Approval or forgiveness. Which are you better known to seek for in your corporate or business decision making?
If you prefer listening to reading, please click here for an audio version:
We’ve spoken about Making Good Decisions? before. It’s also an area I spend much time on with my business clients. Why? Because decision making forms such an integral part of leading ourselves and others through to great outcomes. And because it is such an apt reflection of our own beliefs, our confidence and our doubts.
Approval or Forgiveness. What’s The Big Deal?
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that there are few things as frustrating as when decisions aren’t being made, right? Particularly when we are driving strongly towards important outcomes, have done all our homework and preparation and feel powerless to move the decision makers along to our level of urgency.
I have coached many a client to take control of such situations and apply what we discussed in Leading From Behind to help “move their bosses along”. Not always easily done. Particularly in “political” situations. But often quite necessary. Mostly when our KPI’s are dependent on such decisions.
For instance, take Mary, who has developed and subsequently been tasked with driving an initiative that will make the organisation a lot of sustainable money in a very competitive market situation. She’s had to overcome many an internal obstruction, particularly from peers that surreptitiously feel the success of this idea could “show them up”. And interfere with business they are doing with clients in that market segment. This hasn’t helped her boss from approving its implementation. And he’s procrastinating.
This mutual leader is new to his role, having been promoted out of their peer base. Word has it it he got the role because he’s a (family related) protege of their next level leader. And he is perceived to be “weak” in leadership experience. And in making decisions in such politically charged situations.
Approval or Forgiveness. When Is Which Best?
The above type situation is quite common in the typical “people relationship” based dynamics we often find in organizations, isn’t it?
And so Mary now has a choice. Does she keep waiting for approval, or (how) does she “press on”?
To keep waiting is clearly not an option. Of course this is where our diplomacy and political adeptness is tested.
Her options will somewhat depend on her standing. On her ability to leverage allies in leaders and stakeholders around and above her (and her manager). And perhaps outside the organisation to help see the benefits and help drive the decision.
Or maybe she has the power to simply drive it through by herself, and seek forgiveness afterwards?
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong or good or bad answer here. Every situation will be different. And each will determine the extent to which either options outlined above can be made to work successfully.
What does matter, is the extent to which people in situations such as Mary will be willing to take control. To have the chutzpah to take bold action. Even in a vacuum. To trust in themselves. To back themselves. And to have a go. Even if they know they risk “getting into trouble”.
Approval or Forgiveness. Getting Things Done
I know that I was a more cautious leader in my time in corporate life. Decades in “hard skilled German business environments” certainly conditioned me that way. And I carried the burden of increased “angst” and stressful pressure when it sometimes took inordinately long to wait for approvals. And you know what I found? That no matter how much the lack of leadership decision making was at fault, I ended up carrying the blame anyway when things didn’t get done as per expectations. Can you relate?
It wasn’t easy, but I needed to learn that if I wanted the prize of the value of the initiative, then I had to step up and make bold decisions, often without approval. My image as a “doer” depended on it.
And you know what I learned? That more often that not, I was forgiven. Why? Because the idea or decision “had the legs” it needed to justify it.
And so I have coached this theme very often. And again more often than not, the positive outcome results trumped the risk of any potential admonishment.
Approval or Forgiveness. Cultural Influences
Of course not everyone is confidently assertive to push through such barriers. Some cultures are known for their sensitivity and humility, almost shyness. People with such backgrounds often have significantly higher thresholds to cross to take the power it needs to go over their line management.
This is where colleagues and peers can play such a valuable role. If you see someone overly afflicted by such cultural infuences, why not respectfully “take them under your wing” and coach them through such thresholds?
Approval or Forgiveness. So What?
So what does this all mean? I have learned that the transition into leadership and growing through different levels of leadership needs some courage. Courage supported by an attitude developed over time that appreciates we have a choice.
We can continue to “be the nice guy” and wait for approval.
Or we can push through some uncomfortable thresholds that take action and seek forgiveness afterwards. But get things done.
I know that you know that it takes the latter for sustainable success.
Why not be sure you choose the prize to help you overcome the price? I know that you can.