5 for 5 blog – Permission vs. Forgiveness (or 6 ways to start Collaborating)

6 Oct


forgiveness v permission


Good morning everyone.


There is an old saying that goes something like the following:

“It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a hundred times…typically by the person or team that would be seeking forgiveness. The sad part about this statement is that it means a relationship either doesn’t exist or is completely broken. In short, it means that trust is missing from the equation. Here’s why:

  • If you are on Team “Ask Forgiveness”, it means that you likely don’t trust the person, colleague, boss, or friend that you are working with to side with your view of what and/or how things need to get done.
  • For  Team “Ask Permission”, it usually means you don’t feel trusted  by the other party, so in an attempt to C.Y.A. (Cover your Rear-End), you ask permission, which may or may not require hours of endless preparation for a 5-minute meeting on the request.

In all honesty, I have participated in both of these in the past. The former, usually ends in a final meeting after “Team Forgiveness” is found out, usually with high tensions and a lot of damaged feelings. The latter, usually involved a lot of groveling and undue stress on the process, typically taking away from other productive activities that would be better use of everyone’s time.

Unfortunately, these two defaults are much easier to utilize that what lies between them, which is collaboration. Collaboration is tough because its foundation is built on good-old-fashioned, hard-earned trust. Collaboration is a willingness to put big objectives ahead of personal ones. Collaboration is a willingness is to do more for your counterpart and the project, because you can see the end result will benefit everyone involved.

Also unfortunate, is that all relationships don’t start as collaboration. Sometimes it is a new project or a new business unit that you may be engaged with, regardless you need to build trust. Here are some suggestions about how to do that:

  • Ask how you can help?
    • Warning: you may not like the first answers you get. They may be nothing related to what you are hoping to engage in. But solving problems for other people is one of the most basic ways to break down a tough colleague.
    • Don’t be afraid to do the dirty work, but don’t stay there forever. Exceed expectations, build trust and keep moving up the value chain.
    • In my experience, this is one of the best questions you can ask to begin building trust. EVERYONE needs help…take the work. Build trust. Become a go-to resource.
  • Listen
    • Often I have found that when people choose to go around you, they have often made attempts to communicate what about the project is important to them. If we aren’t actively listening, we may miss the point of what is critical to them.
    • If their position is “opposed” to your view, keep listening and widen your understanding. Can you see it from their point of view? Sometimes, our personal goals may blind us to seeing a solution that is better to the overall project.
  • Lead with WHY
    • Remember, as Simon Sinek says, people buy WHY you do something before what you do. If we lead with what and so does the other person, it is easy to become entangled in who’s WHAT is more critical.
    • Lead with your WHY, your purpose, which is above your personal goals and hopefully should level the playing field.
  • Go sit with them
    • Earlier in my career, when I would begin working with a new project team, I would try and sit, not only in their area, but smack in the middle with them.
    • Often communications and ultimately trust break down in email ping pong. Let yourself be seen. Use the opportunity to ask how you can help
    • Say What You’ll Do, and Do What You Say may sound boring and old fashioned, but over committing and underperforming is a quick way to tear down a new built trust
    • Follow through on commitments. Don’t look for thank you’s.
  • Be transparent
    • People can smell secondary agendas a mile away.
    • If your job responsibility requires you to drive a particular change, explain that. Explain how it ties to your WHY.
    • Help the others see how they can be part of it and that you are willing to listen.


How do you build trust with people who ask for forgiveness rather than permission?


As mentioned above, I am not a fan of forgiveness or of permission. Collaboration is the key. Put the time in to build trust. There is no way to lead without it.


Here is this week’s 5 for 5:

Have Trouble Concentrating? Try These Suggestions. – by Gretchen Rubin – via Entrepreneur


SO WHAT: I am particularly bad at #3 and #4. Find a method that allows you to focus.

Tags: Productivity


Curiosity Prepares the Brain for Better Learning – by Daisy Yuhas – via Scientific American


SO WHAT: Fascinating evidence that curiosity in one area can also improve retention of ideas in other areas of our work.

Tags: Creativity


The ’45/15 Rule,’ Eating the Frog, and 5 Other Ways Freelancers Can Get Things Done at Home – by Suzanne Levy – via Contently


SO WHAT: As I have been trying to work at home a little more, there are great recommendations. Several are great if you are working in the office. Remember managing your energy is as important, if not more, than managing your time.

Tags: Productivity


The sophistication of truth – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog


SO WHAT: “Our work doesn’t have to be obtuse to be important or brave.”

Tags: StartSomething


The practice of practicing – by Stephen Hough – via The Telegraph


SO WHAT: A wonderful article on the value of practice along with relevant advice on how to improve.

Tags: Learning


All the best,