Chapter 2 Stop Seeking Approval
Many times, I have seen the need for people to have the safety and security of making sure they have the approval of what they are doing from their direct boss. This is one of the most common barriers to your full potential.
I’m not talking about getting approval as a part of some stated procedure in the office. No, I am talking about your need to make sure your direct supervisor is okay with what you did today or this week. I am talking about your need to check in with them before you go home...especially on Fridays. This need can also be seen in people who hold relatively senior positions. Sure, they will be very articulate about it, but they are seeking approval all the same.
The need for this kind of approval at work is very common. This is not a weakness on your part, but it is something for you to manage.
To a large extent, we are all conditioned to seek this kind of approval. It started when we were very small. When we are children, we seek only the approval of our parents. If they are smiling, we are good. A little later, we begin to seek the approval of our teachers in grade school. They are bigger than life and they certainly are the boss to us when we are young. Their approval in the form of gold stars and good grades is a big deal. Later, approval may come from college professors. A word of validation from them goes a long way.
Sooner or later, we are released to the world of work. We are sent out to make our mark and have a career we can be proud of. We want challenging and rewarding projects that we learn from. We want to grow and we want respect.
The person we work for has a huge impact on how we feel about work and the type of work we get to do. Our supervisor is a very important person in our world. To us, they are the new parent, teacher or professor. This is the case except for one thing...they are not any of those things. Also, they don’t want to be. They are not thinking about you in the same way at all. In all of my years of working with managers, I have never heard one of them say they wished a person that worked for them would seek more approval from them. What I have heard, however, from many managers is that they would love it if their people would take more initiative and more ownership. Good managers really don’t want to have to give you approval for everything you are doing. They want you to step up and seek self-approval based upon your work. They want you to own your work and defend it. They want to be convinced you care about what you are doing because it is yours.
Keep in mind that weak or insecure managers may want to exploit the common need for approval. This is a problem that the weak manager has. Watch for this amongst the different management styles in your organization. If you have a weak manager that exploits team member insecurities, start making moves to get on a better team.
Seeking approval is an individual need that you have. It is something for you to manage and be responsible for. If you are seeking approval from the leaders around you, it is because you want the warmth of feeling safe and comfortable. The need for this type of security is keeping you from your best work.
You were hired to do a job. That is why you are there. The key to your success is for you to do that job to the best of your abilities. Your goal is to work without the need for approval from anyone. You should want to evolve into the kind of go-to person that can be relied upon. You will gain much more respect from managers for stepping up and completing a task versus consistently asking them if how you are doing your job is okay.
There are a number of reasons you want to get out of the seeking approval habit. The reality is that you probably know more about your job than your boss does. At least you want this to be the case. You want to work toward being the person on the team that is on auto pilot just getting things done. Also, if you don’t have the need for approval, you are the one that can be counted on if things in the company don’t go well. In other words, needing approval makes you expendable. You want to be the person your boss cannot imagine losing from the team. In the past, I have been at my desk with a list of names having to decide who to let go. I can tell you from direct experience that the team members who are more independent and more self-assured will win every time. Perhaps the most important reason for not seeking approval from your boss is because you will become more empowered and happier. When you take real ownership for the job you have, you become transformed into the professional you are supposed to be.
Of course, there will be days when you feel very insecure for a hundred different reasons. It happens to all of us. Just don’t let it become the norm for you. See it for what it is and manage it. You know the difference.
There are truly times when you do need to be sure the path you are taking is the right one. You are absolutely going to need to check your thinking with your direct supervisor. That is part of their job. Trust yourself and be the good professional you are supposed to be.