Stop seeking permission

Proceed until apprehended

So often women seek approval before acting in the workplace. Whether it’s implementing a new idea or making a change, volunteering for a project, stepping up to present at a meeting…

Time and again I hear women managers talk about just checking in with their seniors before acting on something. Even when that ‘something’ is not a major decision to be taken or action to be implemented.

Coaching for senior managersSo why do we do it?

One argument suggests it’s a result of societal expectations expecting us to be nice and polite, perhaps in the way we were probably told to be as children. Maybe that’s the way our own mothers and grandmothers were also told to behave. We work hard to please.

A second theory might be that it’s part of an instinctive trait to be collaborative and work effectively with others – that being liked is more important than being promoted. And as humans our aversion to rejection runs deep – we like to be connected with others. Women are great at talking things through with others to achieve a consensus agreement which everyone can support. And of course that’s a fantastic skill and certainly there’s a time and place for that – but not every time or every place. Sometimes you just have to take action.

A third argument is that our relationship with authority – whether you generally accept it or challenge it – also has a bearing on whether you tend towards seeking approval before action.


'Your story is what you have, you will always have. It is something to own.'

I love the mantra ‘proceed until apprehended’. Why not be confident, be decisive, be bold and act? None of us knowingly make a rash or hasty decision that we suspect will turn out to be the wrong decision in the end. So why not just get on with it?

Show people that you are your own person, you are decisive and forthright; you can take action and assert yourself. Constantly asking for permission undermines your presence and sends signals that you lack authority and are unable to manage power.