Think about the last decision you made at work. Did you make the decision you knew was the most creative, amazing choice or did you deliver an approach designed to please your boss? How about the last meeting you attended – What did you NOT say because of what others might think?
I want to invite everyone to stop making decisions based on what you believe is expected and saying what you think others want to hear. Why? For obvious reasons, it dumbs a company down. The brilliance of many always trumps the brilliance of one – even if working through disparate opinions takes time and lively banter (aka: conflict). Need proof? Space Shutter Challenger Disaster Circa 1986.
But perhaps more insidious is the long-term effect of approval seeking on a company’s spirit. Companies are nothing more than a team of people hired to collaborate in order to create something profoundly more powerful, sustainable, and profitable than yesterday’s results. I don’t know a single person who,when hired, thinks they are going reach make their biggest impact by being the best “group-think” professional or by telling their boss exactly what they want to hear. Yet, this is exactly the behavior that many highly competent leaders adopt.
So here’s my take. Approval seeking – whether to please, impress, or earn respect – is a bad habit that often starts early in life as we try to “fit the mold.” We adopt patterns, habits, conditions, & priorities that have been shared with us by parents, teachers, friends, and society. We mold ourselves to FIT, and to surpass the standards we’ve learned attract approval. In other words, we empower outsiders to create our definition of success.
The Approval Habit has deep neurological grooves. We have passed over this groove so many times – often receiving recognition for the passage – that we fail to see we are shorting ourselves and the world of our highest potential. We live in a world where the majority live captive to the greatest trick of all – that we are supposed to be something different from what we are. We are supposed to toe the line, gravitate to the center, and not be too little or too much.
And not only that, but that we must sweat, tirelessly toil, and sacrifice in order to preserve this false front.
Approval is a binding agent. It binds, constricts, and eventually suffocates. No job is worth this high cost. And, the people around you – both those at work and at home – deserve to witness your personal brand of brilliance. Within that lies true success. Where achievement intersects with authenticity & courage trumps comfort.
Here’s an assignment. Observe yourself for one week & track how often you withhold thoughts, neutralize your disagreement, and reign in “wild” ideas at work. And each time it happens, project forward the result of you under the spell of the approval habit versus you exerting your own personal brand of brilliance. I’ll bet you’ll discover the risk of the approval habit is a lot higher than you’ve previously calculated.