Advice not Permission

Weekly I/O#35


Ask for advice, not permission.

Article: Ask for Advice, Not Permission

I always believe we should ask for forgiveness, not permission. I learn this first from the book 4-Hour Workweek:

"If the potential damage is moderate or in any way reversible, don't give people the chance to say no. Most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitant to get in the way if you're moving. Get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you really screw up."

Boz, the new CTO of Meta, took this to another level: Ask for advice, not permission. When we ask for permission, we make other people feel like they take responsibility for our decision. We aren't inviting others to be part of the success, but they might have to be responsible for the failure if things go wrong. Giving permission casts the burden for others to do some diligence with no benefits when it works but potential trouble when it fails.

On the other hand, giving advice is relatively easy and potentially rewarding. When we ask, "Hey, I was thinking about doing X, what advice would you give me on that?" we show respect to the person without saddling them with responsibility since the decision is still on us.

Asking for advice also makes others feel more ownership over our result since giving advice feels more like a value-adding contribution than just an approval. It gives them a personal stake in the resulting success or failure.


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