“You have permission…”

Perhaps one of the most overlooked motivators that rarely gets taken advantage of to move people to action. Permission. It is introduced in our lives quite innocently as a tool of protection. As a child, it appears as though your only requirement throughout the day is seek permission. The ‘adult’, or person of more experience, surveys the environment to determine whether or not it is in the best interest and safety to allow such a request before granting it. From here as we grow older, we become captive to permission, viewing it as a necessary construct for many behaviours. Its doctrine has served human survival for millennia, and managed to keep the masses in line, it has also had a limiting effect on maximizing potential and high performance. Governments and religions alike have used it as a tool to control, sometimes protect, but mostly limit our behaviour – organizations are no real different. How can we take risk if we don’t feel we have permission to do it? Permission to play, Permission to fail, Permission to learn, Permission to share, Permission to grow, Permission to change… etc. Permission in and of itself is simply a demonstration of support. It says, “There are no repercussions if you take the action.” Because permission is subjective, at the end of the day, people don’t actually need permission from someone else to do anything, but at the very least they do need permission from themselves. In a culture of rules, judgement, and consequences an inter-subjective permission/support is desired more often than not, and people are conditioned to seek it out. Few prefer to venture out on their own as they risk being cast out from the herd. As a motivator permission can be exceptionally powerful and is often underused. When people feel they have permission, whether that is from someone else or even themselves, then mountains can be moved. When they don’t feel they have permission, they are stuck to move forward. So how do we make sure people have permission? In organizations it begins with ensuring that everyone knows the real purpose of the organization along with the values that drive that purpose. Permission is rarely implied, but instead needs to be expressly communicated. As a leader, your ability to clearly articulate the purpose, and how the individual’s role plays into that purpose, forms the foundation for permission. After we are clear on purpose, you can also hire smart people that are motivated and give themselves permission every day to do amazing things. Then get out of their way. While this all sounds great, and you may do that already, what else can you do when people get stuck? It may almost seem too simple, but it actually works, and that is to just give verbal permission when you see things not moving. “You have permission to do that.” “You have permission to play, to fail, to learn, to share, to grow, to change, etc.” Go ahead, try it. You have permission. You won’t know how easy it is until you try it.