Asking for Permission


Today I wanted to share another mindset that we learn as employees that can hold us back as entrepreneurs. From an early age we’re conditioned to ask permission, first of teachers then our employers. It’s common to request approval before using the bathroom, sharpening a pencil, throwing away trash or even going to lunch.

In the workplace built on the factory system it was common and imperative that each worker was in his or her spot on the assembly line – you couldn’t just take a break any time you wanted or the whole factory could suffer. Unfortunately, this model which served Ford well carried over into modern workplaces and can hold us back as entrepreneurs.

Tired of clocking in at 8:00 every morning and filing the same reports each week, we wait for the day when we decide what to do, when to do it and dream about working from Starbucks on a rainy Thursday afternoon.

Eventually you make the leap and now you’re the boss. At first it’s exciting, like the bird whose cage door has been left open and you realize the whole world is waiting! Nothing is holding you back!

But with that freedom comes fear. Despite resentment of the control of middle management we knew that as workers they absolved us responsibility. “I was just following orders” had been a convenient excuse for nearly any mistake. So as an entrepreneur it can be slightly terrifying to be the one ultimately responsible for making the decisions, carrying out tasks and accepting the outcome.

As a result we tend to hide, go back into the cage and play where it’s safe. For years we longed to get out of the tedious routines, to be creative and expressive and then, when given the chance we retreat back into the safety zone.

Even if you’re not consciously asking for permission, your mindset around responsibility can hold you back. Some entrepreneurs obsess over what the successful gurus have done, they crowd source every decision or work with coaches and mentors who handhold and babysit every choice. By needing this constant validation from outside sources this kind of entrepreneur has substituted a single boss for the approval of the community – by some measures a much more demanding source of approval.

It’s a balancing act between personal responsibility and learning from the trailblazers. It takes strength of will to determine the path you will take to reach your goals and flexibility and humility to take advice and course correct when needed. Thankfully, using systems in your business can help with both challenges.

Systems Enabled Freedom

As you explore and try new things, you’ll want to have systems in place to gauge results. Many of the routines despised in an established business were once untested theories. The only way to know if your risks are producing rewards is to measure.

When I work with creative right brain thinkers we often find that the very systems that seemed constrictive and stifling actually encourage freedom. And if you’ve ever suffered from the blank page syndrome where you find it next to impossible to write an email, begin a blog post or introduce a topic of conversation, the systems you create can be a saving grace.

If you’re not already receiving my weekly newsletter with additional tips for busy entrepreneurs be sure to sign up here. And stay tuned for a big announcement to help you implement systems in your business very soon.

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