business partner.
Ah-ha!… Now I get it! It’s a big internal “OK” he needed.
We are granted permission when whatever or whoever we value bequeaths us the freedom to move. In this case it was a valued advisor’s blessing. He needed confirmation from someone that he held as an “authority” over his life. In his mind he needed that in order to feel OK about a perceived risk. You see? He may have already had it, but he needed this piece to move.
When we’re too careful with ourselves, we wait for permission. We don’t have to, but we may need to until our permissions only come from inside ourselves.