At the event I wrote about yesterday, the balcony in the auditorium was roped off to compel participants to sit in the front section. By the time we arrived, the front appeared to be filling up rapidly, but the balcony remained closed. No one seemed to be taking any action to remedy this until someone finally stepped up and made the decision to open it. The person that opened the balcony wasn’t in charge of the program, but he saw a line full of people backed up into the lobby waiting to get in so he acted. It was a good thing that he did, as the balcony also became full before the program began.
I think about the many situations we have all been in where we could have done something, but instead waited for others to take the lead in doing so. We become too afraid of “getting in trouble” or doing the wrong thing, that instead, we do nothing.
We see a problem with a project or policy, but remain silent for fear of being reprimanded for speaking against authority. We observe a colleague struggling, but fail to offer help because we are not their boss. We know someone is not achieving the results they desire, but we don’t want to get involved to offer a suggestion to them.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper said that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission. Cultivate that type of culture where intention outweighs hierarchy and let your people feel free to do what they think is best, whether they are in charge or not.