Give me permission…

Change starts by having permission to have something else.

Without permission, we will ultimately revert to what we already have: doing what we have done and getting what we have got.

To make change happen, we first have to give ourselves permission to have the change we want.

I can try to give up smoking, but without giving myself permission to be a non-smoker, I will be running on luck and hope.

There are two parts to the permission piece:

  • Giving yourself permission to have the changes you want
  • Giving yourself permission to make the changes you want happen

One cannot happen without the other.

If this sounds clunky, it is best summarised as having permission to:

  • Do it
  • Do it and enjoy it
  • Do it and enjoy it and be responsible for your own success

Because if you cannot be responsible of your own happiness, success, performance and change – how can you really expect anyone else to be?

Moaning about how hard it might be rarely helps.

A few years ago one of my clients came with a problem. Let’s call her Sarah. Bringing a problem is a good thing to do, but this was a repeat problem regarding one of her team. They were fed up with this individual moaning. It was demotivating, an obstacle to progress and challenging to deal with.

Ironically, Sarah was moaning about being moaned at.

This problem was brought to a couple of sessions. So on the third occasion I said something like:

‘You know Sarah, if you need to use our time together to get a load off your chest, that’s fine. But, I only have five minutes for that. If you want to actually do something about it, to effectively manage the situation and the performance as a result, I have all the time you might need – but you need to proactively do something’.

Moaning will relieve the pressure, but only short term. If you want to fix a problem or something unhelpful, you need to do something about it, something positive to generate a change. That is often where the permission piece has been missed from – permission to change AND permission to have something different.

Moaning is unhelpful, wastes time and is a poor but visible leadership trait. It is also very easy to do. When we got into the bones of Sarah’s problem, she did have a very difficult and spiky individual who was underperforming and becoming increasingly challenging to manage. She knew she had to address the problem; she actually knew what to do but was being held back by her inbuilt aversion to conflict and confrontation.

Once she had given herself permission to manage the situation, as part of her own job requirements and her right to manage; the rest became much easier. The emotion came out of the situation and she started to pro-actively manage it by process, and … it all worked out fine in the end.

But without permission, it would have continued to be painful, difficult, time-consuming and a drain: change would have been based on hope.

The reality of giving ourselves permission to have change can often be easier said than done.

Every journey of a thousand miles,

starts with a first small step

Some of what might be holding us back can be deep-seated and go back as far as our childhood. So, unpicking it can take a little time and a conscious effort.

Sometimes, the inability to change can be crippling and also career threatening. I see this often when people move into senior leadership roles’ and suffer from the well-documented ‘Impostor Syndrome’. This creates a stifling inability to move into the requirements of a new role. Promotion is often a big step and people can find it difficult shifting their behaviours to match leadership requirements of the role, particularly if needing to deliver through others who may previously have been their equal.

Typically, the imposter syndrome will be firing from a point of Self- limiting Beliefs, which once cleared away, allow us to see we are in a job on merit and actually have all we need to perform well at the new, elevated level.

Often the piece missing is the person’s failure to accept they are in a roll based on their ability, performance, success at interview, track record and competence. The only bit that is often missing is the person’s own acceptance of their own abilities and position. In essence they just haven’t given themselves permission to have the job they are being paid to do, no matter how much they want or wanted it.

Imposter Syndrome can create an unpleasant place to live life. It is debilitating, frightening, emotionally loaded and generally creates an unpleasant place to be.

It is though very easily shifted, once we have given ourselves permission to be where we have already been placed.

A quote from the Founder of a hugely successful, high performing firm about one of their most talented Executives:

“She just needs to have the belief in herself

that we all have in her, she is the future of the organisation”

Yet the person involved was so worried about her own performance, that she felt it only a matter of time before she were found out to be a fraud!

The centre of the problem was that she hadn’t given herself permission to actually live the role she was in, it was behaviours lead and that delivered at best ineffective performance and at worst weak, poor and limiting leadership.

The solution was actually quite straightforward:

Give yourself permission to have this job.

However the reality was a little more sticky as most of the self-limiting beliefs driving the Impostor Syndrome were deep-seated and in play for many years.

So we agreed to allow a little time. Time to consciously and subconsciously except that she was in place justifiably, was there on merit and on the feedback I had collected, seen as a Shining Star in the firm. We agreed that she should give herself permission to have a couple more days to stay exactly where she was: believing she couldn’t do the job. But that on the stroke of midnight on the Monday morning she will have given myself permission to have the changes she agreed she wanted. These would enable her to start playing in the way she wanted to at the level required for her to feel she was performing well.

And that was what she really wanted:

“I want to feel like I’m doing a good job and enjoy it while I am at it;

I want to do well”

And that is what she did. She gave herself permission to do the job in the way she wanted to do it.

Giving herself some time before actually making change happen allowed her to contract with herself. She gave herself notice the change is coming and gave herself permission to have it.

It took a little time to feel fully comfortable with the changes but progress was almost instant. People noticed a positive difference, she noticed a positive difference in herself but also those she interacted with, in particular her team.

Such a simple thing: giving yourself permission to have the job you’re paid to do!

Six months later, and this is exactly what she said:

‘Goodness me, looking back, what on earth was all the fuss about?’

In four bullet points:

  • You cannot have change without giving yourself permission to have it first
  • Self-limiting beliefs can be crippling but can be moved aside
  • Expecting instant change might not be possible. Agree when the change will be effective in the near future (certainly not more seven days!)
  • The new changes might feel clunky and awkward to start with. Allow this to happen using it as reference that change is happening. This is a good thing

If you have read this and thought “that’s me”, get in touch and we’ll happily help you sort it out.










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